Straight and Oval Racing

It has long been held that one of the original functions of the Whippet was the "poor man's race dog" in England. Photos of the "rag dog" races in the latter half of the previous century seem to support this theory. Racing is a test of pure speed, combined with desire to chase the artificial lure without interfering with other hounds. Whippet racing looks a lot like greyhound racing except that this sport is purely for ribbons and titles, not for gambling or profit. There are two main types of racing: straight racing and oval racing.

In straight racing, Whippets break out of starting boxes wearing muzzles and numbered blankets. They run a distance between 150 to 200 yards (200 yards is most common), and the first one over the finish line is the winner. They run in groups of five or six dogs. The blankets are colored and numbered to help determine placements at the finish. Red = 1, Blue = 2, White = 3, Green = 4, Black = 5 and Yellow = 6. There are four separate programs so each dog will run 4 times. In the first program, dogs are grouped by their "grade" which is a number determined by scores from the three previous meets. Grades are A, B, C, and D, with A being the fastest. The first 3 placements in each race are given points and these points are tallied throughout the day, which results in a final order of finish for the meet.

The programs are run from slowest races to fastest and the final race of each program is called the "high point" race where points are given for all placements in that race. 

Championship points are given to the top finishing non-champion titled dogs in each meet. The number of points given is determined by the number of dogs entered. National points (used for national rankings each year and supreme championship titles) are given only to the top 2 or 3 dogs in each meet. These are also determined by the number of dogs entered in the meet.

Each racing organization also has non-championship titles that are determined by the number of points each dog accumulates in each meet. All of the titles for the racing organizations can be found on their respective websites; please see our Other Resources page for links to different organizations.

Oval track racing is very similar to straight racing, except the race is run on a big U-shaped or oval track with an inner rail and the distance is increased to a length between 220 to 440 yards. Oval races are run in groups of three to five Whippets for three or four heats, depending on the length of the track and number of starters. The grades and blanket colors and numbers are the same as for straight racing. Oval racing can involve more strategy on the dogs’ part compared to straight racing, which is a full out sprint. Smart oval racers know to go to the rail quickly and hold that position. They will cover less ground and some dogs with less speed can defeat a faster sprinter simply by holding rail position and moderating their speed to get through the corners quickly. Many top speed straight sprinters have difficulty on the oval track due to their inability to temper speed through a turn. It is exciting to watch the dogs "jockey" for good rail position on the oval track and the entire race can be seen by the handler as they both box and catch the dogs.

The American Whippet Club sponsored straight racing for many years, and awarded the Award of Racing Merit (ARM) title to the best racers. This program was suspended in the mid 1990's, and straight racing competition for Whippets is now offered by two main organizations in the USA: the Whippet Racing Association (WRA) and the Continental Whippet Association (CWA). WRA covers most of the US where racing takes place. The CWA, formed in 1990, has it historical roots in the upper Midwest, but has active clubs in CA, BC, TX, OK, GA, the Mid-Atlantic, and throughout the Midwestern region. 

All racing Whippets must be AKC (American Kennel Club) or CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) registered. Dogs with an AKC ILP (Indefinite Listing Privilege) number are not eligible to compete. Different racing organizations have different rules concerning the eligibility of dogs with breed disqualifications, as defined by the AKC standard. CWA excludes any dog from competition that has a breed disqualification (height, eye color, bite) according to the AKC breed standard, and has additional pedigree qualifications prospective entrants must meet. WRA excludes dogs on the basis of height (too tall or too short, as defined by the AKC standard), but will allow other breed disqualifications (eye color, teeth) if the dog has a vet certificate indicating that it is spayed or neutered. NOTRA does not exclude dogs on the basis of any breed disqualification at all.

Although most Whippets thoroughly enjoy racing and there are many non-Champion titles that can be earned, Whippets running at the championship and meet-winning level come almost exclusively from breeding programs with a focus on breeding for speed. For those who wish to compete successfully at a high level in this sport, you should acquire a dog from a breeder with success in finishing racing champions.

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