The canine competitors will most likely live like kings today after they won in their respective classes at Bully’s Sports Bar and Grill’s ninth annual Chihuahua races and earned their masters some hefty cash prizes.
The Cinco de Mayo weekend brought an opportunity for small dog lovers to convene for a spirited event at the Bully’s on North McCarran Boulevard. Excited owners cheered on their little competitors through a 40-foot track, recently refurbished, with two lanes and watch the finalists dwindle down until the final races.
Dogs competed in a best-of-three heat race in pairs. The winner advanced to the next round, narrowing contestants down to the final two. First heats began Saturday and the races culminated in finals Sunday. A doggie costume contest also brought grins and giggles to parents and kids.
Kadie Remaklus, owner of 7-month-old, blonde-haired Beefstix, said he did well and advanced to the top eight round.
“It was fun,” she said. “All the dogs were a little skittish.”
Beefstix’s mom, Skittles, owned by Crystal Anderson, also raced, which made Beefstix happy because he couldn’t leave her side.
Beth Parke of Sparks said her own Chihuahua, 1-year-old Louie, contended against a much larger member of the breed, a factor that might have affected the race.
“I was disappointed that he didn’t get to race against someone his own size,” she said.
But then again, it was Louie’s first year and will have more time for growing and training before next year’s races.
Brutus, the new 2 1/2-year-old champion, opposed Chimi, the 6-year-old, four-time champion of the Chihuahua Races.
“Is that a fair race?” announcer Brian Clary joked about the dogs’ ages as Brutus and Chimi entered their heat.
“Okay!” he called out during one heat. “This is for all the Kibbles ‘n Bits!”
Brandon and Morgan Gottier of Reno were pleased with Brutus’ performance. Brutus is 2 1/2 years old and raced against 6-year-old Chimi. They took turns holding and cuddling with him afterward. It seemed the champion was in need of a good doggie nap.
Brutus earned the Gottiers the top prize of $500 in prize money, as well as a bag of dog food donated by Scraps Dog Bakery in Sparks, a case of Budlight beer and a bottle of Jose Cuervo in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.
“Brutus is pretty young and it’s a fun event,” Brandon said. “When you win it’s always a bonus. And it’s for a great cause.”
While Chimi took second place for a total of $300, Fletcher and Buddy ran a race so close they tied for third place, but they split the prize because they were both owned by the same woman. So she settled for $200 for both dogs’ results.
In the open class category, new to the Chihuahua Races this year, 20 dogs of all different breeds competed, including a couple of Chihuahuas who didn’t make it to their category on time.
Panda, a Papillon pup, bested Penny, who conquered all her competitors until the final heat.
Panda, a Papillon pup, was highly favored early on in the races. The white, furry male with black patches and a blue scarf, dashed to the finish line with every heat and eventually triumphed.
“He runs after birds all the time,” said Panda’s owner, Mike West of Reno.
The Wests won a $100 American Express gift card. Penny and her own received a $50 gift card for second place.
West, his daughter, Keeleigh and her friend Megan Lloyd, were Panda’s team and helped him reach victory.
“He has a friend named Desi and he chases him around,” Keeleigh said.
The Wests said they’ll return next year for Panda to defend his championship.
The races provoked laughter as some dogs stopped in the middle of the course due to distraction. Hershey, a dark-chocolate colored pup, took off, but began to realize there was more going on outside the track. He stopped, looked at his owner at the finish line who pat the floor and called to him, then turned around several times, wondering which way to go. He even jumped up the side of his lane to peek at spectators. It took some time, but he, too, made it to the finish. Then, of course, one of the jittery contestants just couldn’t hold it anymore and someone in the house called for “clean-up in aisle three!”
Other canines made brilliant dashes all the way then stopped short of the finish line, giving their slower opponent the edge.
This year’s races were “the biggest by far in the history of the competition,” said Clary, director of marketing for Morrey Distributing Co. in Sparks. He said the races got their start in 1999 with 10 dogs and has grown to 153 dogs in this year’s event. It’s a fun family event dog owners get a kick out of, and this year it supported Brianna Denison’s family as they continue to search for the suspect who abducted and killed the university student earlier this year. Blue scarves with “Bring Bri Justice” painted on them were given to the pups that were entered.
The competitors typically do well, Clary said, but being dogs, they can get distracted; however, the owners do their best to keep them on track and speeding to them as quickly as possible with treats and other pets.
“Next year, we’re thinking about having Pug dog races for the Chinese New Year in February,” Clary said.
Pug owners, start your training.