Now she's doing the same at Derby Lane in Florida. Since arriving at St. Petersburg in January, the distance dandy has acquitted herself quite well. This Saturday night she's a finalist in the $80,000 Distance Classic. Midnight Light had a first, second, third and seventh in her four qualifying rounds to accumulate a total of 36 points. She's racing out of the D'Arcy Kennel.
Joining Midnight Light in the final and their point totals are Mohican Mink Mae, J.E. O'Donnell, 54 points; Magic Finch, Abernathy, 43 points; Kelsos Ace High and USS Gazillionair, Lester Raines, and Kiowa Sky Selma, J.E. O'Donnell, 40 points each; Bow Timeless, Abernathy, 38 points; and Flying Masago, McAllister, 32 points.
While some greyhounds do not adjust well to different racetracks, Midnight Light easily transitioned to the Derby Lane configuration. In 12 starts, she has 3 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds and 2 fourths.
"Very much so," D'Arcy Kennel trainer Catherine D'Arcy said. "She doesn't have the greatest box speed, but her pace in the backstretch, especially from the 3/8ths box to the winning line, is extraordinary."
D'Arcy was well-aware of Midnight Light's lightning finishes before she arrived in Florida. "I had watched many of her 3/8ths and 7/16ths races at Wheeling, and knew the tough 3/8ths oval at Derby Lane would suit her racing style," D'Arcy said. "It was a mutual decision between me, my father Mick D'Arcy and Donny Ryan to bring Midnight Light here and target her for the Distance Classic. Her owner, Donny Ryan, raced at Derby Lane for many years and knows the type of greyhound needed to excel here."
Catherine D'Arcy also is no stranger to the racetrack. She grew up with greyhounds in the 1970s — racing them in Ireland and England before launching her U.S. career in the late 1980s. She's worked at several tracks in the States before settling in at Derby Lane in 1996.
What's the key for Midnight Light to be successful in the stakes final? "In order for Midnight Light to produce her best race, the key is for her to get running room and not encounter too much traffic so she can produce her late charge," Catherine D'Arcy said. "She likes to run midtrack, so post position isn't that important to her. She will switch midtrack for the majority of the race and just needs a clear lane to build momentum on the run for home."
Catherine D'Arcy has handled some exceptional 3/8 greyhounds bred by Greymeadow Farm over the years, including Greys Betsy Ross, Greys Free Style, Greys Mardigras, Greys Free Bird and Greys Touch Gold.
"Midnight Light certainly ranks high on the list. She's a very special greyhound and we are privileged to have her in the kennel. Her race style is similar to Mardigras and Touch Gold — coming from far off the pace to produce dramatic closing runs," Catherine D'Arcy said. "Having a greyhound that closes like that in a race is incredible and there is always hope that they will find room to burst through for victory. It's exciting and heart-stopping in equal proportions."
Derby Lane Media Relations Director and company spokeswoman Vera Rasnake, a racing veteran for more than 30 years who also has roots at the Wheeling racetrack, didn't pick a winner, but would not be surprised if Midnight Light ends up in the winner's circle Saturday night.
"I have always touted Mick D'Arcy (Catherine's father) as the ladies man. He has had incredible success with female racers," Rasnake said. "His history with winning females is uncanny, including million dollar winner Greys Calibrator who also was a Wheeling charger, and 2007 All-American Dreamy Blossom. Lady Luck shines on that kennel."
Post positions for the final will be drawn tonight. Check www.derbylane.com and then go to Vera's News for all the updates.
After the Distance Classic, plans are for Midnight Light to stay at Derby Lane and compete in the St. Petersburg Derby in June.
By Stan Pawloski