Chuckwagons will be rolling into Balzac once again this week, as the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) brings the final leg of its world championship tour to the Century Downs Racetrack and Casino.
The WPCA Tour is wrapping up on Aug. 28 at Century Downs, where the world champion will be crowned and over $300,000 in prize money will be awarded to the participating drivers.
Century Downs, located in Balzac just south of Airdrie, is the final stop of the tour, which has visited 10 Alberta communities since May. Each August, the 7.7 furlong horse-racing track is converted into a chuckwagon racing venue to host the WPCA finals.
The chuckwagon drivers competing in the WPCA Tour collect points throughout the nearly four-month season, with the goal being to collect the most points. Comprised of 36 drivers, the tour also competed at the Calgary Stampede and most recently, the drivers charged through Rocky Mountain House in the Battle of the Rockies.
To cap off the 2022 season, the WPCA will be visiting Century Downs from Aug. 24 to 28. The five-day stop will be a celebratory affair, as the tour comes to an end and the world champion is announced on the Sunday.
With two stops left in the tour as of press time, the top four drivers were Layne MacGillivray, Rae Croteau Jr., Kurt Bensmiller, and reigning world champion Obrey Motowylo.
“All 36 drivers will be [at Century Downs] racing for points and prize money but the top 12 prior to Century Downs…race in the winners’ zone showdown over the first four nights,” explained Byran Hebson, WPCA director of marketing.
Those competing in the winners’ zone will be judged using a specific points system. The four drivers with the most points after the winners' zone race will compete for $75,000 and the title of world champion on Championship Sunday, according to Hebson.
Ticket prices vary throughout the five-day event, but general single-day admission starts at $15 for attendees ages five to 12 and $30 for those 12 and older. For those interested in attending all five days, ticket prices are $150 for adults.
Day one of the WPCA finals is Club 55+ Day, meaning those over the age of 55 are eligible for a discounted ticket price. Meanwhile, family day will be on day two of the event, which will provide families access to discounted family passes. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time at bit.ly/3QL8qJo.
“The horses love to run and feel the energy of the crowd and we’re hoping to have a lot of energy there and invite everybody to be part of it,” Hebson said.
Races kick off at 6:30 p.m. every night except Sunday, when racers hit the track at noon. On Friday and Saturday, those interested in dancing the night away are invited to join the Chuckwagon Nights After Party, held at Century Downs and included in the general admission ticket price.
According to Hebson, chuckwagon racing is a part of western heritage and the WPCA tour aims to showcase the horses involved in that time-honoured tradition.
“It’s all about the horses. In the WPCA, there’s probably 800 to 1000 thoroughbreds that were former racehorses on the racetrack,” he said.
In an interview, Motowylo also said touring is about the horses, but for the defending WPCA world champion, his favourite aspect of chuckwagon racing is the family environment.
“We travel as a family,” he said. “My boys will be right beside me, my wife is here. A lot of family and friends follow us down the road and just being with the horses, the help of friends and family. It’s an awesome sport.”
With the final leg of the tour quickly approaching, Motowylo said race day is just like any other day for him, but he does have a routine for his horses.
“All you do extra to the horses, you wash them down – [that] kind of gets their head in the game,” he explained.
Motowylo has been racing for over 35 years and he said isn’t feeling stressed or nervous about the upcoming finals.
Those searching for more information regarding the WPCA standings can do so at bit.ly/3plx87t.