Goodbyes are never easy. And two prominent greyhound-racing families, the Hollands and the D'Arcys, bring heavy hearts into the start of the $40,000 St. Petersburg Derby qualifying tonight at Derby Lane.
Brenda Holland, 64, and Patrick D'Arcy, 93, died recently from undisclosed causes. Holland was the wife of Tampa Bay Greyhound Association president and Derby Lane kennel owner Cal Holland. One of her three children, Cal Holland Jr., is the manager-trainer for Patriot kennel, the track's top operation. Justin Holland, one of seven grandchildren, is the trainer for Cal Holland. D'Arcy was the uncle of Derby Lane kennel owner Mick D'Arcy.
Their memorial services were Tuesday, Holland's in St. Petersburg and D'Arcy's in Cashel, Ireland.
"It's definitely a sad time for all of us," said Catherine D'Arcy, Mick's daughter and kennel manager-trainer. "I think it has been one of the tougher times.
"The other kennel owners have rallied around Cal for support. I think he knows how much all of us care about him. Anybody who ever met his wife would have been enamored with her. She was lovely, very funny and always made you feel welcome. Brenda was Cal's biggest supporter."
Derby Lane racing secretary Jerry Miller said the loss of Brenda Holland will be felt by many. "When you consider these pioneers were rich in our history, and then to see them fall by the wayside ...(The greyhound business) is not a job. It's a life."
Catherine D'Arcy was unable to accompany Mick and mother Frances to Ireland. Driving to Brenda Holland's service, Catherine spoke with her parents, who were just leaving the chapel.
"That was even more emotional for me," she said. "I'm thinking how bad I feel for the Holland family and Brenda, and I'm also thinking about ... Patrick as well. He was a father figure to Dad, and he was like a grandfather to my brother (Michael) and I."
Cal Holland kennel also has lost its top greyhound, Kentucky Fire. A week ago, she sustained a career-ending broken hock in her 150th lifetime start. Kentucky Fire would have been one of the favorites for the Derby, which has 660-yard qualifiers in Races 4, 6, 8 and 10. She was the wins leader at the past meet and a three-time stakes runnerup. Kentucky Fire finished with 39 wins and $60,371 in purse earnings.
"I was devastated for (the Hollands) that Kentucky Fire got injured right before the Derby," Catherine D'Arcy said. "It just seemed so unfair for them."
Qualifying for the 86th annual Derby ends Wednesday. The Derby and Consolation finals are June 30. Nova kennel owner Hans Limmer, who celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Elly on Friday, starts Angus Mcloud (Race 4, 8:18 p.m.) and Getso's Cindy (Race 8, 9:33). Derby favorite Tiger Boy (McAllister) is in Race 10 (10:11).