LEXINGTON, KY (May 3, 2005) He has blinding speed, a quick turn-of-foot, a magnificent stride and the heart of a champion. He runs for the thrill of victory and the feel of the wind on his face. Most of all, according to someone very close to him, he runs because “He loves to jump on the lure first and kick the behinds of the competition.” To prevent any unfortunate Mike Tyson-like incidents, he also wears a muzzle when he competes.
He is Sow’s Ear Gunner, a 5-year-old Jack Russell Terrier who will be competing in the Terrier Races at the High Hope Steeplechase on May 22 at the Kentucky Horse Park. “Gunner,” as he is known to his friends and his owner, Chris Hayden of Taylorsville, Kentucky, has won approximately 35 championships over a racing career that began when he was just 4-months-old. He has won or placed in the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America Nationals five years in a row. When he races at the Kentucky Horse Park, he may be running alongside some of his 10 sons, daughters and grandkids who will also be competing that day, all of whom have inherited Gunner’s competitive nature.
The dogs race down a 300-foot track, some on the flat and some over hurdles, chasing a small piece of sheepskin on a rope. There is also a “Go-to-Ground” race in which the dogs run through a man-made 30-foot tunnel. Regulation collars and muzzles are required equipment for each competitor in every race, as anything can happen when adrenaline gets pumping, emotions run high and competition is fierce (and not just among the dogs).
“Oh sure, Carl Lewis was pretty fast and Edwin Moses could hurdle a bit. But could they stack-up inch-for-inch against the terriers? I think not,” said one terrier race groupie. “These little dogs are jumping hurdles that are taller than they are.”
Another terrier racing aficionado chimed-in, “Forget Seabiscuit and War Admiral or Affirmed and Alydar -- when Gunner, Mercedes and Magnus hit the track, that’s when we’ve got ourselves a real race.”
The Terrier Races are orchestrated by the Bluegrass Working Terrier Association and act as their primary fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the club and the High Hope Steeplechase (which in turn benefits Central Kentucky Riding for Hope and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation).
Jack Russells show up in droves, but lest any height-challenged dog feel left out, the races are open to all terrier-type dogs, including mixed breeds (as long as they can squeeze into the starting box), and a separate Dachshund class is also offered. Races are sorted by age and size, with winners receiving ribbons and other prizes. The entry fee is $15 per race and registration begins at 11 am, with races commencing around noon and going throughout the day.
John Nicholson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park observed, “As the proud owner of a Jack Russell Terrier, I can say without reservation that this is just about the most fun you can have with your dog. It’s also a great spectator sport and a wonderful family activity. When the terriers come onto the field and head toward the starting boxes, the crowd roars its approval and everyone has a great time.”
The Terrier Races are included with High Hope Steeplechase admission. For more information on the Terrier Races, contact Mary Anne Hauck at 502-852-2167 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the club’s website at www.bluegrassworkingterrier.com. For information on the High Hope Steeplechase, call 859-255-5727 or www.highhopesteeplechase.com.
Editor’s Note: A photo of Gunner is available for use in your publication by emilaing email@example.com.
The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The park is an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet that hosted more than 900,000 visitors and 80 special events and horse shows in 2004. The park is located at Exit 120, Interstate 75, just north of Lexington. The place to get close to horses, the park is open daily March 15 to October 31, and Wednesday through Sunday, November 1 to March 14.