WORTHINGTON — In a sudden twist at the end of Saturday's race down 10th Street in Worthington, Paycheck ceded his early lead to opponent Ruby Begonia by gobbling to a halt and retreating partway down the racetrack.
Paycheck's detour earned him a five-second penalty, bringing his final time to 1:19.50. Ruby clocked in at 1:10.46, giving her a mere nine-second lead in the 47th annual Great Gobbler Gallop turkey race between Worthington and Cuero, Texas.
"That's pretty close in turkey racing," announcer Chad Cummings told the crowd.
Paycheck race team member Chad Nixon agreed that nine seconds is a small obstacle to overcome in the second leg of the Great Gobbler Gallop, which will take place Oct. 12 in Cuero.
"It was a great race," Nixon said, "but for whatever reason, Paycheck decided to stop and turn around in the last 30 or 40 yards."
Getting the bird to make a bee-line for the finish is not an easy task, Nixon explained.
"It's a combination of directing but not touching," he said. The race team is allowed to guide Paycheck by pounding on the ground around him with implements, but cannot touch him.
James Rath and Kenneth Schley of the Cuero racing team only had one thing to say about Saturday's race: "WINNERS!"
Schley would not reveal the tactics used in preparing Ruby to unseat Paycheck.
"It's the same top-secret regimen we always run," he said. "It worked out in our favor this time."