Retirement plan a Strange idea?

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:44 PM ET

The Redheaded Stranger wanted to retire.

But Neal Walgenbach's going-out-of-business sale will have to wait for at least another year.

By finishing in the top eight in the aggregate standings, Walgenbach earns an automatic invite back to next year's Rangeland Derby.

If he keeps this up -- he's finished in the top 10 every year for the past decade -- he won't be able to sell a thing.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be able to sell lots here next year," Walgenbach said.

"And then, we'll move on from there."

The 53-year-old will likely accept the Stampede's invite, but he doesn't plan on racing the entire season.

"I don't think we're going to go down the road next year," Walgenbach said. "I'm pretty sure I'll come to Calgary.

"If the CPCA doesn't have a rule that says you have to go to all the shows, I might go to two shows before I come to Calgary."

Walgenbach, a co-holder of the Rangeland track record -- with a run of 1:13.26 in 2000 -- has a number of veteran horses in his barn and figures he can get them ready for next year's Stampede without much work.

"It depends how hard you work them at home," Walgenbach said. "If you don't have a lot of new horses, it's a lot easier to get them into shape.

"Those older ones don't need a lot of runs."

The Stettler driver has spent the past couple of seasons running on the CPCA circuit. He and wife Lorna were named the CPCA's Family of the Year at last fall's awards banquet.

One of the cleanest and most consistent drivers in the sport's history, Walgenbach has always enjoyed a great deal of success at the Stampede.

But he's never won the big one. And he'll have to wait at least another year after finishing sixth in last night's semifinal round in 1:16.30.

"I didn't like the barrel draw I got," Walgenbach said of last night's semifinal. "But I was just happy to be in the top eight."

Walgenbach nearly met with disaster on the final night of qualifying when his horse reared up.

But the veteran driver managed to settle the horse down a fraction of a second before the horn went and avoided what would have been a devastating penalty.

"The left wheeler took a little, tiny jump," Walgenbach said. "I pulled him down and got him stopped -- and then, the horn went. I gave him a few days off, so he was a little fresh. So I didn't get the start I wanted, but after that, they ran well."

AROUND THE BARRELS

Wayne Knight (Express Employment Professionals) had the night's fastest time with a 1:14.04 ... Jamie Laboucane won the Calgary Stampede's inaugural Outstanding Outrider Award ... Yesterday's auction raised $23,000 for CPCA outrider Dustin Gorst, who broke both legs in a wagon accident last month.

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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