Farmcliff Jack Russell Terriers



Important information about Racing Championship Runoffs

By:  Bob Franklin

 As an avid fan of Jack Russell Racing and over the years, I have done as much as I can to make JRT Racing safe, great fun for everyone and as fair and unbiased as possible for all competitors.  Recently though, I was an observer in a part of racing that must be explained and fully understood by all Trial Chair people and anyone who judges racing.

 Many racing judges choose to remove some of the hurdles for the Championship Run-offs to presumably make run-offs part flat and part hurdle racing.  The theory is that some dogs are faster than others on the flat while other dogs are better hurdlers.  Removal of some of the hurdles for Championship Run-offs is an attempt to make it so that either type of race winner has an equal chance of winning the Racing Championship. 

 However, I believe that there are very important factors that need to be considered when hurdles are removed for JRT Championship Run-offs.  To explain, consider the following.  In some other types of racing over jumps or hurdles, the spacing of these jumps is crucial.  In human hurdle racing for example, total disaster would occur if the hurdles are even a few inches differently spaced than prescribed by the rules.  Same is the case with competition horse jumping  - mostly for double and triple jumps that are in short sequence.  Training for human hurdlers and horse jumpers is done over the prescribed spacing for each type of competition.  Both human hurdlers and human ridden horse jumpers practice their jumping over and over and use precisely the same number and length of steps (strides) between each hurdle.  If hurdles are not properly placed, the human or horse would most likely crash on the “out of sequence” jump. 

 I also, believe that spacing of hurdles is important for JRTs.  Granted, the dogs are smaller than humans or horses, dogs are excellent and nimble athletes and JRT hurdles are relatively small.  Also, the length of space available between hurdles is relatively greater than the length of the stride of the dog so does not exactly dictate how many strides a dog uses unlike the requirements for human and horse hurdlers.  I personally like to see JRT hurdles spaced 10 yards apart because that seems to be a space most good racing JRTs can perform satisfactorily, but this exact spacing does not appear to be critical.  However, once the hurdle spacing is established on any given day of JRT racing, I feel that all the rest of the hurdles on the race-track should be placed at that same spacing.  Change the spacing between hurdles or alter the spacing mid-day and frequently the best and fastest hurdle racers will crash and burn.

 Why is this the case?  I believe that during the first heats over hurdles, the dogs quickly learn the existing spacing of the hurdles and can then judge how many strides they must take between successive hurdles.  The fastest and best hurdlers are just barely clearing the hurdles and I believe that even a small change in that spacing from hurdle to hurdle often  causes them to misjudge and hit a hurdle since there is so little room for error on their part.  The slower “dum de dum” racers rarely have a problem because they are not going as fast and they usually clear each hurdle by a “goodly” amount.  But of course, these slower racers seldom make the Championship Run-offs -- only the fastest hurdle racers make the runoffs along with the fastest flat racers.

 On this day to which I referred in the first paragraph, the racing judge was working with six hurdles on an approximately 75 yard track.  The judge elected to remove the second, fourth and last hurdles for the Championship Run-offs.  Out of the six racing categories having runoffs – adult, veteran and senior (overs and unders)  – three of these run-offs had dogs hit the second hurdle (originally the third hurdle).  Since the hurdles were foam, no dogs were hurt, but of course the race results were totally bogus.  The number of dogs hitting that second hurdle was so dramatic that numerous people were commenting and wondering why.  Then after discussion, most  realized why.  The judge by removing every other hurdle, had changed the spacing between hurdles !!

 An interesting sequel happened the next day with essentially the same dogs in the runoffs, when that day’s judge took out the first and last two hurdles.  No dogs in the runoffs on that day hit hurdles because even though the first hurdle was further down the track, the rest of the hurdles had the same spacing as they had been all day.

I hope there is a well understood moral to this story.  Never change hurdle spacing for Championship Run-offs.   Depending on how many hurdles the judge wants to remove, always remove hurdles from the beginning and/or the ending – not in the middle.

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