Brief by Hal Walter
Burro racing – September 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine
Dolan wins pack-burro Triple Crown Race
Twin Lakes resident Barbara Dolan and her burro Sailor hitched down Pack-Burro Racing’s Triple Crown this summer as the top female competitor at races in Fairplay and Leadville, and the overall winner in the final leg of the series in Buena Vista.
Pack-burro racing is the only sport indigenous to Central Colorado. Participants run and hike with burros over the high-altitude courses. Riding is not allowed and the burros must be packed with 33 pounds, including a pick, gold pan and shovel.
In the first leg of the series, Dolan and Sailor finished third overall at the 30-mile Fairplay race, billed as the World Championship of the sport. She was the only woman to complete the course.
Buena Vista resident Curtis Imrie and burro Oscar won the race and Colorado Central columnist Hal Walter and Clyde of Westcliffe placed second about two minutes behind Imrie. Imrie reached the top of Mosquito Pass, elevation 13,188 feet, first. But he and Walter battled it out over the last 15 miles of the course, with Imrie’s burro cantering to victory down the last hill into Fairplay.
Fairplay also held a 13-mile short-course race, with Steve Hart and Sundance of Arvada finishing first, Mary Walter and Virgil of Westcliffe second and Diane Ridgeway and Firecracker of Denver placing third.
The following weekend Walter and Clyde rallied to win the 22-mile Leadville International Pack-Burro Race, as Imrie opted to run a fresh three-year-old burro named Peckinpah and placed second. Leadville’s Ken Chlouber and Mork placed third. It was Walter’s 17th consecutive finish at Leadville. In 1980 he received the “Last Ass over the Pass” award; the 1996 race was his first win there.
At Leadville, women burro racers run a shorter 13-mile course. Dolan and Sailor were first, Susan Conroe and Oscar were second and Mary Walter and Virgil were third.
On the third consecutive week, men and women competed together on the 10-mile course at Buena Vista. After one of the most rodeo-like starts in most pack-burro racers’ memories, Walter and Clyde reached the Midland Railroad Grade right behind Dolan and Sailor. The pair ran together for most of the course, but after running the hilliest section of the course, Dolan pulled over and Walter put on a substantial lead.
But Imrie and Oscar caught up to Dolan, and the pair worked their burros in tandem to close the gap. While Walter was crossing the footbridge near the Buena Vista Community Center, Imrie was closing in and Dolan was right behind him.
The spooky Clyde struggled with various distractions on the street, including a car that a driver nearly backed into him near the softball field, and soon Imrie and Dolan had overtaken Walter. The race turned into a three-way sprint for the last block to the finish line with Sailor crossing first, Oscar second and Clyde third. The three burros finished within seven seconds of each other, the closest three-way race perhaps in the history of the sport. Wayne Archuleta of Leadville was the third male finisher. The second-place woman finisher was Golden’s Kendra Cowhey with Ed; third place went to Ridgeway and Firecracker.