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“If you want it to be a sport and you want to keep the heritage and history of chuckwagon racing alive in Calgary, you’re killing it by doing it this way,” he said. “They already went from four outriders to two outriders (in 2011) and lost a whole bunch of the excitement. And now you’re going down to three wagons.
“I’m going to tell you, it’s boring watching three wagons compared to four wagons. It’s not like the NHL where you go from five-on-five to four-on-four, and the four-on-four is more exciting and then three-on-three is more exciting. It’s not. It’s the other way around. Your entertainment value is going the opposite direction.”
Kristina Barnes, manager of communications and media relations for the Stampede, stressed the changes “are all about being safe so as to allow us to continue chuckwagon racing at the Stampede for many years to come.”
“It’s about creating greater space, greater maneuverability, but maintaining that excitement of the race that we know that our fans love and enjoy every year,” Barnes said of the three-per-heat format. “So keeping the excitement but ensuring that the conditions are as safe as possible.
“It’s not a decision that was made lightly, but it’s a decision that was made in the name of safety,” she added. “Of course, it does impact a number of drivers and we hope to bring as many drivers as we can each year and have them have the Stampede experience, but safety is our No. 1 priority. ”
According to the letter to drivers, Calgary Stampede officials have been “engaging leading experts, including veterinarians, animal behaviourists, chuckwagon racing and equine specialists” on safety and sustainability issues since there were six horse deaths during the 2019 Rangeland Derby. Representatives from both the World Pro Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) and Canadian Pro Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) have been involved in those discussions.