On Sunday afternoon, dozens of corgis and their owners gathered under a tent trying to stay cool in the summer heat.
While owners enjoyed frozen treats from a nearby food truck, the dogs splashed in a kiddie pool and barked at each other, expressing dominance before the competition even began.
They were all there for the 3rd annual Tampa Bay Corgi races.
Once a year, Tampa Bay Downs replaces horses with much smaller, slower, four-legged creatures – corgis.
Many of the owners thought their dog was destined to win, while others said they were just there for a good time.
“Maggie Moo is definitely not going to win,” owner Stephanie Kohen said. “She likes to chase the other dogs so she does not run straight. If she ran straight I’d say maybe. But it’s all in good fun and we’re raising money for a good cause.”
While the race benefits the Sunshine Corgi Rescue, the owners are united by their membership in the Tampa Bay Corgi Meetup Group, as well as their love for the breed.
“The corgi I was initially introduced to, Sandy Bear, was this little ball of sunshine. She was just pure energy and joy on itty bitty legs. I’ve never felt that way about any other breed and I’ve just loved them ever since,” said Cassandra Dodge, owner of Camden and Oakley.
As the corgis were led past the crowd onto the track, hundreds of fans, many dressed in corgi-themed socks, hats or t-shirts, cheered them on.
There were two handlers per dog. One to release them at the beginning, and one to greet them at the end – if they ever got there.
The track for the race was only about 50 yards, but not every corgi would make it across.
Some would run backwards, some would trot halfway and turn around, and some would roll belly-up, waiting for their participation award.
The corgi races this year were organized by Joe Cavanaugh, Rescue Coordinator with the Sunshine Corgi Rescue.
Cavanaugh said the race generated at least $3,500 in donations for the rescue.
“We rescue Pembroke, Cardigan, and corgi mixes,” Cavanaugh said. “We have volunteers throughout the state of Florida who will foster the dogs, then we have a list of over 250 adopting families who would like a dog. We try to match the dogs with the right family to make sure that’s going to be the last forever home for that dog.”
After 10 heats of eight corgis ran, including a senior dog heat, the finalists competed for the title of fastest corgi in Tampa.
Robin Hunter’s dog Bandit ultimately won the honor and the trophy - which was almost taller than the winner.
“It feels amazing, it really does,” Hunter said. “Now we’re taking him Cody’s to get a steak.”