Archie looks like a typical corgi, the kind who used to follow Queen Elizabeth II around: short legs, happy-looking white snout, perky ears, perky little tail. You can tell which one he is amid the hundreds of other corgis frolicking at Santa Anita Park racetrack by the patch on his harness that reads “fart machine.”
Also, he wears a little doggie jersey. Archie is here to race.
And not just to race, but to defend his title as the Summer Corgi Nationals Champion.
Archie won it at the biannual event, held when the horses aren’t racing at the track in Arcadia, where upwards of 5,000 corgi-lovers from around the country convene.
“It's like a Jimmy Buffett concert for corgis,” says Dan McLemore, the co-founder and commentator of the event.
All those spectators gather to watch the dogs race a 125-foot course (about the length of four smallish front yards) … or maybe just to play.
“There was a senior race where we opened the starting gate, and none of them left,” McLemore recalls. “They all just sat in there and everyone had to shoo them out, and I think it took a few minutes for them to finally cross the finish line, but it was hilarious.”
At the most recent Corgi Nationals last month, Archie’s biggest competitor was Emmett, who won this title twice. Emmett is also the current champion of the Los Angeles Chargers’ Corgi Cup, an NFL halftime show.
It costs $12 for general admission to enter the park and enjoy the day. Yes, it’s dog racing, but it’s not serious like Greyhound racing. Some dogs go straight for the finish line, but others play and never make it. Wagers aren’t allowed, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity — in this case, Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue. Dan McLemore and his wife, Kelly McLemore, work with the charity to raise money and awareness about responsible corgi ownership.
“Corgis are herding dogs by nature, so they have a strong will. They're not aggressive, but they're very focused,” McLemore explains. “If they're not harnessed in the right direction and left to their own doings, it could go astray real fast.”
At February’s event, 100 dogs were selected out of 800 applicants to compete, run, and play all day, building toward the big finals.
Archie makes it through the heats, and so does Emmett, until they face off with eight other dogs for the title race.
Archie’s owner Brittany Kohrell says he seems to love it. “Last year I found out that they do Corgi Nationals, and I thought that'd be fun to get him involved in because he loves running,” she explains. “He loves to go to the dog park. He just loves being active.”
Everybody cheers as the corgis get ready to race. Each competitor is introduced as they walk with their owner up to the starting line on the dirt track. All of the racing pups wear numbered jerseys. Their owners place them in mini-stalls behind gates. The announcer starts to count down the race with his arm in the air. He drops his arm and the corgis are off!
This highly anticipated competition only lasts a few seconds, but a slow motion video of the race is posted, and it shows … Emmett has it in the bag.
Afterwards McLemore says he wasn’t too surprised. The [winner was] who we call ‘the Usain Bolt of corgi racing,’ Emmett,” he says. “He came out of the blocks just like a laser.”
Archie takes fourth place, but he tried his hardest. He will be back in May to compete for that golden trophy.
“He's still my champion,” Kohrell says.