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Ruby wins, but not by enough as Paycheck is Great Gobbler Gallop champ

CUERO. Texas -- Hundreds of spectators lined both sides of Esplanade Street Saturday morning for the second leg of the most anticipated race of the year -- the Great Gobbler Gallop.

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Paycheck's team celebrates their victory during Turkeyfest in Cuero. (Kayla Renie / Victoria Advocate)

CUERO. Texas - Hundreds of spectators lined both sides of Esplanade Street Saturday morning for the second leg of the most anticipated race of the year - the Great Gobbler Gallop.

With the crowd yelling "Go Ruby Go!" Cuero's racing turkey, Ruby Begonia, fed off the crowd's energy with laser-like focus as she and her opponent, Worthington's Paycheck, prepared to flock to the finish line.

"It was real exciting - Ruby performed as planned," said Laura Patek, the Cuero team captain.

Paycheck strutted into town with a substantial lead over Ruby Begonia - the Worthington bird flew through time at the first leg of the race in September with 40.7 seconds, while Ruby ended the first race with a total time of 4 minutes and 3 seconds, which included seven 5-second penalties.

But all bets are off when the two birds battle in Texas, said Chad Nixon, a member of the Worthington race team. Nixon, who has served on the King Turkey Day Board of Directors for seven years, knows his Lone Star State opponent well.

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"We knew coming to Texas that we had a good lead, but we knew we had to bring our A-game coming to Texas because Ruby always runs better in Texas," Nixon said. "No matter what year it is, Ruby knows the hometown crowd and she always has a better performance in Texas."

Ruby Begonia did indeed perform much better in her hometown. The race began with both birds wobbling down Esplanade, with Ruby Begonia clacking steadily.

Paycheck, taking cue from Ruby's performance in Worthington last month, flocked into the crowd a few seconds into the race.

With the opponent distracted by Gobblers, Ruby Begonia and her team raced to the finish line with a time of 1 minute and 17 seconds. Paycheck flew in with a time of 2 minutes and 10.28 seconds.

Though Ruby won the second heat of the race, Worthington proved again that nothing runs faster than a Paycheck, with Paychek's overall time of 2 minutes and 50 seconds beating Ruby's 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

Patek said the Cuero team knew there would much time to make up in the second leg of the race, but having a win at home was a great way to end the competition.

"We're excited that we won here in our hometown," Patek said. "I don't know if it's the weather or being around fellow Gobblers, but she likes her hometown best."

Nixon said the Worthington team was thrilled that Paycheck earned another victory. This is the racing turkey's four consecutive year to win the Great Gobbler Gallop.

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Susie Chacon was able to see Paycheck up close when he flew near her during the race. She said she arrived an hour and a half before the race to secure her seat to watch the two birds.

"Paycheck always seems to come at us every time we come to watch," she said with a laugh. "We cheered her (Ruby) on though, we love cheering for Ruby."

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