My Racing Experience in Sweden

 By: Genevieve Holland

    For three weeks in May, I was the guest of Hakan Lagerstrom and his family, Peter, Therese, and Natalie. I first "met" Hakan when he made an inquiry about my post on leashwalking, which is on the Whippet View FAQ page. We "clicked" after communicating by email for awhile, then progressed to weekly phone "dates" for seven months. :-) We finally got to meet in person, and also attend two sprint race meets in Hakan's home country, Sweden.

    Whippet sprint racing in Sweden was begun 30 years ago by Tommy & Tina Permo. My later report will cover the 30th aniversary sprint meet which occurred 5/19-20/02. This opening report will discuss how whippet sprint racing is conducted in Sweden, and will be followed by an album presentation on Ofoto of Hakan's home Club's opening meet for this season. Feel free to cross-post to anyone you wish.


    There are few similarities between how we conduct sprint racing here in the U.S., and how it is conducted in Sweden. These are the several differences:

    (a) four (as compared to our six) dog races, almost completely *random* draw; blanket colors are red, blue, white, and black (box 1 thru 4 respectively), with no numbers affixed.

    (b) timing of all races, every meet;

    (c) a meet structure which is a pyramid-elimination type, as compared to our rotation-by-score type.

    (d) There are no "puppy" races. Once a whippet is a year old, the owner can apply for its racing license. All applicants for license run in regular meets. "Unlicensed" whippets (wearing a yellow jacket) are placed in three-dog races (in the two time-trials), with licensed racers taking the outside positions. The applicant runs in four-dog finals, with box position randomly drawn. The license is earned when the applicant runs two out of three meets without a warning or a disqualification.

    (e) There is NO race Championship title, as there is still a strong sentiment toward acknowledging the "Champion" as a conformation champion. There is one "Championship" meet per season, and the fastest dog and bitch are recognized as Race "Champions" for that racing season only. There is some sentiment for creating the Race Champion title; however, it has not been strong enough to create the change.

    (f)The muzzles used are very different, all hand made leather, which I understand were used in the early years of U.S. racing, too. The muzzles as we use them are not allowed, at this point in time. However, given mad cow disease, the hand-crafted leather muzzles have gotten quite expensive.

    (g) A very *big* difference between Swedish and American race officials is that the foul judges stand ON the track, moving aside as the lure reaches them. (I mention this pointedly because it was the only factor in Swedish racing that I disagreed with strongly.) Unless there is blatant aggression, the racer receives only a warning. Even if a dog is fouled outright, it can return each meet until three fouls are earned. Then, it must be requalified by the Race Secretary of the owner's home Club. If it continues to foul, it is then banned from racing.

    What is pretty much *exactly* the same is the spirit of the racers and the race folk. From set-up to break-down, the Swedish and American race enthusiasts are indistinguisable, and I felt right at home! I was a finish line judge most of the first meet, and I handled Hakan's whippet for him a lot at the 30th anniversary meet.


    All tracks are 150 yards long and are permanent, on private property not owned by any of the Clubs. Use of the land is either free (with certain agreements of maintance), or for a nominal fee (as compared to the costly fees most Clubs have to pay to rent fields here in the U.S.) Some communities even provide funds to Clubs, because the activities are seen as family-oriented activities worthy of support. The sport of whippet racing is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, and a veterinary inspection of all whippets preceeds each meet.


    There is pre-registration of entrants, as the first two programs are already drawn by the Race Secretary prior to the event. Placement in a race is almost entirely random draw. There are two exceptions: no whippet is placed together with a housemate in the preliminary runs. Also, the very fast and the very slow (usually, the vets) are not placed together in a race.

    There is no "grading guide" as we maintain here in the U.S. The resultant "class" which a whippet earns each meet is based on the combined total of the two, timed trials. The top eight finishing times are designated the "A" semi-final; the next eight, the "B" semi-final; and so on, until all dogs are placed in a "class." There were "G" semi-finals at the 30th anniversary meet, and the "H" Class (the four slowest vets) only had to compete in a final run. Placement, not times, determine which semi-finalists move to the final runs. The top two finishers in each semi-final go on to the final run of that class.


    The awards for the meet are: fastest licensed dog and bitch; fastest unlicensed dog and bitch, and all pointed finishers for each class. There are points awarded to the four finalists in each class: 5 points to the first; 3, to the second; 2, to the third; and 1, to the fourth. (Unlicensed racers cannot earn points...ummm, I think.)

    The task of each whippet, each season is to shoot for the most points, regardless of the class in which the points are earned. This can tend to have some owners hoping that their racer does not run quite as well in the second time-trial, so that the dog will be placed in a lower class, thereby improving its run for the points. The American race structure/scoring system is not designed for this type of endeavor, and the Swedish system could be perceived as undermining competition. However, the philosophy is that all levels of ability are respected, and everyone is there to have fun running their whippets.      The racers which have accumulated the most points, regardless of class, are acknowledged the "Most-winning Dog" and the "Most-winning Bitch" for the season, and are the only ones who "go down in the record-books."

Genny Holland
APPAWS Whippets

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