In 1996, discussions began among Ontario competitors about the possibility of forming a Canadian national race organization. The reasons and issues were as varied as the competitors themselves, but the support for a Canadian version of racing was overwhelming, with wide support among exhibitors of all breeds. Without being critical of LGRA and NOTRA (the American straight and oval racing bodies, respectively), as is certainly not my intention, I would like to relate some of the competitor's concerns.
In this area (southern Ontario), at my own club's NOTRA race meets, on several occasions Whippets had to be run unofficially as we did not have the required 15 starters to make an official race meet. Many of the Whippet exhibitors felt this was unfair when all other breeds required only 2 starters. Although some areas, notably southern British Columbia, routinely draw large Whippet entries, other areas also appear to have problems getting enough Whippets for a meet. Many exhibitors felt that stuffing the entries with non-runners, untested dogs and other fillers in order to meet minimum number requirements was counter productive, and detracted from quality racing. Other exhibitors were concerned that Whippets had different title requirements and disqualification rules than other breeds. In addition, Whippet exhibitors wanted to run in our LGRA straight races, so we ran them unofficially. We would routinely have ten or twelve Whippets entered even though they were not allowed under LGRA rules.
Basenji owners were trying to get accepted to be allowed to run NOTRA, and were understandably upset when Ridgebacks were added arbitrarily, without benefit of a vote by race clubs, even while Basenjis were still being denied. We compensated by allowing Basenjis to run unofficially. I personally, as Race Secretary, had to deal with several irate exhibitors when the LGRA rules regarding the awarding of points were changed without notice a week before our race meet. In fact, one exhibitor had driven eight hours to discover her dog could not get any points under the ‘new’ rules.
Many competitors felt that with the existing point schedule, as more dogs finished their championships, the title became easier to obtain, and therefore worth less. For example, if there were eight dogs entered in a breed, and the first five placing dogs were champions, the sixth place dog would be credited points for having defeated all the other dogs, even though he had actually only defeated two.
One other subject that came up repeatedly was the issue of overt aggression after the finish line. While both LGRA and NOTRA allow it, most race competitors in this area also lure course, and were concerned that this type of behavior could cause problems on the coursing field. Many also felt that a dog should not be allowed to be entered in a race meet until it had been tested and proven to run clean, as is the case with lure coursing.
Overall, we found there was considerable confusion among competitors having two different organizations with different rules, different breeds eligible to run, and in the case of NOTRA, different rules and title requirements for different breeds.
Having realized that there was widespread support for a Canadian race organization, we realized that this was indeed a remarkable opportunity. To be able to have a hand in creating and guiding the development of a uniquely Canadian version of racing was truly both humbling and rewarding. Having been unofficially elected to write a proposed rule book (why do I open my big mouth?), I spent time speaking to many different people, both experienced and novice racing competitors, to get a feel for their vision of racing. Almost across the board, people wanted high quality racing, safety, uniform rules, and worthwhile titles, with many people wanting to be able to get their racing titles recorded on CKC papers and pedigrees. Once it was completed, the proposed rule book was sent to clubs and individuals, both in Canada and the States, that had expressed an interest, in order to get comments, suggestions and feedback from as many sources as possible.
The final version of the rule book, which was adopted by the hosting clubs, reflects an interesting marriage of racing and coursing rules, and is truly a reflection of the interests and desires of the competitors themselves. This then, is an overview of the Canadian Amateur Racing Association (CARA) rules.
Racing is open to all recognized breeds of sighthounds, including miscellaneous, one year of age or older, and registered with a recognized registry. In addition, a host club may offer non-regular racing to other breeds if requested by a breed club. (My club has held non-regular racing for Jack Russell terriers and Collies!) Before being entered in its first meet, a dog must be pre-certified with at least two other dogs. Pre-certification is waived for dogs with coursing or racing titles. In addition, all dogs are on probation for their first two race meets - even a possible foul means a dog must be pre-certified again.
Oval races may be 300, 350 or 440 yards, and straights may be 200 or 400 yards, although local modifications to fit conditions are allowed. All races are four dog races, and all dogs must run muzzled. Blanked colours are the same as American racing organizations. Races may be hand slipped or box started. As maximum points are awarded at 15 starters, stakes are split when entries in a breed are 30 or more.
Grading is done with letter grades A through D, with the grade being determined by a weighted average (WAVE) of the dog's last three starts. Dogs are separated by grade and WAVE, and then drawn into races by descending order of the Wave numbers. If there are 5 A racers, then four of them are drawn into the High Point race in descending order of the WAVE. The 5th A racer will be drawn into the race below the High Point race which is known as the Matinee Race. If there are 3 A dogs, then one B dog with the highest WAVE is drawn to fill the race. Points earned in each race and re-draws for subsequent races are similar to LGRA and NOTRA.
In order to be disqualified, a dog must both turn his head toward, and move toward another racer. In addition, after the finish line, a dog may be disqualified for unwarranted aggression, or attacking another dog that in not in possession of the lure.
Championship points are awarded to the top four finishers (non-champion) in each breed, similar to lure coursing, based on the number of starters. To be counted as a starter, a dog must finish at least one program (i.e. a dog that is DNF in the first program does not count for points if it is then scratched). Only dogs that are actually defeated are counted for points.
3 x # of dogs defeated (maximum 45)
2nd: 2 x # of dogs defeated (maximum 30)
3rd: 1 x # of dogs defeated (maximum 15)
4th: .5 x # of dogs defeated (maximum 7.5)
National points are awarded on the same schedule, to the top four finishers regardless of champion status.
There are three titles available in both straight and oval racing, as well as one combined title, as follows:
A permanent title of Oval Race Champion (RChO) or Straight Race Champion (RChS) will be awarded to any hound which accumulates 100 points in oval or straight racing, respectively.Race Champion Excellent
A permanent title of Race Champion Excellent (RChX) will be awarded to any hound that accumulates 300 National Points, which must include at least 100 National Points from straight races and 100 National Points from oval races.Racer of Merit
A permanent title of Oval Racer of Merit (ORM) or Straight Racer of Merit (SRM) will be awarded to any hound which accumulates 6 legs, at least 3 of which must be full legs.Veteran Racer
A permanent title of Veteran Oval Racer (VOR) or Veteran Straight Racer (VSR) will be awarded to any hound which accumulates 6 legs (full or restricted) after their sixth birthday.As you can see, while there are certainly similarities between CARA rules and those of our American counterparts, there are also noticeable differences, which we feel will help us to provide high quality, enjoyable racing competition. It is interesting to note that almost all of the American exhibitors who traveled to Canada to participate in NOTRA and LGRA races, continue to return and compete under CARA rules. We are currently preparing a submission to the Canadian Kennel Club's Versatility Committee which would allow CARA racing titles to be added to a dog's CKC registration and pedigree. By the end of 1998, CARA races will have been held by various host clubs in most provinces of Canada, making CARA truly a national organization. To all Canadians who have not yet tried racing, talk to your local coursing club and let them know you are interested. To all our American friends, come on up to the far north and see for yourself what all the fuss is about!
If anyone would like more information on CARA or racing, please feel
free to contact me by phone, fax, or snail mail.
Princeton, ON N0J 1V0
519-458-8559 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org