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Saturday marks 45th running of the Great Gobbler Gallop

Worthington's Paycheck race team includes Coach Wade Roesner (from left), Handler Diane Remakel, Handler Mike Phillips and Captain Kirk Feit. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
Cuero's Race Team includes Captain Keith Goebel (from left), Handler Denise Goebel, Coach Angie Cuellar and Handler Jimmy Martin. (Special to The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — The turkeys are toned and honed and ready to go, but the race teams? Well, we shall see on Saturday.

The Great Gobbler Gallop — that race between Worthington’s bird, Paycheck, and its arch-nemesis, Ruby Begonia of Cuero, Texas — is set to take off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on 10th Street in downtown Worthington.

It’s the first of two heats — the second will be Oct. 14 in Cuero — that will decide which city gets bragging rights and the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph, and which team will hang its head on the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration.

The two turkeys have yet to meet, but already the teams are talking trash about who has the fastest and most fit bird for the challenge.

“Last year the Texans accused us of mixing Paycheck with an ostrich,” said Coach Wade Roesner of the Paycheck race team.

Well, this year’s bird is even larger — and it’s all thanks to Paycheck’s high protein diet specially formulated by the good folks at Ani-Logics, a homegrown company in Worthington’s BioScience Park.

“Ani-Logics came up with a special feed for us to make him be bigger and stronger and faster than ever,” Roesner said.

To maximize the protein boost, Paycheck has been working out daily to build up his cardio and endurance.

“We put him on the treadmill and have him running circuits,” Roesner detailed. “We have him doing a crossfit challenge, and we’ve got him swimming laps in Lake Okabena.”

Paycheck has been in training since April, and while Roesner isn’t concerned about him taking flight on race day, “he’s going to fly down the track.”

The question is, will the race team be able to keep up with the bird?

“We’re on a special diet as well,” Roesner said. Ani-Logics had no part in the human diet regimen, but has been offering getting advice and encouragement. Roesner said team members are doing lots of wind sprints.

The attention on race day, though, really needs to be on the bird.

“He’s bigger, stronger and faster than ever and he’s primed for the challenge of Ruby,” Roesner boasted. “Go Paycheck!”

Saturday marks the 45th running of the Great Gobbler Gallop, and Paycheck has 25 of those victories, but crowds shouldn’t dismiss Ruby Begonia’s strength and stamina.

Poor Ruby has had a lot to deal with in the last month with flooding and that nasty Hurricane Harvey. Cuero Race Team Captain Keith Goebel is optimistic for a better outcome for the Texans this time around.

“We had a little rough spell up there last year,” Goebel acknowledged. “Our bird needed therapy after we got home.”

This year’s Ruby hasn’t had quite as many workouts as in years past, but Goebel said it was the fastest bird to find the shade when they picked her from the flock on a 105-degree day. They had tried to get in some workouts for Ruby and the team on cooler days, but — let’s be honest — “If we wait for cooler weather to work out, it will be past the event,” Goebel said.

“We work with her when we can, and we’re within legal bounds on all our vitamins,” he shared. “We were going to fly in Richard Simmons for training the bird — and a couple of us — but he was too busy.”

Goebel said he’d need government clearance to disclose Ruby Begonia’s diet regimen, but he was a bit more liberal with the details of her workout strategy.

“We let Ruby run the chainsaw for us, clearing some brush,” he said. “We don’t want to get her too bulked up so she can’t run. We’re working on muscle tone instead of running.”

She will get some running circuits in on the drive up to Minnesota with her owner, Cory Thamm.

“Part of the way he’ll let Ruby out to run and follow him down the road,” Goebel said. “I’m not sure about the ones chasing her, but the bird’s going to be in good shape.”

Ruby’s race team is described by Goebel as a fun bunch looking forward to having a good time and giving it their all while in Worthington. It’s Goebel’s second year on the team and fifth year attending Worthington’s King Turkey Day.

“It’s absolutely too much fun coming up there,” he said. “They always say turkeys are stupid, but they’re not the ones chasing us — we’re chasing them.”

And one last bit about strategy, Goebel offered, noting the Texans are onto something now.

“Once we get on the ground up there in Minnesota you all start treating us like royalty and every 15 minutes we have to eat something, so by the time we get ready for the race ain’t none of us can even bend over, much less run.”

So, essentially it will be up to Ruby to run the good race.

“The bottom line is it’s more than a turkey race,” Goebel added in all seriousness. “It’s the bonding and the fantastic friendships that are built.”

And, on a side note, the Texans are bringing along plenty of butter and stuffing for what they hope will be a roasting of Paycheck at the finish line.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at farmbleat.areavoices.com.

(507) 376-7330
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