ST. PETERSBURG — After doing yard work on Labor Day morning, Catherine D'Arcy wiped the sweat from her forehead. But her enthusiasm over the upcoming $50,000 Fall Sprint Stakes at Derby Lane was still dripping.
Three D'Arcy darlings — Call Me Ishmael, Oneco Kennedy and Sand Cloud — are among the hottest dogs at the track. And at least two are expected to be part of the 32-dog field in the season's first stakes race scheduled for Sept. 15.
"I think we've got some incredible sprinters," said D'Arcy, who is the kennel manager and trainer for her father, Mick D'Arcy. "It's definitely a wide-open stakes race. Any dog that can go into a race like this at the peak of their form really has to be considered in contention."
D'Arcy has the dogs to challenge for the $22,000 first-place paycheck, but one might be left out of the mix. Derby Lane has 16 kennels and each is assured two stakes entries. If any kennel doesn't fill its quota, D'Arcy could gain a third spot. Entries are to be submitted by Wednesday.
Call Me Ishmael is expected to be D'Arcy's top stakes choice. The Derby Lane regular returned this week from a five-week stint in Arkansas, where he finished second in the consolation final of the Racing Life Challenge Million Dollar Series at Southland Park in West Memphis. Call Me Ishmael left Derby Lane on a two-race win streak and came within two points of qualifying for the RLC championship race Sept. 1. He lost in the consolation final by a head to former Derby Lane dog B's Dividefourby.
It was the second stakes final in two tries for Call Me Ishmael, who ran second to McAllister kennel's Flying Lone Wolf in the $20,000 Gold Trophy Juvenile on May 19. A winner of 20 races, Call Me Ishmael is expected to school Tuesday.
"Felix (Call Me Ishmael's kennel name) has incredible pace and incredible determination," D'Arcy said. "His kick from the last bend (to) home is breathtaking."
Oneco Kennedy, who missed more than two months with a slight shoulder muscle tear sustained in May, has won four consecutive outings. That followed a 12-race losing streak. Quicker starts have keyed Oneco Kennedy's turnaround.
"If you look at some of his earlier races, his break out of the box was often sixth, seventh and eighth," she said. "At the moment, he's gotten his timing better and he's getting down to the (first) bend closer in second and third. From there, he's able to close on the rail to win. We've always known he's had an unbelievable amount of ability. It took him a little while to mature."
Sand Cloud has won five of her past seven races, giving her 27 career victories.
"We took her off for a couple of weeks to give her a rest, and she's come back better than ever," D'Arcy said.
Sand Cloud is the daughter of 2007 All-America sprinter Dreamy Blossom, both owned by Mick D'Arcy.