Ruby Begonia headed to Minnesota to begin title defense
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GREAT GOBBLER GALLOPPaycheck leads the overall series, 20-17, according to the Turkeyfest website, www.turkeyfest.org.
Race time: 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Worthington, Minn.
2nd leg: 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, Cuero
CUERO - Sirens wailed, and a small crowd of well-wishers chanted "Go, Ruby, Go!" Wednesday afternoon as Ruby Begonia began her 1,100 mile trek to Worthington, Minn., and the first leg of the annual Great Gobbler Gallop.
Inside a cage and secured to the back of an SUV, Ruby and her road crew began the 17-hour drive to defend her title against Worthington's Paycheck. The second leg of the race is run during Turkeyfest in Cuero in October. The bird with the fastest combined times wins the race and the "Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph." The loser must settle for the "Circulating Cup of Consummate Commiseration." The winning city gets to claim the title of Turkey Capital of the World.
Ruby's team coach Cory Thamm is optimistic about Ruby's chances.
"Since selection day in August, Ruby has entered her final stages of training. Much of it is very secretive," Thamm said. "She's on a regimen of cardio, weight training and a special diet just like an Olympian."
The weather forecast of temperatures in the 60s and a 40 percent chance of rain also gave Thamm a reason for optimism.
"Sounds like good running weather," he said. "A little wetness on the street will help her run a little faster, so I think we'll be all right."
But Paycheck's team also thinks it has the fastest bird.
"We can't give away any trade secrets, but I will tell you we sent Paycheck to turkey racing camp this year and he was the top turkey there," said team coach Chris Heinrichs. "Our confidence is real high. After we win Saturday, we'll be so far ahead we'll be able to go to Texas and walk our bird down the street."
However, first-year handler Dawn Draper said she, too, is confident Ruby will prevail.
"I'm very excited," Draper said. "All of us have been doing lots of running because we have to keep up with our bird. Lots of sprints. I'm not nervous at all with a bird like that."