Simba's Pride

Competitive wiener-dog racing came into the world in 1993 after a Gulf Greyhound Park marketing director saw a Miller Lite advertisement starring dachshund dragsters with parachutes that popped out of their butts to slow them down. That stroke of ill-gotten inspiration resulted in an event that's attracted 80,000 fans, received 700 dachshund entries (this year alone), spawned imitators all over the country and brought fame and glory to one Simba the Wiener Dog King.

David and Becky Shocklee tried from the beginning to get their dogs in Gulf Greyhound's Wiener Dog Nationals, but they weren't chosen in the random drawing until they entered with Simba. He placed third his first time out of the starting gate. "It was kind of a touchy deal," explains David. "He got kind of interfered with and lost his focus."

But in 1998, Simba came back to the track ready to dominate the dog-eat-dog world of dachshund racing. The three-year-old had been practicing running to David on a makeshift go-cart track near the Shocklees' house. "He loves being with me," David gushes.

Simba blew away the competition at the Wiener Dog Nationals and went on to The Tonight Show to dust wiener dog champs from a couple of California dog tracks. Jay Leno then pitted Simba against a peculiarly speedy piglet, who pulled ahead of him early but inexplicably turned around and ran back in the wrong direction.

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Simba, the champ, rode to the hotel in a limousine (the only car the smart pup has ever gotten into of his own free will).

David Shocklee says Simba's a lock-in for the Wiener Dog Nationals title again this year.

But can you bet on him? "Only among friends," says Gulf Greyhound's Todd Freed. "The state of Texas hasn't seen fit to legalize parimutuel wagering on wiener dogs."

-- Lauren Kern

The Wiener Dog Nationals are Saturday, January 23, at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Gulf Greyhound Park, 1000 FM 2004 in La Marque. Call (800)

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