Top Dog? Phoenix Pooch Paw-ticipates in Corgi Winter Nationals

A corgi owners backpacks in his dog for the Corgi Winter Nationals held Feb. 19 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (Photo by Ayana Hamilton/Cronkite News)

By Ayana Hamilton

March 3, 2023

An instant replay showed Arlo crossing the finish line by a wet nose, coming in fourth to qualify for the finals.

On a sunny Sunday, a flurry of furry, stubby legs galloped down the grass at one of the nation’s premier horse racetracks.

But these were not the thoroughbreds for which Santa Anita Park is known. Rather they were a barking pack of cuddly pooches all vying for the chance to be crowned champion of the Corgi Winter Nationals.

About 100 corgis took turns racing for the opportunity to become top dog at this annual competition. Some took racing seriously, scrambling down the course, tongues flying in the wind to the delight of owners gathered at the finish line. Other racers loafed or or used their track time to nip the competition.

Top Dog? Phoenix Pooch Paw-ticipates in Corgi Winter Nationals
It’s a race to the finish line for the Corgi Winter Nationals held Feb. 19 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (Photo by Ayana Hamilton/Cronkite News)

One would-be champ was Arlo, who came a long way from Phoenix to compete at this paw-pular event in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia. His owner, Luu Dagda, was delighted when Arlo qualified for the semifinals.

“We prepared just by hanging out, doing all of Arlo’s favorite things so he could just have a fun time,” Dagda said.

These fluffy dogs from the breed made famous as favorites of the late Queen Elizabeth II, came in various colors—shades of brown, gray, black and white. Age didn’t seem to matter as much as enthusiasm.

One older corgi named Luna Tuna, 8, for instance, beat the odds and also qualified for the semifinals. Her owner, Cece Hunter, was ecstatic when she crossed the finish line.

“She’s one of the bigger girls, but us big girls stick together. We are so excited,” Hunter said.

As the races continued, some corgis were antsy and couldn’t wait to hit the turf. Their owner-coaches used the time to kibitz.

Top Dog? Phoenix Pooch Paw-ticipates in Corgi Winter Nationals
An eager corgi looks forward to the Corgi Winter Nationals held Feb. 19 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (Photo by Ayana Hamilton/Cronkite News)

Moving onto the semifinals, 20 qualifying corgis moved to the horse track to compete against the reigning champion, Emmet.

Afterward, many owners gathered around to see if their corgi made it. Luna Tuna, decked out as No. 8 in a pink racing jersey, was one of the finalists. Hunter was proud.

“Can you believe it? She made it somehow. We are so excited. She’s never made it to the last race. She made it to the semi-last race like this before, but we’re excited,” Hunter exclaimed.

At first, Dagda wasn’t sure if Arlo qualified. But an instant replay showed Arlo crossing the finish line by a wet nose, coming in fourth to qualify for the finals.

Dagda was “pleasantly surprised” at the performance. “We never thought we’d be here from Phoenix doing that.”

The final race was dog-gone exciting. Arlo and Luna Tuna raced their hearts out but couldn’t beat the champion, Emmet.

When asked how to train a winner, Emmet’s owner, Jessica Taylor, says happiness is the key to a winning record. With wins at last year’s winter nationals, a victory in another corgi nationals race, Emmett was in the major leagues of corgi racing, which included a chance to visit SoFi Stadium, home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, for the Bolt Up Corgi Cup, Taylor said.

Underdogs Arlo and Luna Tuna placed ninth and 10th respectively but will always be champions in their owner’s eyes.

“We’re having a great time and he’s a winner in our hearts just by participating,” Arlo’s owner, Dagda, said.

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