ST. PETERSBURG — The first time Derby Lane kennel owner Catherine D'Arcy laid eyes on Call Me Ishmael, he was wrapped in a blanket, placed into a basket and taken to a veterinarian in Abilene, Kan.
The puppy had an issue with one of his eyes, which first opened when he was 2 weeks old. That didn't prevent him from becoming a champion.
Call Me Ishmael won the $64,000 Sprint Classic on March 2 at Derby Lane, putting an exclamation point on the racing career of a greyhound that has sight in only one eye.
"(The Sprint Classic win) was very special knowing all the things he had to overcome just to make the racetrack," D'Arcy said. "Some dogs may not have had the heart and determination to want to be a race dog. That's what he wants to be."
Bred by Abilene's Ryan Farms Kennel (owned by the son-mother tandem of Don and Deanna Ryan), Call Me Ishmael has never had sight in his right eye, which is blue. His other eye is brown.
"A lot of medical care and attention was done when he was a little baby," D'Arcy said. "He went to a doctor in Abilene and then to Kansas State University and saw their ophthalmology specialists. Unfortunately, they weren't able to resolve the issue, and his eye basically developed with no sight. He doesn't know any different, and it doesn't impair him."
The 3-year-old dog has won 31 of 84 starts, earned more than $54,000 in purses and never missed a final in four stakes races. In 2012, Call Me Ishmael was second in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile and third in the $50,000 Fall Sprint at Derby Lane, and second in the $280,000 Racing Life Challenge Million Dollar Series consolation final at Southland Park in West Memphis, Ark.
Call Me Ishmael has strong connections to Ryan Farms. Sired by Flying Penske, he is out of Ryan Farms' Ultimate Gift, whose parents, Molotov and Mountaylor Dolly, also have Ryan Farms ties. The 79-pound male is called "Felix" by D'Arcy and her staff: manager Kenny Farver, and assistants Daniel Lizcano and Juppi Scheider.
"Felix carries a lot of the Ryan Farms lineage, and he really is an important dog to them," D'Arcy said.
Call Me Ishmael is expected to stand at stud at Ryan Farms after his racing days are over. His career-best 550-yard time of 30.33 seconds came in a 2012 Rotary Governor feature race at Derby Lane.
"Usually his big rush is from the tote board home," D'Arcy said. "The leadouts will tell you he is one of the strongest pulling dogs at the racetrack. He just wants to be out there and do his thing."
HORSES: Awesome Belle is the 3-1 morning-line favorite today in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes (Race 10, 5:15 p.m.) at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. … The Road to the Kentucky Derby series resumes today with the Grade II $600,000 Rebel Stakes (Race 10, 6:48) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.