Layne MacGillivray, a fan favourite among local chuckwagon enthusiasts, got off to a good start in the 2012 wagon-racing season. He had a respectable placing at the Grande Prairie Stompede, the first race of the year.
“It’s important to get a good start in Grande Prairie,” said the Halkirk-based MacGillivray, 37. “I like to be in the top 12 or 15 wagons.”
MacGillivray’s 11thplace finish achieved that goal. Placing low makes it a long way to move up in the standings.
The second meet, at the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede, wasn’t as kind. A knocked-over barrel cost MacGillivray an additional two seconds, sliding him to 21st place in the world standings. The last night of racing was cancelled because of unsafe track conditions, taking away the opportunity for a good run to move up in the standings.
Last weekend in High River, the Guy Weadick Pro Rodeo and Chuckwagon Races were a better showing for MacGillivray. He had penalty-free runs with consistent running times that were enough to move him up once place — to 20th — in the aggregate standings.
MacGillivray’s next chance to improve in the standings will come close to home this week at the Ponoka Stampede.
Last year was a solid racing season for MacGillivray, who won at Colonial Days in Lloydminster and had 13 runs in the top 10.
“It was a good, solid year,” said MacGillivray of his 12th-place finish overall.
Twice in his career, he has been among the elite eight, in the playoff round for the World Pro Chuckwagon Association protour championship.
Named Chuckwagon Person of the Year in 2009, the popular MacGillivray’s racing career seems to be gaining momentum.
Confidence in MacGillivray’s ability was evident at the canvas auction in Calgary, earlier this spring. BKDI Architects of Calgary, a 10-time sponsor of the event, paid $100,000 to own his canvas, for exclusive use at the Calgary Stampede. MacGillivray was delighted with the sale, the highest in his 13-year career. He believes he’s even more obligated to perform well on the track.
“It does add a little more pressure,” said MacGillivray, whose wife Loreena is Castor’s recreation director.
Originally from Melfort, Sask., MacGillivray decided to make the move to Alberta in 2006, purchasing a farm south of Halkirk from chuckwagon legend Norm Cuthbertson.
“Sponsorship in Alberta is head and shoulders above Saskatchewan,” MacGillivray listed as one reason for the move.
Another reason for coming to Alberta was to go to where the strongest competition is, in an effort to become a stronger contender.
“It took a little longer to get my feet on the ground than I thought,” MacGillivray said.
He’s optimistic about his future.
“I’ve rebuilt the last couple of years,” said MacGillivray, adding a number of new horses to his herd of 30.
“It’s the strongest barn of horses, ever. I am happy with the way it looks, but will see how it shakes out.”
Spring training went better than usual, with drier weather than the last couple of years.
“It should be a good year, but time will tell if I got the horses in the right combination,” MacGillivray said.
He takes 20 horses with him to every show. Chuckwagon racing requires more investment than most sports, as leaders often sell for $20,000 to $30,000 each.
With the price of gas, it costs a lot of money to follow the chuckwagon circuit, but chuckwagon racing is in his blood.
The MacGillivrays are a chuckwagon family. Layne is a third-generation driver, his father Dennis MacGillivray was a former driver, as was a great-uncle, Cliff Claggett.
The family connection of chuckwagon greats doesn’t end there. It also includes father-in-law Wayne Dagg; brother-in-law Grant Profit; and a cousin is married to Jerry Bremner.
McGillivray says he gets lots of help from his wife, while daughter Taygan and son Trey are becoming a big help, as well.
“The community has been so good for our family — the kids enjoy school here, the neighbours have been great,” said MacGillivray, obviously happy with the family’s relocation to Halkirk.
“The Stettler area has such a chuckwagon heritage. It’s been a bonus.”
“Neal Walgenbach has been one hell of a neighbour to have. He is one of the most respected people in the sport. He is a good horseman and a top competitor.”
There’s a canvas auction for each stop on the circuit, though other than Calgary, many of the auctions are held jointly.
MacGillivray races with the ATB Financial canvas in Ponoka, Strathmore and Grande Prairie. His sponsor in High River and Dawson Creek, B.C., is Horizon Drilling; while at Medicine Hat he was sponsored by Jacar Energy.
The circuit is rounded out by Bonnyville, with sponsor Moko Drilling and Rocky Mountain House, sponsored by Wellmax Oilfield.
Of course, the crown jewel of chuckwagon racing is the Calgary Stampede, with the top money. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, so all eyes will be on Calgary.
For MacGillivray and his legion of fans, it would be sweet success if the hometown lad could bring home the Rangeland Derby’s $100,000 top prize, in the dash for cash on the half-a-mile of hell.
It’s every driver’s dream to win the Calgary Stampede.