Tournier double complete

JOHN SHORT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

It's quite an act that the Tournier brothers have put together.

A few hectic days after Luke Tournier blew the wheels off all competition at the Calgary Stampede, Leo Tournier dominated the annual Edmonton Chuckwagon Derby almost from beginning to end.

A product of Duck Lake, Sask., he put the cap on his terrific five-day performance last night by blasting past Rick Fraser on the backstretch and coasting to a Dash For Cash victory worth $50,000.

"Luke celebrated last week," said the new champ from behind a huge grin after the cheque had been presented and victory pictures completed. "Now it's my turn."

His speedy team took advantage of the fastest conditions of the competition at Northlands Park.

"It was a little quicker out there so I could go past Rick two wide. I didn't know if it would work, but he started to fade a little and we kept going."

A brief high-speed conversation helped Tournier decide on his strategy.

"I asked Rick if he was clean (penalty-free) at the start and he said he was, so I had to go outside. It worked."

The Tournier team picked the number-two barrel after Fraser, picking first, took the inside route. Tournier wound up finishing more than a half-second in front. Reg Johnstone and Grant Profit finished third and fourth in a race that was determined - as most chuckwagon events are - right from the start. Top time in the final -1:22.75 - was well off the fastest clocking of 1:21.74 posted two heats previously by Troy Flad.

Except when penalties featured in final heat results, every race was won from either the first or second barrel. Les Butler, the Northlands GM in charge of racing and gaming, said the trend is caused by the need to keep solid levels of dirt on the surface of the track because thoroughbred racing runs at the same time.

"Northlands made a concerted effort to reduce the depth of the racing cushion before tonight's races," Butler said, "and we're working with the WPCA to find a long-time solution to the problem."

The enlightened approach is tied to a Northlands bid to host the 2008 world chuckwagon championships on the existing five-furlong circuit.

"We have been reluctant to make the covering slimmer because thoroughbreds race here for 70 days a year and the chuckwagons for only five, but we know that having a lot of dirt on the track works in favour of the wagons that get to the front, which places undue emphasis on the starting moments of every heat."

His comments echoed a previous statement by runner-up Fraser: "When the dirt is thick or heavy, the drivers have to keep the wagon on a certain route around the track. Otherwise, you just don't go as fast."

As Leo Tournier thought of possible uses for his $50,000 payoff, he must have felt yesterday's conditions were absolutely perfect.


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