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Thursday, March 22, 2018

The D’Arcy dominance in the Distance Classic began with a delayed decision.

Turn back 23 years, when Mick D’Arcy, then the trainer for Greymeadow kennel, won his first of six titles with Greys Mardigras in arguably one of the most dramatic finishes in Derby Lane’s richest 660-yard stakes.

D’Arcy was by himself on Feb. 18, 1995, standing on the Derby Lane tarmac near the finish line. His family – wife Frances, daughter Catherine, and son Michael – were in Ireland. Greymeadow owners Jack and Mary Butler, and Cosmo Vellucci, Grey Mardigras’ owner, didn’t attend the race either, because as D’Arcy said, “They told me every time they came, their dog got beat.’’

They missed a fantastic finish.

Greys Mardigras, a 9-1 shot who was third entering the stretch, rallied in the final 20 yards to join even-money favorite Awesome Memory, BD’s Indianscout and Hoosier Country in a four-dog photo finish for the win. Greys Mardigras prevailed by a nose over Awesome Memory in 37.74 seconds. Another nose back was Bd’s Indianscout, who finished a head in front of fourth-place finisher Hoosier Country. The quartet was separated by only four-hundreds of a second.

D’Arcy initially thought Greys Mardigras had finished third, and no one knew the winner until results were shown five minutes later on the tote board.

“(Posting the final order of finish) seemed like an eternity to me,’’ D’Arcy said. “With the way they put the (dogs’) numbers up and if you see blinking lights, you know it’s a dead heat. . . . I was waiting for the blinking lights. When they put the prices up (Greys Mardigras paid $20.40 to win), then we knew (we had won).

“It was one of the all-time great races. I think it is the only time (in a trophy presentation) that a D’Arcy dog won and there weren’t more than 20 people in the picture’’

When the 59th edition of the $75,000 event begins Saturday with the first of four qualifying rounds (Races 4, 6, 8 and 10), D’Arcy can make history again. Never has a kennel won three Distance Classics in a row. D’Arcy has captured the past two with Ethanol and O Ya Cruiser Max. The 72-year-old native of Cashel, Ireland, is the fifth dog man to win back-to-back titles, but the first to do it with different greyhounds. D’Arcy’s other Distance Classic champions were Brother Buck (2012), Greys Free Style (2000) and Greys Betsy Ross (1998).

During D’Arcy’s reign, no one else has more than three championships (Jim and Kayruth Abernathy, and John Filipelli).

D’Arcy has three entries in the 32-dog field: Tempest (Race 4, 8:10 p.m.), Diamond Rio (6, 8:39), and Dogger Bank (8, 9:13). First place for the April 7 championship race pays $30,500.

“(Winning the Distance Classic) is in the breeding of the dogs,’’ D’Arcy said. “You can’t make a 660 dog out of a 550. . . It just can’t be done.

“You let them run a little while at 5/16ths before you go over (to 660). Experience is worth a lot. They get like a boxer. . . They get ring ready, and they know what they’re doing when they break in on the bend.’’