Mark Sutherland blazed through Thursday's Heat 8, posting the fastest lap Thursday at the Calgary Stampede's GMC Rangeland Derby. While Sutherland takes home $6,000 in day money, he couldn't knock 2017 champ Kurt Bensmiller off his aggregate pedestal.
Bensmiller, with another solid ride, is still sitting in the number one spot with a cumulative time of 8:26.77 through seven days of racing. The Dewberry, Alberta chuckwagon driver, winner of three of the past four championships at the Calgary Stampede, is nearly five seconds ahead of the next fastest driver. Rounding out the aggregate leaders are Mike Vigen's wagon driven by his son Chanse, Mark Sutherland, Vern Nolin and Rick Fraser.
Racing continues Friday at 8 p.m., when Saturday's semifinalists – top eight in the aggregate – will be determined. The GMC Rangeland Derby is building towards the Sunday Showdown Final Heat, which is worth $100,000 to the victor.
There are no rookie drivers at the 2018 Calgary Stampede. But for the veterans of the races, that first race stays with them. And nightly in the wagon box, the sport continues to thrill.
"I still remember going in for the practice turn and that feeling – your heart, your adrenaline," Troy Dorchester says of his debut in Trochu, Alberta, in 1993. "I don't know what it's like to ride a bull, but your adrenaline's going – and it still does. Every time you get in there, it's exciting and that's why I still do it."
Baptism by fire – Lloydminster seven years ago – has stuck with 2018 demonstration driver Curtis Morin.
"A lot of anxiety, nervousness – of course, that just means you're alive," says Morin. "The adrenaline was pumping, really, really, really lots. But (even now) when it's almost race time, blood starts pumping. It's the same as the horses – they know when it's race day."
According to Chad Harden, the wagon-seat rush belongs in a league of its own.
"It's not like a race car where you can just hit the brakes, right?" says Harden, who was 14 years old when he started racing pony wagons in Winfield, Alta. "Sometimes you pull on them and sometimes there's no stop."
It was five years ago in North Battleford, Sask., that demonstration driver Danny Ringuette embarked on his own maiden voyage.
"Everything seemed so fast," he says. "I don't really remember much of the race. I know that afterwards it was just a big relief."
Then there's Roger Moore.The old smoothie from Loon Lake, Saskatchewan is different. After faltering when first asked to describe the emotions of piloting a four-horse team full tilt for more than a minute – "I don't know how to answer that" – Moore comes clean.
"For myself, when I get in the seat, I'm a little bit opposite of a lot of people," says the 52-year-old, making his 18th appearance as a Calgary Stampede driver "I just relax. Pressure's never bothered me. Ever. About really anything. I don't get too excited about too much, really."
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.
For more information, please contact:
Communications Manager, Western Events and Agriculture