Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wet terrain makes for some wild races

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MORRIS -- One of chariot-racer Adam Soucy's horses had a mind of its own here Thursday during the first day of the 45th annual Manitoba Stampede.

Soucy steered to the left as the horn sounded but one of his horses took off to the right, sending the 19-year-old racer flying.

"He cut to the right and tipped me over," said Soucy, who has been racing for a few years with his father and brother. "I was being dragged on my back but I steered toward my brother."

His brother got the horse under control and Soucy hopped back in the cart to finish the race. He wasn't injured, but came away with a lesson: Lean a little harder to keep the horse running in the right direction.

The racing began in the mid-afternoon on the stampede grounds in Morris. Racers competed in three categories: big chariots, pony chariots and pony chuckwagons.

Chariot racing got off to a rough start with three other similar mishaps. During the first heat of the pony chariot race, Arland Kramer was circling around a yellow barrel and his cart tipped over.

"Look out, we've got a driver out of the car," the announcer, David Poulsen, said just before Kramer hopped back into the cart. "A little mishap at the beginning there but you were able to weather that storm."

In a chariot heat, Sean Church hit a yellow barrel with his cart and dragged it around the entire track. He got a round of applause from the roughly 300 people in the audience when he crossed the finish line and dislodged the yellow barrel.

Stampede president Tim Lewis watched the races from the grandstands. He said the ground was slippery from rain the night before, which is probably to blame for the slipping horses and carts dumping out the drivers.

"There's definitely an element of danger in this kind of racing," Lewis said while the chuckwagon races were starting. "If someone is in first place and fell off on a corner they have to watch out for the other racers."

Chuckwagon racing -- usually the more dangerous of the two -- went pretty smoothly on the first day of the stampede. During last year's Calgary Stampede, a violent chuckwagon crash led to the deaths of two horses and the hospitalization of one driver.

Dallas Langevin, 28, was thankful he stayed in his wagon during the race despite adding two new horses to his team.

A few years ago, one of his horses slipped in the mud and caused a chain reaction. Langevin's wagon crashed into another one, flinging him 12 feet in the air still holding onto the reins. He landed on the ground and a wagon ran over his back.

"The track conditions weren't the greatest," said Langevin, who came second in his heat in this year's chuckwagon racing event. "When you put a horse in and it's pretty slippery it can be dangerous."

Away from the horse ring, workers were busy setting up the midway Thursday afternoon to open for 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the rodeo kicked off Thursday with bull riding, steer wrestling, riding and other events. Lewis expects as many as 25,000 people to stream through the front gates during the four-day stampede.

Today's events:

10 a.m: Dairy show

11 am: Petting zoo and trade show open

12 p.m: Youth Stars of Manitoba talent competition

2 p.m: Midway opens

6 p.m: Little critters racing team

7 p.m: Manitoba's professional rodeo

7:30 p.m.: Texas Hold'em poker tournament

9 p.m.: Christian music 'battle of the bands'

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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