WORTHINGTON — For just a moment during Saturday's Great Gobbler Gallop, one turkey could fly — and using the prevailing winds to his advantage, Worthington's Paycheck took wing, passing the finish line in 1 minute 11.58 seconds to earn a victory over Cuero, Texas, rival Ruby Begonia.

Paycheck Race Team members Doug Tate (from left), Kelly Eggers, Genny McCuen and Terri Odell celebrate a first heat victory Monday afternoon with Paycheck. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)
Paycheck Race Team members Doug Tate (from left), Kelly Eggers, Genny McCuen and Terri Odell celebrate a first heat victory Monday afternoon with Paycheck. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

"We had a slow start," said Paycheck's coach, Doug Tate. "Until we decided it was time to just blow right past Ruby. He got airlifted, flew 20 feet and we knew we were gonna be the victors."

Paycheck did indeed have a slow start, hesitating near the starting line as Ruby took an early lead. She slowed down at the Third Avenue intersection, though, seeming confused, and Paycheck began to catch up, aided by Tate, Captain Terri Odell and handlers Genny McCuen and Kelly Eggers. The turkeys were neck and neck near the Thompson Hotel building when Paycheck took the lead. Though Ruby Begonia fell behind, she still made a time of 1 minute 34.6 seconds.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

"She ran straight down the track; it just wasn't quite quick enough — but it ain't over 'til October," said Cuero Race Team Coach James Rath. "She ran like we wanted her to. The only thing was when Paycheck came around a little bit, she stuttered once or twice. We had the lead up until then."

While substantial, Paycheck's lead is not insurmountable, as the two turkeys will face off again at Cuero Turkeyfest on Oct. 9. Whichever turkey has the shortest combined times for the two races will win the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph and the right for his or her town to be named the Turkey Capital of the World. The second-place turkey earns the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (right) joins the Ruby Begonia Race Team from Cuero, Texas, including James Rath (from left), Brady Boehl, Angie Cuellar and Tifani Hilburn. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (right) joins the Ruby Begonia Race Team from Cuero, Texas, including James Rath (from left), Brady Boehl, Angie Cuellar and Tifani Hilburn. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Neither Paycheck nor Ruby incurred any penalties in the Worthington leg of the Great Gobbler Gallop down 10th Street, perhaps more aware of the need to run a clean race after the 2020 race was cancelled due to COVID-19.

"Paycheck just waited until he saw a hole and then took off," McCuen said. "That bird went nuts."