Calgary – Winning in 2014 was nice. So, too, was the 2015 victory. But this time at the GMC Rangeland Derby was different for Kurt Bensmiller – having arrived in Calgary on a blistering hot streak.
“You’re starting to get a little better taste in your mouth, starting to get a little antsier, knowing that you’ve got a great shot,” said Kurt Bensmiller. “This is the first year I’ve come in and actually thought, ‘Oh man, if I don’t win, I’ve really screwed up.’ Because it would be my fault, right? I’m glad we got lucky enough to hold ’er together.”
The Dewberry, Alta., driver did not come close to faltering. He zoomed to the aggregate title. He earned the safe-driver award. And Sunday night, Bensmiller won the Dash for Cash. A clean sweep.
“You don’t get to have years like this very often, so you’ve got to take them when they come,” said 34-year-old, who had outriders Shawn Calf Robe and Rory Gervais on his flanks for the championship heat on the Calgary Stampede grounds. “The horses are performing. We wouldn’t be anywhere near here without the athletes I have in the barn.”
In the final-four showdown, Logan Gorst, off the one barrel, crumpled a barrel, but, nevertheless, clung to the rail and owned the lead – until the homestretch when Bensmiller, who’d drawn the two barrel, rushed ahead with the day’s fastest time.
Those heroics were worth $100,000, giving him a week’s total of $125,550. Second place – and $25,000 – went to Obrey Motowylo, while Chanse Vigen picked up third spot’s $15,000. Gorst settled for $10,000.
“It feels good,” said Bensmiller. “We’ve been on a pretty good roll. We just missed Medicine Hat with a late outrider (losing top-aggregate honours to Luke Tournier by .11 seconds). Since then we’ve been kind of unstoppable, which has been good.”
The runaway leader on the WPCA charts, Bensmiller won the two events – High River and Ponoka – leading up to Calgary’s $1.15 million showcase.
“Everything kind of added up to work in our favour,” said Bensmiller. This stretch of excellence has the makings of a dynasty, he was told post-race.
“I guess so,” said Bensmiller, laughing. “Three in four years has got to be all right.”
As everyone knows, Kelly Sutherland was racing the final heat of his Stampede career. In his 45th appearance, The King had finished the eight-day aggregate in ninth place – the so-called crying hole because it meant he didn’t qualify for Saturday semifinals, which would have given him a chance to chase his 13th championship. Instead, the 65-year-old native of Grande Prairie, Alta., performed his swansong in the fifth heat off the one barrel. And what do you know? Sutherland edged Doug Irvine for a photo-finish victory and, passing the grandstand, received a standing ovation.
For the week, Sutherland pocketed $31,600.
Also retiring is outrider Eddie Melville, 45. After the fourth heat, which he rode for Roger Moore, the Calgarian was saluted by the rest of the outriding fraternity. Melville’s first appearance in the Stampede took place in 1991. He finished his career in the Dash for Cash, working for Vigen.
About the Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede celebrates the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the west. The Calgary Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through our world-renowned 10-day Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. Exemplifying the theme We’re Greatest Together; we are a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities.
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