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Posted By Bryan Hebson on January 28, 2024

In the WPCA and chuckwagon racing, it’s no secret the challenge champions face to defend their titles. That’s the harsh reality when you have a roster full of young guns, former champions and veteran drivers striving to rise to a higher level.

With the exception of Kurt Bensmiller who won 4 World Titles and 4 Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Championships between 2014 and 2019, it has been rare to see drivers win back to back major championships since legendary driver Kelly Sutherland.

One driver who knows about the challenge of defending titles is 2022 WPCA World Champion Layne MacGillivray. In 2022 Layne won the WPCA World Championship, the Calgary Stampede Safety/Aggregate Title, the Battle of the North in Dawson Creek and his horse “MER” was the WPCA Equine Outfit of Excellence Champion Left Leader.

Layne returned in 2023 to defend his World Title, however, penalties late in the season cost him and he finished 5th in the year end standings.

Although he never won back to back World Championships, MacGillivray still had a season to remember.  He won the Calgary Stampede, the Century Downs Racetrack and Casino Winners’ Zone Series, the Century Downs Aggregate and his horse “MALIBU” was one of the Calgary Stampedes Equine Athlete of Excellence Champions.

While MacGillivray’s on track results were impressive, it was his performance off the track that drew high accolades. During the 2023 Calgary Stampede he was awarded the prestigious Guy Weadick Award, a salute to the Stampede’s founder. Each year the Guy Weadick Award is given to a chuckwagon or rodeo competitor who best represents what a cowboy stands for and embodies the spirit of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. 2023 marked the first time a chuckwagon driver won the Calgary Stampede Guy Weadick Award and the Rangeland Derby in the same year.

Even with his success at Calgary and Century Downs, Layne feels his 2023 season could have been better.  “I had an up and down season last year and would like to have Strathmore and Dawson Creek back. In Strathmore I hit two barrels and in Dawson Creek I hit another one.”

Those 15 seconds in penalties (5 per barrel) proved to be costly for Layne and it showed in the aggregate standings.  In Strathmore he finished 24th and in Dawson Creek he placed 29th then went on to finish the season ranked 5th in the World Standings.

Layne is focused on returning to championship form in 2024. His biggest change will be the addition of horsepower. During the off season Layne purchased 8 new horses including one out of Phoenix he has high hopes for. The yet to be nicknamed horse recorded 2 wins and 7 top 3 placings in 13 career starts.  Now a 5 year old, the Washington bred bay gelding raced 7 times at Emerald Downs in Washington and 6 times at Turf Paradise before retiring in March of 2023. 

Layne has yet to hook the new horses, however, the time is coming soon. His sights are now set on April when he expects to start spring training.

Time will only tell if Layne MacGillivray repeats as Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby Champion or once again wins the World Championship.

There’s one thing for certain though.  Names like Vigen, Laboucane, Salmond, Glass, Bensmiller and Sutherland, along with many more, will be doing their best to make sure they are the next driver to raise a bronze and be declared champion.

Bryan Hebson

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