The littlest racers at the Virginia Gold Cup aren’t horses at all but rather Jack Russell Terriers. They are a popular horseman’s dog because of their origins in foxhunting, and if you’ve never seen them race to the finish line, you’re in for quite a treat. Don’t let those little legs fool you – these canine chasers can reach a speed of around 15
The experts over at the JKDRF (the Jack Russell Daily Racing Form) have handicapped the field for this year’s “Virginia Jack Russell Derby National Platinum Cup.” Unlike horse racing which features odds, Beyer Speed Figures and detailed past performances, the Jack Russell handicappers rely on more basic information.
According to our experts, four of the race’s entries – Angel, Maggie Mae, Demi and Joya – have been labeled “FAST.” The rest have no comments at all except a few that say “never run” and that can’t be good…Does that mean “they have never run” in such a race before or does that mean the dog “has been entered in these races time and time again and never run” a damn lick? We aren’t sure, but it won’t impact the fun either way.
Anyway, in case you have never seen this fabulously entertaining phenomenon, each race starts with the dogs ready in their own mini starting box. A race official (usually a man named Tommy Lee Jones) will allow the terriers to smell the lure before the gate opens and the race begins.
Be sure to watch all the way to the finish as the winner is the first terrier to enter the hay bales at the end of the track. Sometimes in all the mayhem, the fastest dog doesn’t get through first!
While the flat races are definitely fun to watch, the steeplechase races are the ones that really delight the crowd. Some terriers are flat jumpers which allow them to quickly hit the ground and continue running on the other side. Others make a huge arc over the jump or take off very early and appear to be flying through the air.
Every now and then, one does a flip – which look catastrophic as it happens, and yet EVERY TIME, the little acrobat bounces up off the turf and keeps running.
The terrier race exhibition starts at 11:15AM on race day so be sure to watch and try to predict the winners as they wait their turn to run.
Check out some more great photos of these small but mighty racers on our Facebook page!