Glade Park pooch going for gold

Molly Jean

Molly Jean has no idea that some races are more important than others — she just thinks chasing a foxtail is fun — but her owners, Jim and Valerie Craft, know this is the big one and they can barely contain their excitement.

“I’m going to be lucky to remain standing,” Jim said with a laugh.

Molly Jean is an 8-year-old Jack Russell terrier from Glade Park. She only has three toes on one foot, but she’s still known as a phenom in the dog racing world.

This weekend, Molly Jean will compete in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge for a national title in the Jack Russell Terrier Hurdle Races at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Mo.

She’s got a great shot at claiming national champion this year, having won nearly every regional trial she’s ever competed in. The trophies and ribbons fill an entire wall in the family home.

She’s only lost a few times, including her first year at nationals, where she tripped and finished fourth.

The Crafts and their dog have been trying to get another shot ever since.

“Now she’s an old racing veteran,” Jim said, “We’ve been working to win nationals for seven years.”

The Incredible Dog Challenge is like the Olympics of canine sports, Valerie said. Qualifiers from all over the world gather annually for family-friendly games including agility, dock diving, Frisbee and weave-pole competitions.

The dogs and their owners are treated like royalty with air-conditioned tents and gourmet catering.

The highlight of the day, however, is the Jack Russell terrier hurdles.

“Everyone comes to watch this one,” Valerie said, “It’s the most popular competition.”

People enjoy watching the races because anything can happen. The small but enthusiastic dogs are released from the pen to chase a foxtail on a lead. They jump several hurdles before running into the small hole in the holding pen which determines the winner.

The entire race lasts only four or five seconds, but dogs often trip over each other in their zeal to win, making it an entertaining race to watch.

“These dogs run a 40-yard dash faster than any (National Football League) player,” Jim said, “Anything can happen.”

The race will be streamed live beginning at 10 a.m. today at The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge will air in mid-January on network television.

The Crafts have been competitively racing and showing their four Jack Russell terriers since 2002. They attended a Jack Russell Terrier Club of America event and “it kind of hooked us,” Valerie said.

Molly Jean proved to be a star as a young puppy.

“She was a natural. She just started winning regional trials so we just kept going,” Valerie said.

Attending competitions is a well-loved hobby for the Crafts, but their dogs are simply very well-loved pets.

“No matter what she does, she’s still one of our best girls,” Valerie said.

Jim, however, thinks there should be some kind of reward for winning a national championship.

“There’s a lot of good steak houses in St. Louis. I’m gonna get her in and buy her a steak,” he said with a laugh.


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