The highlight of the Calgary Stampede is the evening GMC Rangeland Chuckwagon Derby. The races happen each night over the course of the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth with money for nightly wins, and an overall prize pool over $1M.
The chuckwagon races have courted controversy over their history at the Stampede. With deaths to riders, drivers, and horses comes scrutiny.
The truth is, the chucks save the lives of thousands of horses. Thoroughbreds are used for the chucks. Horses that are bought off race tracks around the continent. Horse racing is a game for 2-5 year old ponies. Once they’re older than that, they’re not worth racing with jockeys anymore.
Most of the horses are sold to Europeans who turn the track castoffs into food. Chuckwagon riders buy as many horses as they can, and let them run.
Kelly Sutherland, the King of chuckwagon racing, has a horse on his team that is 19. Kelly bought the horse when it was 5, and when it’s done on his track, it will live out its natural life at pasture – not as glue.
More than 1200 horses run on the chuckwagon circuit. Frankly, that’s 1200 horse lives that are saved from the factory.
The races go every night at 8 and lead right into the huge Grandstand Show, it’s a great way to round out a day at the fair. Getting tickets for the Chucks can be easy, or it can be hard.
You can buy reserved seats for the chucks in advance, you can get rush standing room seats for $12, or you can try to score an invite from a sponsor and get a backstage pass to have a pre-show barbecue in the barns.
For the past two years, that’s how I’ve seen the chucks – hanging in the barn, and then hanging off the rodeo chutes with the cowboys swirling around.