Chance of a lifetime for rookie reinsmen Thomson, Flad at Rangeland Derby

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A pair of Chances will make their rookie driving debuts at the Cowboys Rangeland Derby during the 2024 Calgary Stampede from July 5-14.

After placing 14th and 15th, respectively, in the 2023 World Professional Chuckwagon Association driver standings, Chance Thomson and Chance Flad earned invitations to compete at the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.

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“There’s four Chances, so it gets confusing,” said Flad, who’s looking forward to the challenge of going up against the likes of Thomson, Chance Bensmiller and reigning 2023 WPCA World Champion driver Chanse Vigen. “It’ll be interesting. It’s confusing with all the Chances racing now, but there’s one Chanse that’s spelled a little different than the other three and he’s the one that’s defending the (WPCA) title, so he’ll be tough to catch.”

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Flad was named the WPCA’s top rookie driver in 2019, while Thomson earned the same accolade two years later. Both served as Chuckwagon 101 drivers (also known as demonstration drivers) at last year’s Rangeland Derby, which usually means they’re on the Calgary Stampede’s radar to eventually capture one of 27 coveted calls to compete at the big show.

“I was happy to have a good year last year and a good showing as the demo driver last year, too,” said Thomson, whose goal was to run well last year to secure a spot to show off his skills in Calgary. “I hoped to get the call and when I did it was certainly satisfying. It’s kind of your practice run and for the Stampede to see what you’ve got and how you showcase yourself and how you look after things and conduct your business. It’s definitely a trial. Everyone that does it typically gets in here within a couple years after.”

Dayton Sutherland also served as a Chuckwagon 101 reinsman (in 2022) before getting the promotion to the big stage this year along with Thomson and Flad.

Chance Flad
Chuckwagon driver Chance Flad is appreciative of the $95,000 bid he received during the Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction. Photo by Shellie Scott Photography /Supplied

“This is where you want to be,” said Flad, who has had considerable success as an outrider having won three WPCA World titles, five Ponoka Stampede championships, five Calgary Stampede aggregate buckles and four Rangeland Derby final dashes. “This is the main show.”

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The 32-year-old driver from Arrowwood, Alta., is appreciative of the $95,000 bid put forth by the MobSquad at last Thursday’s Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction.

“Every dollar means everything to us,” Flad said. “If we didn’t have the sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to go up and down the road. The price of feed and everything and the maintenance on the horses, it’s astronomical.”

While he’ll primarily focus on his driving escapades this season, Flad will also ply his trade as an outrider, primarily for Ross Knight, who received a bid of $90,000 — also from the MobSquad — last Thursday.

“I’ll be still outriding,” said Flad, who helped Knight win a Strathmore Stampede show title last August. “Ross Knight looks after me pretty good. Whenever someone needs a hand, I’ll jump in. I kind of want to step away from it, but if I can still get the job done, I’ll be there for people that need the help.”

Prior to receiving a bid of $105,000 from the Lethbridge Lodging Association to sponsor his canvas throughout the 10-day spectacle in early July, Thomson reflected upon how excited he was to be taking part in his very first Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction.

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“I’ve been waiting 25 years to get here,” said the 36-year-old reinsman from Buck Creek, Alta., a well-decorated pony chuckwagon and chariot driver for 17 years before he made the switch to piloting the big wagons. “I’ve been driving 20 years. I’ve been on the sidelines as a kid before that and watching it on TV. It’s pretty damn special.”

Thomson is a fourth-generation driver whose great-grandfather, Jack Coates, competed at the Calgary Stampede throughout the 1950s in addition to being one of the earliest Canadians to haul his horses south of the border to run at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming.

Flad agreed with Thomson in regards to how special it was to get the Rangeland Derby summons.

“I’ve been dreaming of coming here since I’ve been outriding, but now I’m driving,” Flad said.  “This is the main stage that you want to be at.”

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