Even when she slobbers, Pat C Rendezvous has a certain patrician air about her, a look of world-weary resignation one associates with good breeding and disdain for the foibles of the lower orders. And lately the performance of this 2-year-old brindle greyhound—a SportsDog, if you will—has been as impeccable as her bloodlines. Last Saturday night at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, the 1-20 favorite won her 33rd consecutive race to break Ballyregan Bob's world record. In a sport in which the favorite normally wins only one of every three races, this was a Rendezvous with destiny.
Rhonda, as she is known to South Florida railbirds, began her run soon after owner Pat Collins stretched her out from[5/16] of a mile to‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö‚à´ last October and then hired Bill Reeves as her new trainer. She finished fifth in her first race at the new distance and hasn't been out of the money since.
Never an underdog since her winning streak began on December 29, Rhonda has won on the lead, just off the pace and from as far back as fifth, always running at the Palm Beach Kennel Club track. Her closest call came on March 4 when she nosed out Arrowhead Eagle at the wire. Six weeks later Rhonda won her 22nd straight race, breaking the 23-year-old track record set by Izz A Champ, who was so dominant that, for some seven weeks, the officials of a rival kennel club paid him $600 a week not to run at their circuit. On June 1 Rhonda eclipsed the American mark of Joe Dump, who reeled off 31 straight at a tiny Alabama track in 1979. But the Dumpster's winning streak has long been a bone of contention in canine circles. When he tried his luck in Florida, he ran like a dog.
The 1986 standard of Ballyregan Bob is similarly suspect. Critics point out that the British brindle was aided by preferential draws and raced primarily in six-dog fields. Rhonda runs in packs of eight, but none of her pooch peers can match her as a publicity hound. "Rhonda loves having her picture taken by the press," Reeves says. "She eats up the attention, she feeds off it."
On race day she fed off her breakfast of champions, a bubbling archipelago of mackerel, potatoes, rice, carrots, Purina Hi-Pro dry and brown sugar. "Alter she ate, she scrounged around the floor for scraps," says Reeves. "It just shows that despite all the hype, she's still a regular dog, not really stuck up at all."
Before taking the track, the reigning queen of greyhounds waited regally in her wire cage, nose down, ears up, tail twitching. Rain fell in swaying curtains that swept across the sandy track. As the featured ninth race approached, a white-gloved bugler in riding togs blew First Call on a herald trumpet. With HELP, HELP ME RHONDA and PAT C RENDEZVOUS FOR PRESIDENT banners flapping in the grandstands, Rhonda broke first, bolted to a four-length lead and crossed the line 7½ lengths ahead of Mr Pushups. Rhonda's time of 38.47 seconds was her second-slowest of the six-month streak—her slowest run was also contested on a muddy track.
The doggie diva was showered with roses, Milk Bones, P-Nutter Au-Bon treats, Liv-a-Snaps, Vanilla Wafers and marshmallows. Mutuels clerk Barbara Gaal, whose moving ode to Rhonda appeared in the racing program, fed Her Highness medallions of filet mignon. "No pepper," said Gaal. "I was afraid Rhonda might sneeze."
Back in England, Ballyregan Bob greeted news of the victory with a stiff upper lip. Bob wasn't trying to be ungracious: He reacts rigidly to everything. Ever since his death two months ago, he has been chilling out in a freezer, waiting to be stuffed and mounted for display in a British museum.