Mini mutts jockey for top dog honours in Melbourne Pup race

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There will be silks, trophies, a racetrack and fashions on the field.

But there will be no horses – or whips – in sight at the second  Melbourne Pup tiny dog race to be held in Melbourne’s inner north on Sunday.

Owners Peter Leed, Ann-Marie Power and Naomi Jones with pups Gigi, Charlie, Gregory and Mickey Rourke in the Edinburgh Castle’s beer garden in Brunswick. Credit: Jason South

Billed as a dogs’ day out at the Edinburgh Castle on Sydney Road in Brunswick, the pub’s large beer garden will be converted to a racetrack for two races on Sunday.

The first race, running at 1.45pm, will be the under-five kilogram category, meant for chihuahuas and puppies, and the second, the Pawfield Cup, at 2pm, will be for under-eight kilogram dogs, aimed at dachshunds.

Melbourne Pup lead organiser Kelly Armati, of Coburg, attempted her first tiny dog race in 2019, at a local dog park. To her surprise, dozens of pets and their owners turned up.

“It was a bit of a joke, but people just kept coming,” she said.

Melbourne Pup entrants Gregory the dachshund and chihuahuas Charlie and Mickey Rourke inspect the trophy.Credit: Jason South

For the first time since the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Pup is back, and this time the carnival will feature a dog stylist doing “doggy hairstyles”, with feathers for competitors, showbags, stalls, a dog-kissing booth and a “pawtune teller” doing palm and paw readings.

Pups will receive a racing silk or ribbon with their $10 entry fee, all of which will go toward the chihuahua rescue organisation, Tiny Tails Rescue.

Although they can’t race, bigger dogs are welcome at the event to take part in the free “Gnashings on the Field” event for best-dressed pooch and best-dressed human.

Prizes include hampers, pet-carrying hoodies and an electronic treat camera for owners to feed and chat to their dogs while not at home.

Gigi approaches the finish line.Credit: Jason South

Dog owner and Coburg resident Peter Leed said his tiny eight-year-old chihuahua, Gigi, did poorly in the last running of the Pup, and he was dim about her prospects this year.

“She’s not going to do well,” he laughed. “But it’s just for fun.”

About 50 people have confirmed attendance, but organisers are preparing to run several races in the event of an influx of tiny dogs on Sunday, and will have plenty of dog poo bags on hand.

Armati’s eight-year-old male chihuahua, Mickey Rourke, (followed on social media by his namesake actor) will be gracing the field for his second Pup on the Sunday.

Armati said she wanted to put on an alternative event to the Melbourne Cup for people who opposed horse racing on ethical grounds.

“In my opinion, you can’t just lecture people, you need to give them something else to do,” she said.

“Don’t just spoil everyone’s good time – give them an alternative. And at this one, nobody gets whipped, nobody gets shot, and it raises money for dog rescue.”

The event is one of about 10 official “Nup to the Cup” fundraising events to be held over the long weekend at hospitality venues across Melbourne and the state, but it is the only dog race.

The campaign is endorsed by anti-racing activists Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.

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