The very meaning of the word grudge implies feelings of ill will, or resentment, and is a rather peculiar name, for a racing greyhound.
However, the Theo Van Taarling-prepared racer who is known to punters as Grudge is an extremely lovable, honest hound who certainly does not exhibit any unsociable characteristics.
Grudge (Black Magic Opal x Captivating) does have a much more cordial kennel name, that being simply Bob, and his recent victory, at start number 100, gave greyhound trainer Van Taarling and his family a huge thrill, along with the ‘See the Dream’ syndicate, headed by prominent owner Serge Buccilli.
Serge told me: “Grudge is really enjoying himself and Theo is enjoying training him – 100 starts is excellent!”
“It is an enormous achievement for a greyhound to be able to contest 100 races, let alone winning.”
“Going into the race, I thought it would be fantastic if he could win the event, and then when Grudge did win, it was a really great feeling.”
Victory for Grudge at his centennial racing engagement is an extraordinary achievement, and various idiosyncratic behaviours or even quirks can develop over a lengthy career.
One observation of Grudge’s racing style is that he does have an aversion to ‘crowding’ or being caught in ‘heavy traffic’ while racing – you might even say, a ‘grudge’?
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Van Taarling, who is based at Tallygaroopna just north of Shepparton, recently, who informed me, “When he does have a sense of being crowded, Grudge likes to work to the outside, and see if he can get back to the rail that way. But, it doesn’t always work. He is a completely different dog when he gets away.”
Like a lot of good greyhounds, Grudge sure has the ability to think through his races, and try to negotiate through ‘heavy traffic’.
And, like many racing scenarios, luck can have a role to play.
Theo, who has prepared Grudge over all of his 102 race starts, mentioned… “Grudge is probably a length or two behind them on Thursday night form (ie. in full-stakes races).”
WATCH: Grudge (1) wins at his 100th start for Theo Van Taarling.
“He has run some good times at Shepparton and surprised us all when he ran 25.36sec or similar. When he jumps (out well) and runs he is a completely different dog.”
Grudge claimed his 11th career victory at his 100th start, over 385m at Shepparton on 5 April, after running second at Bendigo over 500m. On both occasions he jumped out of the boxes brilliantly.
More recently, Grudge ran 2nd at his 102nd start last Saturday at Shepparton.
Interestingly, his ever-increasing race tally is of little consequence to the four year old greyhound, who does not have any niggling injuries.
“Grudge does not break down, and really loves racing,” Theo said.
“He has raced constantly for two years, and he could go for another six to eight months.”
“He is holding up so well, and he has been a great dog for us.”
“Every time he wins, Serge sends us a message of congratulations, and Serge has had some very capable winners over the years.”
“Grudge is actually a littermate to Black Opium, who was the standout greyhound in the litter.”
“It is a shame he didn’t have a couple more lengths like Black Opium had….but that’s the way it goes.”
“Grudge has given us a lot of thrills, including some of his races where he has run second or third, and come from behind, which is always very enjoyable to watch.”
“He can pick them up in the home straight. When you look at a race in progress, and think he is out of it, then, he can run home very strongly, which is always exciting to see.”
Grudge isn’t the only greyhound Van Taarling has trained for Buccilli.
“Serge is very pleased with him. He has given me a few dogs over the years that may have needed a little tweaking, or just some TLC.”
“They have all been terrific to work with, and to see the results on the track, it’s always great to train for him.”
“Someone like Theo, who has a smaller kennel, can give the animal all the attention he needs, and we sure get a kick out of seeing trainers enjoying, and loving, training our dogs.”
Full credit must be paid to Serge Buccilli and his fellow syndicate members, owning Group 1 stars such as Black Opium, who clearly ‘blitzed’ the big time, winning two of the eight group one events that she raced in.
Serge and his syndicate partners, including cousin Bill Bucilli, continue to ensure greyhounds such as Grudge enjoy their racing in the right settings.
According to Serge, “Someone like Theo, who has a smaller kennel, can give the animal all the attention he needs, and we sure get a kick out of seeing trainers enjoying, and loving, training our dogs.”
“It does not have to be all about the superstar dogs. Sometimes trainers tell us that they love to train for us, and we get a lot of enjoyment from that as well,” Serge said.
At the Van Taarling kennels, Grudge is quite the character, and a big hit with the six Van Taarling grandchildren that live with Theo and his wife Faye.
Theo, also conveyed how much joy, Grudge provides his grandchildren.
“Bob, is one of the few dogs that we have got that can open his kennel gate, let himself out, go into the yard and put himself back in his kennel.”
“At four years of age he is pretty smart. The kids can handle him and they love him – all the children help with the dogs whenever they can.”
I asked Theo what he would like to do with Grudge next.
“I would like to run him again at Bendigo, but we will take him back to Shepparton if there are no suitable races at Bendigo.”
“500m is his best distance, and it can be very hard to get down to Melbourne to race him all the time.”
“He doesn’t mind The Meadows either, and I don’t shy away from putting him in with good dogs, they are there for a reason.”
“And, it doesn’t matter, because Grudge is capable of beating them, if luck goes his way.”
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