Rose and Gerry Kleeven have been married for 54 years. In that time, Rose had never seen Gerry cry. That all changed when Luca Neveelk won the Group 2 Mega Merch Ballarat Cup (450m) on Wednesday night.
It was an emotion-charged victory that brought the former butcher to tears. They were tears of joy, pride and relief. They were tears that Rose and son Paul had never seen before. Tears that show how much Luca Neveelk means to the family.
“I’ve got a tear in my eye,” Gerry said after the race.
“When I saw Rose in the catching pen, that’s when the emotions really started to flow.
“We’re just so thrilled for the dog, he deserves this.”
The TAB Melbourne Cup was a disappointing race for the Kleevens with Gerry admitting he was ‘shattered’ his star greyhound missed the start and never found his way into the race. Tonight that disappointment was replaced with celebration.
The winner’s cheque of $60,000 is the biggest of the Dennison couple’s career.
Part-owner and one of seven Kleeven children, Paul, said after the race that they don’t care about the money at all, commenting that ‘it’s all about the dog’.
That statement epitomizes what the Kleeven operation is about. They have pride in their greyhound. They don’t need the accolades all they want is for people to understand how special their greyhound is.
Luca Neveelk was sent to the boxes as an even money favourite from box one. As soon soon as the race begun, it was over. He put the Melbourne Cup behind him and stormed to an emphatic victory, with Gerry calling him home.
“As soon as the lids flew open and I saw him come out as he did I just said ‘yes, yes, go Luca go.’
“He just loves to race and he is so happy with himself. I can’t wait until we get home and I can give him a big cuddle, a kiss and a good feed.”
Luca Neveelk (box one – $2.00fav) won the Ballarat Cup in a time of 25.059 secs on a severely rain affected track. He beat home Peter Akathiotis’ Blue Giant (box three – $19.40) and Steven Collins’ Ultima Bale (box two – $21.20). Local hope Agent Jack ran fourth for trainer Steve McKenna.
It was the second country cup of the year for Luca Neveelk following his Geelong Cup triumph. His career record now stands at an outstanding 24 wins and three placings from 30 starts with prize money of more than $200,000.
WATCH: Luca Neveelk wins the Group 2 Mega Merch Ballarat Cup
PIC: An emotional Gerry Kleeven with Luca Neveelk after the Ballarat Cup. Courtesy – Clint Anderson