Scratching the ol' itch

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

It doesn't take much to get the itch.

Kirk Sutherland walked away from chuckwagon racing a few years back to tend to his businesses and take care of an ailing family member.

It was a clean break, for the most part.

"It wasn't bad for awhile," Sutherland recalls of his sabbatical. "I followed it but I never was around the horses.

"But then, one day we went down to the races and somebody had a runaway so we jumped in and helped him."

That was all it took.

Sutherland knew he needed to get back on the track.

"It's an awful itch," he said.

"And once you get it, it's hard to get rid of."

Sutherland scratched that itch last night, running two-wide off the middle barrel for a day-money run of 1:06.97.

The 48-year-old, who was 23rd in 2004, his first season back with the WPCA, moved his Don's Drywall Supplies outfit into 15th after last night's run at the Lethbridge Rocky Mountain Turf Club Derby.

"This was a good shot and I needed it," Sutherland said. "It's competitive out there.

"A guy has a lot of horses and it's a lot more work than it used to be.

"Everybody needs a good run every two or three shows just to keep the enthusiasm up."

Sutherland, who finished ninth in Lethbridge in '04, his top performance of the season, said he started the season with his sights set on cracking the top eight.

"I knew I had to make Calgary but if you take the outriding penalties off of the last two shows, I know I'm competitive.

"So if a guy get a few good breaks, he could be in the top eight for Strathmore," he said of the Dodge Pro Tour championship.

The Grande Prairie driver spent the past week in Medicine Hat where he was able to train his horses on the track there.

He arrived in Lethbridge on Thursday to prepare for the first night of racing on Friday.

But the continuous rainfall washed out opening night, leaving the Rocky Mountain Turf Club Derby as a two-day show.

With another strong run this afternoon, Sutherland could claim his first show title since winning the Kamloops Rangeland Derby in 1992.

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AROUND THE BARRELS: Cochrane's Grant Profit (Hardcor Well Servicing Inc.) posted the second-fastest time at 1:07.00 while Mark Sutherland (Lady Luck) was third with a 1:07.15. Rounding out the top 10 were Darcy Flad (Badger Daylighting; 1:07.26), Jess Willard (CFCN TV; 1:07.35), Doug Irvine (B&R Eckels Transport; 1:07.50), Tyler Helmig (UFA; 1:07.51), Troy Dorchester (Melcor Developments Ltd.; 1:07.64), Rae Croteau Jr. (Lincoln County Oilfield Services Ltd.; 1:07.68) and Reg Johnstone (D & A Electric; 1:07.68).

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THE BIG PICTURE: Chad Harden (The Financial Coaches), who has been in top spot in the world standings since Day 2 of the season, maintained his grip on the No. 1 spot. Harden was 11th last night with a 1:07.88 and improved his point total to 343. Jerry Bremner (TrailBlazer RV Centre) is second with 325.5 followed by Reg Johnstone (D & A Electric) at 316. Neal Walgenbach (Super 8 Motel; 303) and Kelly Sutherland (Tri Well Oilfield Construction; 301) are the only other drivers over the 300-mark.

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ON THE AIR: Catch all the action from the final day of the Rocky Mountain Turf Club Derby live on AM910 at 1:45 p.m.


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