Should a stranger sitting next to Catherine “Kate” D’Arcy on an airplane ask what she does for a living, she could easily say she is a compliance consultant for Medicare and Medicaid health care plans. While true, this is not what Kate is inclined to share. Instead, she is much more likely to speak of her greyhound connection. Some seatmates respond with stories of their good times at the track. Others, however, reply that they or someone they know acquired a pet greyhound that was “rescued” from racing.
Kate D’Arcy : The Golden Touch : First published in The Greyhound Review. Leslie A. Wootten
Immediately, the word “rescued” sounds an alarm in Kate’s mind, and she embraces the opportunity to conduct a bit of oneon- one education. “The greyhound wasn’t actually rescued,” she’ll say with a firm graciousness that is her personal trademark. “A caring owner and kennel operator made sure adoption was possible,” she’ll add. And so, the lesson begins from an expert whose combined knowledge and passion is obvious and contagious.
Indeed, for as long as Kate can remember, greyhounds have been central to her life. She recalls that as a child of about six, she sat on her father’s shoulders to watch the English Derby at White City Stadium in London. This was during the mid- 1970s when crowds were huge and Irish champions such as Shamrock Point and Ballybeg Prim competed for the Derby trophy.
Kate and her twin brother, Michael, were born in London in 1969 to Christopher “Mick” and Frances D’Arcy, both originally of Ireland. Mick’s passion for greyhound athletes had deep roots, beginning when he was a boy in his home country, and he carried that passion with him when he moved to London in the 1960s. Frances had come to London to work as a nurse, and it was there she and Mick met. After their marriage, they managed pubs in London, but Mick also owned a few greyhounds that raced at White City. Although Frances had no prior history with greyhounds, she quickly became familiar with them given her husband’s enthusiastic focus.
That focus, in fact, would become a uniting touchstone for the D’Arcy family. Back then, Mick’s dogs were trained by John Coleman, and Kate remembers going to Coleman’s kennel on Sundays where she and her brother were allowed to walk the dogs. The task was always more pleasure than chore.
In 1977, the D’Arcys moved from London to Mick’s Irish birthplace, Cashel, Tipperary, where they bought a home in Golden near Pat Dalton’s greyhound farm. Soon, Mick built a kennel where the family kept six to eight greyhounds at a time, including a few that were in training for racing plus a couple of brood matrons that whelped pups, which Kate and Michael had a hand in tending.
After-school duties for the twins included homework, of course, but greyhound chores came first, sometimes even before changing out of school uniforms, much to their mother’s dismay. Chores included cleaning the kennel, feeding, walking, or grooming pups, and helping Mick with sprints and gallops in the field.
Weekends often meant the family traveled to nearby racetracks at Thurles or Clonmel when D’Arcy dogs were scheduled to compete. At the time, D’Arcy racers had the prefix, “Flagmount,” for the town of Frances’ birth in County Clare. When Kate and Michael turned 12, they were deemed responsible enough to lead the family greyhounds out before a race and walk them to the starting box. Being able to do so was a rite of passage for Irish youngsters in greyhound families, and it was certainly a meaningful moment for Kate. (This practice differs from the U.S.A. where a dog is handed over at weigh-in and not handled by owners or associates until after the dog’s race is over).
A major move occurred for the D’Arcy’s in 1985, when they crossed the pond to get a fresh start. At the time, the Irish economy was suffering, and prospects for young folks looked especially grim in terms of finding—and retaining—good jobs in Ireland. By then, the twins were 16, and it made sense for the family to begin planning for their future. By chance, various states in the U.S.A. faced nursing shortages, and recruitment efforts had expanded to Ireland. When Frances received an offer for a nursing post in Texarkana, Arkansas, she accepted. She and the twins moved to Texarkana, where they surprisingly felt quite at home because other Irish nurses who had been recruited were there with their families, as well.
“At one point, there were probably 10 or 12 newly relocated Irish families in town,” Kate said. “Our high school was quite a multicultural place,” she added. For a melodious mix, imagine the blend of Irish lilt and Arkansas twang that would have wafted through the halls in those days.
Mick headed north to Boston, where he trained for Pat Dalton at Wonderland Greyhound Track. During summer hiatus and school holidays, the family came together again—wherever Mick and the dogs were. It was inevitably a bit of an Irish gathering because Pat Dalton’s children—John, Marie, Patrick, and Michael—were also in and around the kennel during those times along with Kate and her brother.
Whenever Kate helped Mick in the kennel, which was often, she paid very close attention— watching, listening, and absorbing all he said. “Everything I’ve learned about greyhounds, I learned from him,” she remarked. What she learned first and foremost was to treat greyhounds with care and kindness. “Beginning when we were kids—8, 9, 10—we held the dogs while dad clipped their nails, for example, and he told us to just pet and talk to them,” Kate said. “He has always had a soft touch with the dogs, and that’s how our kennel operates at Derby Lane and everywhere else we’ve been. Anybody who works for us has the same approach.”
In 1998, Kate moved to Scotland to be with a long-time boyfriend who lived there. The move meant she could also be near her ailing maternal grandmother in Ireland, with whom she’d always been close. While in Scotland, Kate continued university studies she’d started in the states, completing a degree in computer science at Glasgow’s Stowe College. During this time, she wasn’t directly involved with greyhounds, but the dogs and the sport were never far from her mind.
After her grandmother died, Kate moved back to the states in 2000 to be closer to her immediate family. By then, her parents lived in St. Petersburg, where Mick trained for Jack and Mary Butler at Derby Lane. The Butler-D’Arcy alliance, which had begun in the 1990s, continued until the Butlers retired. They started the retirement process soon after their female, Greys Calibrator, beat the boys to win the inaugural Derby Lane Million in 2006. Mick trained Greys Calibrator and many other Butler “Greys” through the years. The “Greys” had the talent; Mick had the touch. Later, Mick and several partners bought Greys Calibrator for breeding purposes. He also struck a deal to buy the Butlers’ kennel operation, and, with that, Derby Lane’s D’Arcy Kennel was officially born.
In 2011, Kate stepped in as overseer of D’Arcy Kennel at Derby Lane when her father moved to Wheeling, West Virginia, to join forces with Ryan Farms Kennel at Wheeling Island Racetrack. In a way, her father’s move meant Kate took on two jobs because she continued her full-time work as compliance consultant. She didn’t hesitate a moment before accepting the dual role. “I was happy to do it,” she remarked.
During 2012, she has been at the kennel several days—or evenings— every week. When Friday afternoons arrive and her compliance work is done, she gears up for a weekend at the track. On Friday and Saturday nights, she can usually be found sitting alone with program in hand, watching the Derby Lane races. Those are nights when the kennel’s best greyhounds typically compete. Some are owned by the D’Arcy family, while some belong to the Don Ryan family, with a few owned by others. On Saturday and Sunday, Kate is at the kennel, filling in as needed to assist three full-time employees with chores. She also uses the time to make calls regarding the dogs and to catch up on what can seem like endless paperwork. She coordinates on both ends of the spectrum—with farms where pups are in training and with adoption groups when racing careers are winding down.
Being at D’Arcy Kennel so often provides Kate with ample opportunities to host kennel tours, particularly for those involved with greyhound pet adoption. “Our door is always open,” she said. “We love to have people visit, so they can see for themselves how well the dogs are taken care of and learn a bit more about the racing side of things, too.”
Over the years, Kate has developed bonds with a variety of adoption groups, such as GPA-Tampa Bay, Retired Greyhounds as Pets (REGAP) of Illinois, Greyhound Crossroads and Greyhound Friends of North Carolina, Greyhound Adoption of Ohio, and New Mexico Greyhound Connection, to name a few. The job of coordinating adoption is a priority for her. The groups she regularly works with understand, and fully appreciate, that she wants and encourages relationships with adoptive owners. She believes adoption should be a priority for anyone involved with greyhound racing. “If you have a racing kennel in this country, you need to have advocates in the adoption world and you have to reach out, make contact, and stay in touch with them,” she remarked.
One of the ways Kate communicates— and, yes, educates—is through social networking platforms such as Facebook. She has set up a D’Arcy Kennel page on the popular site, where she regularly posts photos and videos that she takes when she is at the kennel—or on the farm. She embraces the adage that showing is better—and certainly more fun— than telling when it comes to revealing canine personalities. “I like to convey that it is not all work and no play for the dogs,” she said. “I want people to see what life for a racing greyhound is really like.”
An example of how showing can trump telling is revealed in a recent photo of Tortuga Trophy (Geoff) that catches him in kleptomaniac mode, having somehow scored a coffee mug. On any given day, Geoff is likely to steal a brush, a toy, a milkbone, or anything he can snatch. Indeed, Geoff has quite a following due to his kennel antics, but also because he delivers a thrill for those who watch him race live or on the internet. As a come-from-behind closer, he’ll often enter the first turn six or eight lengths last. Then, as the pack turns for home, he suddenly powers up, sneaks by, and steals a win at the finish line.
Given Kate’s commitments and 7-day-a-week schedule, there is one aspect that tends to get left out of the mix and that is her personal social life. The truth is, Kate is usually too busy to date. She remarked, “Most people outside of the industry don’t understand the workaholic lifestyle I lead.” While other single folks in the greyhound environment generally do understand, they are spread out around the country, and most are as busy as she is. “The only personal relationships I have in my life now are the four-legged kind,” she joked. Presently, Kate shares a home with Cairn terrier, Scooter, and greyhound champion Greys Touch Gold, a female Kate bought from Jack and Mary Butler. Several of Gold’s offspring, including Golden Crescendo, Heavenly Whisper, Miss Behaved, and Monaco Gold have raced successfully at Derby Lane and Wheeling in 2012, while others have become pets.
Vacations for Kate are invariably greyhound-related. Twice a year, she travels to Abilene, Kansas, to attend National Greyhound Association race meets and auctions, plus other events. While there, she is usually surrounded by men. In fact, one reason I didn’t attempt to interview her during a recent meet was because she was never alone. By her own admission, Kate is generally talking business with her male admirers. Given that the men are often visitors from Ireland, Australia, Scotland, and elsewhere, she could very well be doing a bit of educating on U.S. racing, as well.
Kate has plenty of knowledge to share—or keep close to her chest when necessary. After all, racing is a competitive sport and one should never give away the entire book of recipes for success. Through the years, though, Kate has developed an astute eye when it comes to greyhounds with potential. Of course, a good eye is never enough—and she does plenty of homework. She and her father often confer on purchases to make at the NGA auction after studying replays of races at the meets. And, then, there is the personal element. Just as she develops and maintains contacts in the adoption realm, she does the same in the breeding and racing arena. Some greyhounds Kate purchases in partnership with her father or brother, but others Kate buys on her own. Recent purchases have been successful competitors at tough tracks. Decto Galtex, for example, won Grade AA at Wheeling; Craigie Londoner made two stakes finals at Derby Lane; and Deco Caraways ran second in Derby Lane’s 660 Challenge.
At least once a year, Kate returns “home” to Ireland, usually in February during Clonmel’s annual coursing meet, a several day competition that has an international draw. In fact, Kate has attended the meet annually since 1995. While there, she and her mother (who usually travels with her on these trips) also visit family and friends. The fact that Kate refers to Ireland as “home” reveals her affection for the Emerald Isle and her ties there. Her emotional connection shows in other ways, as well. For example, when naming greyhounds, Kate often includes the word gold or golden in honor of Golden, Ireland, where her family settled after leaving London. While she has no plans to live in Ireland permanently as long as her parents are in the states, she admitted it might be nice to spend more time there—someday.
“I can’t remember the last time I had the kind of vacation where you sit on a beach sipping sangria,” she laughed. Even years ago when Kate visited Australia, she promptly sought out greyhound farms and racetracks. Make no mistake, Kate can readily match others when it comes to downing an Irish whiskey or two in a pub (or the bowling alley bar when in Abilene), but she isn’t one to party just for the sake of partying. Too much is at stake to be careless.
The crux of the matter is this: Kate is simply too busy to think much about dating or being single in a couples-oriented world. Her life is not only full, but fulfilled, enriched by family, both human and canine, just the way she likes it. While most families have commemorative photos that celebrate seasonal holidays or milestone birthdays, Kate’s family photos typically include greyhounds. When the D’Arcy’s look at photos together, their remarks trend along the lines of, “Oh yes, that was the year we won the Derby Lane Million with Greys Calibrator … the Palm Beach Grand Classic with Dreamy Blossom … the St. Pete Derby with Greys Touch Gold …. The Derby Lane Distance Classic with Brother Buck ….” The list could go on and on, but it isn’t about lists or bragging rights. It’s about living the dream, finding the gold, embracing the passion. It’s about living life to the fullest, doing what you love— and educating others who might not appreciate—or fully understand— what the world of greyhound racing is all about.