The final “Dash for Cash” at the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby had a bit of a Saskatchewan flavour this year.
Logan Gorst of Meadow Lake, riding for Century Downs Racetrack and Casino, won the all-important Heat 9 to claim the title with a time of 1:10.87.
Cando’s Todd Baptiste for Manteo with Groundswell finished second with a time of 1:11.30, Luke Tournier for MobSquad finished third at 1:11.42 and Vern Nolin of Dentons Canada LLP finished fourth at 1:12.58.
For his efforts Gorst takes down the Rangeland Derby title and a grand prize of $100,000. Gorst also had the aggregate best time for the ten nights of racing at 9:52.65, ahead of Baptiste’s 9.54.12.
The night was also notable as the final Rangeland Derby for Ray Mitsuing of Loon Lake, who is retiring after 36 years of competitive chuckwagon racing.
While it was a competitive 10 days of racing, the entire 2019 Rangeland Derby was mired in controversy and tragedy.
Six horses died during the course of the competition, sparking an uproar from the public about the safety of horses participating in chuckwagon races at the Stampede.
The latest incident happened on the final night, Sunday. According to a news release posted on the Calgary Stampede’s website, the right lead horse on Evan Salmond’s wagon suffered a running injury during one of the heats. That resulted in injuries to two other horses on the track. All three horses were euthanized.
“This is as upsetting to us as it is to our community, and is challenging for us,” stated the news release. “The Stampede’s commitment to the safety of animals and the conditions of their participation in our events is paramount to our values and brand integrity. We will continue to be open in our communication with our community.”
The Stampede further stated that they were “committed to initiating a thorough review process surrounding chuckwagon safety.” They further stated they did not know what form this process would take and asked for “your patience and understanding.”
With the most prestigious race meet on the chuckwagon calendar now finished, the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association returns to action this weekend at Little Pine First Nation July 19, 20 and 21. Races begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.