Sutherland Chuckwagon Racing

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Did you know? Chuckwagon Drivers' Racing Strategy

Posted by Mark Sutherland on December 29, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Did you know? A chuckwagon drivers’ racing strategy

By Dina Sutherland

How does a wagon driver decide which horses to harness? World Champion chuckwagon racer, Kelly Sutherland, explains that there are several variables that help a driver decide which horse to hook up on race night for the World Professional Chuckwagon Tour.

“Basically, it depends on the track conditions at the race venue, what barrel you have and who you are racing against,” Sutherland explains.

Strategy is a huge part to Kelly’s winning style. There are very few moments when he is not thinking about wagon racing and how he can win. Before he hits the racetrack he has thought about what barrel he is on and whom he is racing against.

The barrels are not set the same distance apart. Barrel one and two are known as the long barrels because they have a greater distance between the top and bottom barrel. Barrels three and four are the short barrels because of the short distance between the top and bottom barrel. It takes a different type of horse for each barrel.

“For barrel one and two a horse needs to be patient. He needs to not anticipate the turn and wait for my signal to turn the barrel. A barrel three and for horse has to stand the longest before the horn blows so he has to be patient also. However, when the horn goes he has to be able to turn quick,” Sutherland explains.

“If I am on barrel three and feel I can out turn my competitors I will hook a quick starting outfit, but if I am on barrel three with wagons that start tough I will harness the horses that run and have a good finishing kick,” Sutherland explains.

A driver also needs to think about track conditions when trying to decide what horses to harness. Sometimes the running will be on the outside of a track and sometimes the rail is the advantage. Sometimes a track gets faster through the night and sometimes it slows down. A driver has to be aware of all these conditions when harnessing his four horses.

“Usually, the race times should get quicker as the night progresses. The fastest wagons are in the last heat. Sometimes you will notice that the first heats are winning day money. This means that the track has slowed down and it is uneven racing conditions,” Kelly states.

Kelly Sutherland is a 12-time world champion that believes in a little luck and that is why he laces the famous feather in his hat. However, he would be the first to tell you that to be a champion as many times as he has it is more than luck. It is hard work and a lot of strategy. “Basically, it depends on the track conditions at the race venue, what barrel you have and who you are racing against,” Sutherland explains.