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Back to News » Lester Raines wins third straight Wheeling kennel championship
Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Three-peat.

Lester Raines raced to the top of the kennel standings at Wheeling Island early in 2022 and never looked back in winning its third straight championship.

The Joel Roden-trained greyhounds won 567 races last year, including 311 victories in a second half surge. The kennel easily outdistanced runner up Blanchard (516) and Charter (442).

This marked Roden’s fifth championship with the Lester Raines Kennel – following up crowns in 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2021. The kennel previously won Wheeling titles in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996.

The competition at Wheeling fuels Roden and his team.

“It’s always special to win a kennel championship and to do it three years in a row shows our system is working. Our whole team works for the same goal – take care of the greyhounds the best we can because they’re the ones who make us successful,” Roden said. “All our hard work paid off. Winning brings confidence to the whole team. It’s a lot more fun and easier to do this job when you’re doing well.”

Lester Raines echoed Roden’s sentiments.

“Wheeling is a tough racetrack so winning the kennel championship three straight years is very special. It means a lot to me and our team who I have complete confidence in,” Raines said. “I’m a sports-minded guy and love this business and the competitiveness. After 36 years in the greyhound industry, I still have the enthusiasm.”

Raines’ success hasn’t been limited only to Wheeling. He’s had bookings at 11 different racetracks, compiling 58 kennel championships and 39 runner-up finishes during his career.

Roden doesn’t take anything for granted even though Lester Raines has captured five out of the last seven kennel championships.

“I’ve been at Wheeling for 21 years (since 2002) and I remember ZEZ, Charter, Gable and Ward winning all those kennel championships,” Roden said. “We were competitive but never won championships. Once you’re on top, it’s tough staying there. You have your down years.”

Next in line for wins in the final 2022 standings behind Lester Raines (567), Blanchard (516) and Charter (442) were Imark (371), Jacobs Racing (350), Steve Sarras (341), Code Red (333), Brad Boeckenstedt (331), Patriot/Taplin (297), Wayne Ward (291 each), Xtrem Hess Racing (285), Rangel (267) and A Ray (265).

Pacing the Lester Raines’ attack last year were SNL Sir Liam with 15 victories and JS Slush Fund and JS Makeitsnappy with 14 wins each. SNL Ramey posted 13 victories while RS Big D registered 12.

Other double-digit winners were JS Movinwitgrave, JS Oakietwister and SNL Sir Luke with 11 wins each; and JS Mismarymackin, LK’s Simone, O Ya Simon Sez and Teaser’s Twirl with 10 victories each.

“We didn’t have a lot of superstars or greyhounds at the top of the win leader board last year, but we had a big group of consistent greyhounds who had a good shot of winning each time they went to the starting box,” Roden said. “It may have been our most consistent year ever. We had a lot of youngsters come in during the year and do well and a number of our older greyhounds had nice years.”

Checking in with nine victories apiece were Craigie Daughtry, JS Cash Out, JS Countrykisses and Teaser’s Tickle. Recording eight wins each were DD Making Time, JS On A Mission, JS Saltythursday, O Ya Fame, O Ya Thunder Boy and RS Analyze This.

One big moment for Roden and his team in 2022 was RS Big D’s chase of Casual Casey’s track record of 16 wins in a row.

The middle-distance star rolled to 13 straight victories, tying Stage Door Ace for the longest winning streak by a 3/8th greyhound in Wheeling racing history.

“At first, after a few wins, we didn’t give it much thought. As Big D’s streak got longer, the pressure started to build,” Roden said. “It was exciting and totally unexpected. We had no idea how good he was going to be in 3/8ths.”

Roden credited his Wheeling team – Julie Roden, Amanda McCardle, Jaylynn McCardle, Scott Robinette, Sheri Weaver and Dana Burroughs – for playing a key role in the kennel’s success in 2022.

“We got a total combined effort from our whole team – the crew, Lester Raines, the greyhounds and all our lease customers,” Roden said. “I can’t thank Lester and our group of leased customers enough. They all played a hand in our success.”

In addition to having the most wins in 2022, Lester Raines’ 441 seconds were just under Charter’s leading 452. Blanchard logged the most thirds (496) and fourths (464).

Lester Raines was the leader in win percentage with 18 percent followed by Blanchard and Charter with 15 percent each.

Lester Raines led all kennels with a 45 percent trifecta mark. Charter was next with 44 percent while Blanchard followed with 42 percent.

RS Big D gets some love from Lester Raines Kennel helper Jaylynn McCardle. In 2022, the middle-distance ace won 13 straight races, tying Stage Door Ace for the longest winning streak by a 3/8 greyhound in Wheeling racing history.

I was introduced to greyhound racing by a friend in the late 1970s at Wheeling Downs and fell in love with the sport and the athletes immediately. Throughout the years, I have developed a deep passion for racing. In the mid 1990s, I started writing a weekly greyhound column and shortly thereafter became a writer for The Greyhound Review.

I have enjoyed watching and writing about these wonderful competitors, including All-Americans DD's Nelson, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Gene's Champion, WW Apple Jax, Greys Royalcrown, Nimby TP Jan, Hi Noon Hero, Gable Sour Cream, KB's Ruckus and Cry Case.