Saturday night, Weinberger’s mammoth Springbank Belgians team of Davey and Dillon outpulled rivals Barney and Doc, the equine giants representing Scott Fisher’s outfit from Edwardsburg, Mich., to win the middleweight final of the Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull under the Big Top.
The margin of victory? Ten inches, hooked to an 11,000-pound sled. And that makes two victories in two nights for the Cochrane, Alta.-based Weinberger, with only the heavyweight division pull, on Sunday, July 18, remaining on the card. The elusive Stampede trifecta, then, is in sight.
“Don’t jinx me. I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m serious,” said Weinberger, who then relented with a chuckle. “I was once within an inch-and-a-half of the (Stampede’s) triple crown. In 2003, Ronnie Sebastian (of Lumsden, Sask.) took it away on me. He barely outpulled us in the lights, and I won the middles and the heavies.”
After four complete rounds – teams started with a 6,000-pound sled, and moved up in 1,000-pound increments – six of the nine middleweight teams were still in play Saturday. But Bob McGowan’s team from Lebanon, Ore., supported by Glover International Trucks, could only manage 61 inches at 10,000 pounds to finish sixth. Kevin Danyluk’s outfit from Colinton, Alta., made it 103 inches at 10,000 pounds to finish fifth.
Nicolas Pouso, of the Alberta Carriage Supply-supported Soderglen Ranches team from Airdrie, Alta., fell out of contention at 10,500 pounds, making it 50 inches, while Randy Dodge of Albany, Ore., supported by Candor Engineering, pulled 122 inches at 10,500 for a third-place cheque of $1,500.
That left just Weinberger and Fisher remaining at 11,000 pounds. And after Fisher’s Canadian Petroleum Engineering-supported team managed 15 inches, Weinberger’s Calgary Co-Op team stepped up to the plate.
One final lunge by Davey and Dillon, and it was all over – 25 inches, a winner’s cheque of $3,000 for Weinberger, and a chance at a clean sweep on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Fisher, making his Stampede debut, knows all the personalities involved in Saturday night’s drama. Last November, he and Weinberger struck up a business arrangement, with Fisher agreeing to train all 16 of the Springbank Belgians’ pulling horses from January to June. Saturday’s photo finish wasn’t much of a surprise, considering there were only six pounds’ difference in the weight of the first- and second-place heavy horse teams – 3,467 for Barney and Doc, 3,461 for Davey and Dillon.
“It worked out exactly the way I wanted it to. I had hoped the two of us would finish first and second,” said Fisher, a third-generation puller who competes all over the American Midwest.
“We both are fierce competitors, but we’re friends no matter what. Dennis is a super competitor, and I’m as serious as he is, although moreso in the States,” added Fisher. “I mean, I want to do well here, because it’s my first time up here. But this pull means the world to Dennis. And I have a pull in Michigan (Hillsdale) that means the same sort of thing to me.”
Weinberger can expect a challenge in Sunday’s heavyweight final. After all, it was only a year ago that Grad’s Soderglen Ranches team of Jim and Ben, teamstered by Pouso, set a new Stampede mark in the division by pulling a 13,100-pound sled the full 14 feet. Jim and Ben, tipping the scales at a combined 5,099 pounds, will be back in the ring Sunday, competing against Weinberger’s pair of Dan and Jesse, who weigh in at a combined 5,326 pounds.
The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull made history on Saturday night, with a female teamster taking part for the first time. Priscilla Tames of Wibank, Sask., entered the fray with her two-horse team of Pearl and Tim, but the duo, supported by Ted and Enid Jansen, was not outfitted with special heavy horse cleats like the rest of the field, and finished ninth overall with a measured pull at 6,000 pounds.
This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, the richest horse pull in North America, has drawn teamsters from as far away asMichigan, Oregon, and Washington, with outfits primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron horsepower.
The heavyweight final, with teams tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and more, closes out the Stampede’s three-night Heavy Horse Pull on Sunday, July 18 at 7 p.m. under the Big Top.
Heavy horses have been part of Calgary’s annual agricultural fair for 125 years, dating back to the Stampede’s predecessor, the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. As a species, they’re the longest-running agricultural component of the Stampede and its predecessors, and the only livestock class consistently presented throughout that period.