Keith Wood ties Jim Pollitt’s record at the Westerner

History couldn’t come fast enough for Saddle Lake’s Keith Wood.

Keith Wood in the OK Tire wagon

Keith Wood in the OK Tire wagon

History couldn’t come fast enough for Saddle Lake’s Keith Wood.

He took a 1.03 second lead into the final heat of the Toyota Pony Chuckwagon Races at Westerner days, and instead of laying back and taking a cautious approach, he let his ponies run wide open and not only did he win the heat, but put down the fastest run overall on Sunday.

By the end of it all he was painting a record tieing seventh feather on his wagon — each feather representing a North American Pony Chuckwagon Championship win at Red Deer.

“It’s real special to tie Jim Pollitt’s record,” said Wood, driving the OK Tire wagon. “He is well known all over the racing world.”

Despite carrying the big lead over Wade Salmond of Weekes, Sask, in the Nossack Fine Meats Ltd rig heading into the final, there was no holding back on Wood’s part.

“You have to go all out,” said Wood. “With this sport you can’t hold the ponies back — they want to run.”

Wood threw down a run of 1:16.79 in the final, giving him an aggregate of 6:27.81. Salmond finished second after his final heat of 1:17.17 and an overall time of 6:19.22. Brian Cardinal of Saddle Lake in the Coldwell Banker wagon finished third overall with at 6:32.39 after a 1:18.10 in the championship heat. Colby Arcand of Morinville in the O’Chiese Sand & Gravel rig finished fourth at 6:33.39 after a 1:18.51 final.

Chris Spreen of Whitecourt in the Trojan Safety Services wagon had the second fastest run on Sunday at 1:16.80. Alhambra’s Marvin Huble in the Eldorado Pressure Services wagon was the only other driver to crack the 1:17.00 mark on Sunday at 1:16.95.

Wood didn’t dominate all week, however.

He just kept laying down clean run after clean run and eventually picked his way to the top of the leaderboard.

The legendary Ray Adamson of Camrose, running the Pidherney’s rig, and in his 48th year of racing won the opening night. But it was Arcand who took over on the second night and held his lead heading into Saturday’s run.

But Wood finally got a good starting barrel and took full advantage and put almost four seconds between himself and Arcand heading into the final.

But Wood’s luck on starting barrels didn’t hold for the championship heat. On Sunday, the last group of four draws lanes, and Wood — drawing first — drew the absolute worst possible barrel: No. 4.

The lane had been so disadvantageous on Sunday that in the previous 13 heats no other rig had won from that position.

But that didn’t stop Wood — he had history to chase down after all.

“I told my holder Ken Madden that I wanted to go for it right from the start, I didn’t want to be chasing anyone down,” said Wood.

The strategy worked as he was first out of the barrels and first around corner No. 1, and he didn’t look back.

He is, however, already looking forward to next year and his chance to make the record his own.

“This is our little Calgary Stampede,” said Wood. “For us to be here for one week . . . the City of Red Deer treats us great. We talk all winter about coming here for this race.”

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com