ST. PETERSBURG — With the greyhound operation dispersed between Derby Lane and Wheeling Island (W. Va.), kennel owner Mick D'Arcy and daughter Catherine D'Arcy talk daily.
Mick calls two to three times from Wheeling. Catherine runs the show at Derby Lane.
"Dad may be in a different zip code, but he still owns the kennel (at Derby Lane) and is very much involved," Catherine said.
The arrangement couldn't be better. All four D'Arcy entries in the $80,000 Distance Classic have advanced to third-round qualifying tonight at Derby Lane. Brother Buck (26 points), Sovereign Gift (18), Corsair (16) and Ambriel (13) are in the top 10 as 16 greyhounds remain in contention for the April 7 finale. Undefeated Flyin Commandant of Red Oak Racing tops the leaderboard with 32 points. Tonight's qualifiers are Races 6 (8:55 p.m.) and 10 (10:11).
Mick is a three-time winner of the Distance Classic, Derby Lane's richest stakes race. He last won the 660-yard event in 2000 with Greys Free Style. His other winners were All-America member Greys Betsy Ross (1998) and Greys Mardigras (1995).
"The Distance Classic is the major highlight to the St. Pete calendar for us, and it's a big deal for all the kennels," Catherine said. "There is a lot of history in the race, and this would be an unbelievable achievement for us to win it. We've got a pretty decent hand in it at the moment."
That hand is led by Brother Buck, who ranks second in the standings. Trained by Catherine for owner Ryan Farms Kennel, Brother Buck advanced to the finals in two of three stakes races in 2011.
"(Brother Buck) was always bred to go longer (distances), and he is multipurpose in three-eighths races," Catherine said.
HORSES: Tampa Bay Downs jockey Willie Martinez rides Giant Ryan today in the $2 million Golden Shaheen (Race 6, 11:35 a.m.) at the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in United Arab Emirates. … Two $1 million prep races for the Kentucky Derby are this weekend. The Grade I Florida Derby (Race 11, 5:40 p.m.) is today at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. On Sunday, Fair Grounds in New Orleans is the site for the Grade II Louisiana Derby (Race 10, 5:55).