US & World

At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!

Racers wearing T-Rex costumes break out of the gate in a surprisingly fast — and hilarious — race at the Emerald Downs horse track in Washington state.
Racers wearing T-Rex costumes break out of the gate in a surprisingly fast — and hilarious — race at the Emerald Downs horse track in Washington state.
/Emerald Downs / Screenshot by NPR

At first glance, the starting gate at Emerald Downs racetrack looks relatively normal. But then the gates open and the race begins, and instead of thoroughbreds a mass of people bursts forth, running as fast as they can — while wearing oversized T-Rex costumes.

"The T-Rexes stand at the ready — and T-Rexes away!" track announcer Tom Harris yells, as prehistoric — and hilarious — chaos breaks out on the track.

At the wire, a dino named Regular Unleaded took the victory, holding off Rex Girlfriend by a tail.

The sight of fierce-looking dinosaurs bobbing down a groomed dirt racetrack has quickly become a fan favorite at Emerald Downs, which is owned and operated by the Muckleshoot Tribe in Auburn, Wash.

"The crowd response is the best part of the event," says Cody Bennett, a sales manager at the TriGuard pest control company, which holds the race. "The kids love us, and we enjoy taking pictures with them before and after the race. It's always enjoyable to hear the adults making bets with each other on which T-Rex will win."

Saturday's race marked the third year in a row that T-Rexes have sprinted at Emerald Downs. After a video of last year's event drew the attention of ESPN and lured more than a million viewers online, officials decided to make the race more formal, using the track's starting gate to ensure a fair and equal start.

The new sense of propriety was short-lived. After the gates sprang open, two dozen theropods sped across the track in a flopping frenzy, their bodies whipping back and forth as the crowd hollered.

"Look how they run with their heads real high," the track's broadcaster Joe Withee said recently, as he previewed the T-Rex race. "That's the style of T-Rexes, I guess: heads high."

Saturday brought a full field like few others. To accommodate all the T-Rexes running, the racers were double-stacked into the gate's 12 stalls. Despite the crowded conditions, a video of the race shows only one T-Rex hitting the dirt after struggling to keep up with its Cretacean competitors.

"I'm so disappointed," a comment on the track's Facebook video says. "I literally only watched this to see how many would fall."

Others simply said the video was the best thing they'd seen all year.

It all started with TriGuard Pest Control of nearby Renton. In just a few years, the company says, its annual group outing at the track somehow evolved into its sales reps sprinting down a horse track wearing floppy dinosaur suits.

"The first year, we attended the race in Hawaiian themed clothing," said Cody Bennett, a Tri Guard sales manager. "The next year we thought it would be funny to come wearing togas, and Emerald Downs was kind enough to have us race on the track in our togas."

The dinosaur racing era began in 2017.

"The third, fourth, and fifth years we have raced in our T-Rex suits on the track, and everyone seems to love it," Bennett said.

There's no prize for the race winner — just bragging rights, Bennett says.

Without going into detail, Bennett promised that next year's T-Rex race would be even better, saying the company will find a way to "kick it up a notch."

Emerald Downs hold other promotional races, including some that feature dogs — but if you're picturing sleek greyhounds, that's a little off. Instead, think dachshunds and similar breeds for last weekend's Weiner Dog Sunday.

In the coming weeks, other dogs will have their day: Emerald Downs says 72 corgis will take over the track on Aug. 4.

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