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Monday, June 19, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Mick D’Arcy refuses to take a back seat to anyone in stakes races. His greyhounds have been dependable, determined and dominant.

The Derby Lane kennel owner and trainer is the only dog man to win at least one stakes championship in each of the past six years. Soon, D’Arcy can add to his resume in one of the track’s oldest events – the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby series, which begins Wednesday night. The 660-yard event ends with the Derby and the Consolation Derby, the conclusion of the 12 stakes-race program.

D’Arcy, 72, a native of Cashel, Ireland, is the only individual with multiple Derby titles in the past 10 years. He is the defending champion after All-America first-team member Oya Stan The Man captured the 2016 crown, one of only two favorites to win in the past decade. D’Arcy also took the 2008 event with 8-1 shot Greys Touch Gold. The average $2 win mutuel for the past 10 winners has been $12 with six paying double digits.

“The distance races. . . . We’ve always been good at them for some reason or whatever,’’ D’Arcy said. “I don’t know what it is.’’

This will be the 91st edition of the Derby, the track’s second-oldest stakes behind the 92-year-old Inaugural. Derby qualifying begins Wednesday with 32 dogs entered in four races. The top four finishers in each event moves on to the final two qualifiers on June 24, with the first four in each race gaining entry into the Derby while the others compete in the Consolation Derby – both set on June 30, the final performance of Derby Lane’s 2016-17 season. The Derby champion earns $11,000, and the Consolation Derby winner receives $2,200.

D’Arcy entered four greyhounds for the Derby, but all are not expected to make the field that will be announced soon. Ethanol, winner of this year’s $75,000 Distance Classic on April 8, tops the list. Others include Black Coral, Emerald Necklace and Gallant Lady. All four are females with 48 total victories.

“We’re in a little bit of a slump with our major dogs at the moment,’’ D’Arcy said. “They’re not running as well as they should.

“It’s taken Ethanol a couple of races to find her feet again after she switched from (the 550-yard Remembrance Stakes in May) to the 3/8ths distance. She ran well (on June 10), a good third, and I’m hoping now that she’s just coming around back again. . . . The 660 is her favorite trip.’’ Ethanol, a lifetime winner of 11 races, has won only once in her past 12 starts since her Distance Classic triumph.

“Black Coral has a lot of speed,’’ D’Arcy said. “If she gets a clean run, she could surprise a lot of people. It’s just a question (of her) getting around that (first) bend close to the leader or in the lead.’’

Black Coral leads the group with 18 career wins.

“Emerald Necklace is probably our most consistent,’’ D’Arcy said.

Don Jensen

I have been a sports writer in the newspaper industry for 40 years: working in Florida, Maryland and Virginia. I moved to Florida in 1984 after serving as the publicity director of Charles Town Race Track, a thoroughbred facility in West Virginia. I reside in Tampa, Fla., and cover the Tampa Bay area parimutuel scene – both greyhounds and thoroughbreds – and write about high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times.