Cuero's Ruby Begonia wins first leg of Great Gobbler Gallop
Sept. 15, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.
Updated Sept. 16, 2012 at 4:16 a.m.
The crowd gasped, dismayed when she crossed the finish line last.
"I thought they were going to lose," said Allyson Lantz, 10, of Cuero. "But I wasn't paying attention to penalties."
But the penalties made all the difference for Ruby Begonia, the racing turkey of Cuero.
For the first time since 2006, Ruby won the first heat of the 40th annual Great Gobbler Gallop against Paycheck, the racing turkey of Worthington, Minn.
Allyson was not only rooting for Ruby during Saturday's watch party in Cuero, she was cheering for her dad, Clayton Lantz, a handler.
"I was very nervous," she said, as the cheers erupted from the crowd of about 40 when Ruby's win was announced. She is proud of her dad, Allyson said, because he helped break Ruby's losing streak.
Even though Paycheck finished first, multiple penalties brought his final time to 4 minutes and 2.52 seconds.
Ruby, with one 5-second penalty, came in at 2 minutes and 21.21 seconds.
The times from the first heat, held in Worthington, will be combined with the times from the race in Cuero on Oct. 13 to determine which town will be the turkey capital of the world this year.
Ruby has lost the overall race for the past three years.
Now, Erik McCowan, board member of Turkey Fest, thinks they have a real chance to make a come back.
"It is a huge advantage, but anything can happen. It is all up in the air, but we are sitting pretty good right now," McCowan said.
Gregory Nemec, the coach for Ruby's team, said the trick this year was using an older turkey, because they don't startle as much. Ruby is 5 years old.
"First there was relief and then sheer and utter excitement because it had been a while since we pulled out a victory, especially up here," Nemec said. "It is good to be going into Cuero with some sort of margin."
McCowan said the event isn't just about winning, it is a way to bring communities together.
"There are tons of people up there who I would call my best friends," McCowan said. "I've gone up there for weddings, to go ice fishing in the winter. We had some Minnesotans come down last week. It's not just Turkey Day and Turkey Fest, but this relationship is year-round."