VIDEO: Dachshund derby brings crowds to Golden Gate Fields
on April 7, 2009
by Melanie Mason and Lauren Rudser/Oakland North
There were all the trappings of a day at the races: betting slips, beer, a red-jacketed bugler. But interspersed among the horse races last Sunday at Golden Gate Fields was a different type of sport: dachshund racing. This was a new promotion for the Berkeley racetrack, and dog owners and aficionados alike came in droves to watch the dachshunds race in eight heats and one championship round. In addition to bragging rights, the winner of each heat came away with a $50 prize; the top three finishers in the championship head won $300, $200 and $100 respectively.
Kristin Finkel, head of marketing for Golden Gate Fields, said she estimated turnout was well over their previous high attendance tally of 8,000 people. Some of Golden Gate’s more committed attendees regarded the promotion with a detached amusement. Terry Thompson, a regular who has been coming to the track since the 1950s, said that the dachshund derby attracted larger crowds than what he usually sees during the week, which gave the track more energy and excitement. Still, he said he personally wasn’t captivated by the dog races.
“I don’t pay any attention,” Thompson said. “I try to stay away from the dogs.”
The dachshund derby offered a new type of spectacle for attendees, but not a new opportunity to gamble. No bets were taken on the outcome of the dog races.
“Dog racing is illegal in California, so you can’t bet on dogs,” said Finkel. “But maybe [next time] we’ll do something different. Maybe we’ll have more heats or have more dogs racing. You just never know.”
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