The athlete Jordan Berg is training weighs 60 pounds and has proved he can run in a straight line — the latter being at least half, if not almost all, of the battle in the event for which he is training.
Pork Chop, an English bulldog, is one of 41 expected entrants in Canterbury Park’s “Running of the Bulldogs” during Monday’s Memorial Day racing program. Pork Chop raced last year, too, finishing fourth in his heat. This year, though, he has a secret weapon: In addition to having already run the race, Berg says, Pork Chop has decreased his sleep from 17 hours a day to 16 hours a day in order to train more.
He was joking (I’m pretty sure), but that’s in keeping with the spirit of this crowd-pleasing event. The first horse race is at 12:45 p.m.; at this year’s bulldog races, there will be four separate heats (two after the third horse race and two after the fifth race), but unlike last year the top dogs from each heat will square off in a winner-take-all championship after the eighth horse race.
Their races are measured in yards (about 30) instead of miles or furlongs. The winner (and owners) get medals, and all the dogs get treats — typically as an incentive to get them to run to the finish line.
Pork Chop was one of three bulldogs on hand for a few practice runs at the track last week. The other two — Jackson, a 60-pounder like Pork Chop, and Fergie, the lightest of the three at about 45 pounds and the only female in the group — are rookie racers.
Jackson is named for Michael Jackson (owner Aly Beckstrom is a huge fan), and his athletic story is an impressive comeback tale. Last year, he had to get treatment for a damaged ACL (yes, apparently dogs have ACL problems as well), but he’s rebounded into fine running and jumping form.
“He goes all day and doesn’t stop,” said Dan Beckstrom, Jackson’s self-described dog grandpa. “But I’m interested to see if he’ll go in a straight line.”
Fergie had no problem in her practice runs, including one straight-ahead sprint directly toward me (hence that action photo you see).
There is no wagering on the bulldog races (not officially, anyway), though these types of sideshows have become part of the program at Canterbury in recent years. Races involving ostriches, zebras, camels and wiener dogs are also on the docket as the summer rolls along.
For now, though, bulldogs take center stage.
“He loved it,” Berg said of Pork Chop’s romp last year. “He had so much fun. … He felt like a superstar for a day.”