Opinion piece by Stan Pawloski in response to the All-America Team announcement.
Disappointed and shocked.
Last week, the eight-member 2015 All-America team was announced by the American Greyhound Track Operators Association with HUSKER MAGIC (Derby Lane) as the captain. Other first teamers (in order by votes) include FLYING FIRED UP (Southland), NEED MY MONEYNOW (Gulf), B’S HEADLINER (Naples/Southland), SELDOM TOLD (Gulf), BOC’S HANK JR (Bluffs Run), HIGHLYCLASSIFIED (Derby Lane) and STORM CONTROL (Palm Beach).
One greyhound notably missing from the first team was Wheeling’s AMF SLEEKSTRANGR.
In the opinion of this writer, Sleekstrangr – now at Southland – deserved a spot on the All-America first team. It’s baffling how the sprinter, arguably one of the top five greyhounds to ever race around the Wheeling oval, did not receive national support from the voting representatives from the AGTOA racetracks.
Sleekstrangr’s owner, Tom Ferris, was stunned.
“I’m still in shock Strangr did not make the first team. I cannot tell you in words how angry I was (when he heard the news). It was never a thought in my mind that he would not make it,” Ferris said. “I guess the result begs the following question: How can a Wheeling dog ever be elected to the first team from this day forward if Strangr cannot be elected to it?”
Sleekstrangr did make the second team along with two other Wheeling racers, AMF Spamwich and Ted Cruz. Even more puzzling was the fact that two other greyhounds on the second team received more votes than Sleekstrangr.
The second unit (by votes) was comprised of O YA GUNSMOKE (Orange Park), RED UTOPIAN (Flagler/Naples), AMF SLEEKSTRANGR (Wheeling), AMF SPAMWICH (Wheeling), CHASMO’S DUTCH (Southland), TED CRUZ (Wheeling), BOC’S TONY ROMO (Bluffs Run) and TMC’S SWEETY PIE (Orange Park).
Granted, there are some nice greyhounds on the first team, however, in my eyes Sleekstrangr’s accomplishments during the 2015 racing season were All-America worthy. He’s the total package, a complete greyhound – a rare combination of speed, power, determination and intelligence – and an owner’s dream.
Sleekstrangr was without question one of the top eight greyhounds in the country last year, but apparently that was not the case when voters submitted their ballots.
For the record, Sleekstrangr had 26 wins, 9 seconds and 2 fourths in 39 Grade AA starts in 2015 – an 89 percent mark in the quinella and trifecta; was the track win leader; set the 5/16 track record; had a 10-race win streak; and was second by a head in the Sweetheart Stake.
Sleekstrangr dominated Wheeling like few others. His 26 wins were by a combined 153 lengths – nearly a 6-length average margin of victory at a top-level track. He posted wins by 11 ½ (twice), 11 (twice), 10, and 9 ½ lengths.
“I can’t remember the last dog that dominated Wheeling as much as Strangr did. I was with him on this journey almost every day. When he got hurt, I didn’t rush him and try to get him back too soon,” Ferris said. “We did everything we could and so did Strangr and it still wasn’t good enough for a group of people who may have never seen him race.”
Some voters may have snubbed Sleekstrangr because he did not have a stakes victory on his resume. A stakes win wasn’t an issue in 2011 when Wheeling did not have any stakes races but AMF EX PRESIDENT and WW’S DOG GONE still were named to the All-America first team for their complete body of work.
If stakes events are used as the barometer for being named an All-American, should stake events with a hand-picked field and no qualifying rounds or a stake with only one round before the final carry as much weight as a stake with three or four early rounds?
Two of the first team honorees captured stake events with only one qualifying round or no rounds at all while TED CRUZ won two stakes events at two different distances, each with three qualifying rounds.
Unfortunately, not a year goes by without debate and controversy with the All-America selections.
In 2008, Wheeling 3/8 star TK QUICK STRIKE did not make the All-America first team but won the Flashy Sir Award as the nation’s top 3/8 greyhound. What were the voters thinking that year?
It may be asking too much, but it would be nice if voters left politics and personal agendas at the doorstep before entering the ballot box in the future and vote for the best eight greyhounds. From my viewpoint, that was not done this year and a grave injustice was committed.
Following are capsules of the first team honorees and their 2015 accomplishments:
HUSKER MAGIC, captain (57-41-11-0-2) – won the BetAmerica Daytona 550 and Derby Lane Sprint Classic; finalist Derby Lane Fall Sprint; topped the nation with 41 wins.
FLYING FIRED UP (55-22-16-6-7) – won the Southland Sprint Derby and King & Queens Stake; second in the Festival of Stakes Male Sprint; track co-win champ.
NEED MY MONEYNOW (49-40-7-2-0) – won the Gulf Diane Whiteley Sprint while sweeping all rounds; set the track sprint record; had win streaks of 14, 9, and 8.
B’S HEADLINER (61-19-14-11-4) – won the Naples Sprint Stake and Naples Derby; second in the Southland Razorback Classic; second in the Naples Floridian Sprint.
SELDOM TOLD (31-22-5-2-0) – won the Gulf King & Queen (one round and final); set track record.
BOC’S HANK JR (49-27-5-7-0) – won the Iowa-bred Classic; Bluffs track win champ; third in Bluffs Secretary’s Choice; finalist Bluffs Run Open.
HIGHLYCLASSIFIED (60-18-16-12-9) – won the Derby Lane Holiday Distance Challenge; second in the Derby Lane Distance Classic; third in the St. Pete Derby.
STORM CONTROL (14-6-4-0-0) – won the Palm Beach He’s My Man Classic and the St. Pat’s Invitational (no qualifying rounds); second in the BetAmerica Daytona 550.
The first team selections will be honored with All-America plaques at the Greyhound Hall of Fame ceremony April 28 during the NGA Spring Meet in Kansas.
Stan Pawloski is a writer for the Greyhound Review and is a weekly feature on Round Up The Hounds radio. Click here for Stan’s NGA profile.