Pringle ready to defend wiener dog racing title

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VISTA, Calif. — Pringle has a passion for running. The 7-year-old dachshund dashed to the 2011 Wiener Nationals by beating out close to 400 other wiener dogs at last year’s San Diego qualifier.

Owners Bruce and Kathy Rice have run Pringle every year since 2006.  Leading up to Saturday’s San Diego qualifier at the Qualcomm Stadium rugby fields, the Rice’s hang a checkered flag outside their Vista home and put Pringle on a strict training regimen.

“I’ve been taking her to the park a few times a week,” Bruce said. “I’ll pace about 30 yards and then I’ll have her run to me as fast as she can. Usually, I’ll try to have her run past me.”

Pringle has not one, but two secret weapons for running fast. Kathy stands at the finish line holding her favorite toy, a flexible Frisbee, and her favorite food – barbecued chicken.

“Pringle’s driven by food,” Bruce said. “Usually we have chicken at the finish line, but most of the time she doesn’t even show up to Cathy’s lane. She’ll go to the best treat available.”

The Rice’s seem to have the magic formula when it comes to racing. Pringle’s predecessor, the late Pretzel, took the Wiener National title in 2003.

Blitzen, Pringle’s current stable mate, has also raced and the Rice’s think Wiener Dog Racing should one day get a spot in the Olympics.

“That’d be fun,” Kathy said.

“Yeah, it would be fun,” Bruce agreed. “I think it would add to the suspense of the Olympics.  Of course, you would probably have to test them for steroids.”

As long as they don’t test for chicken, Pretzel would be just fine.

Qualifications for the 16th annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals dachshund race begins Saturday in Mission Valley.

The fastest 16 out of a field of around 400 little dogs, determined by the preliminary heats on the rugby fields adjacent to the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, will advance to a Sept. 3 contest at the Del Mar Racetrack to become the San Diego finalist, according to officials with the Holiday Bowl, which organizes the event.

The national finals are set for the morning of Dec. 27 before the annual San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade, when eight dachshunds will race along a 56- foot track. The Holiday Bowl college football game is scheduled that night.

Last year’s national champion was “Penny Lane,” whose owner, from Los Alamitos, won a $1,000 prize.

Registration begins at 8 a.m., with racing from around 9 a.m. to about 11 a.m.

The entry fee for those who have not pre-registered is $15. Proceeds support the nonprofit Holiday Bowl.