The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association held its first event in Rapid City, South Dakota, from October 7-9, 2016. Shown here is the Championship Chief Race. Photo by Diana Volk
Indian relays a success
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor
RAPID CITY -- The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association completed its first ever sanctioned event in Rapid City October 7-9 in front of crowds of people from all walks of life.
"I think it went pretty well," said PIHRA board member Calvin Ghost Bear. Ghost Bear was part of the effort to bring the modern version of this centuries old indigenous horsemanship competition to the Black Hills. "We had just come off our finals in Billings the weekend before and everyone involved was a little worn out but it worked out," he added.
Amongst the crowd at the Black Hills Indian Relay were plenty of Indians but to be successful in a competitive tourism market like Rapid City an event must have an appeal that transcends race. PIHRA seems to have found that in the sport of Indian Relay. Many newcomers to the sport attended this past weekends races that were hosted at the Black Hills Motor Speedway.
Ghost Bear said attendance at the event was not as large as PIHRA had grown used to and that the final numbers from the gate have yet to be counted, but overall he says the event was a success.
"We had teams from all over come and compete. The races themselves were competitive and local people from the area were able to come out and watch their teams compete," he added.
Professional Indian Horse Racing Association on Facebook: Championship Race in Rapid City
During PIHRA's season-ending championships in Billings, Montana, last weekend, nearly 8,000 people attended. Although information on ticket sales has not been released estimates of the size of the crowds in Rapid City have ranged from 1,000-2,000 people depending on the day.
The location of this past weekend's races allowed for several local teams from Allen, Oglala, Pine Ridge, and Manderson to load their horses up and show off their skills in from of family and friends.
Rico Cortez, Lakota Warpath, was the winner of the Warrior Race. During this competition a rider must run 100 yards prior to mounting his horse. Once on the horse it is an all out sprint. Cortez has established himself as a fan favorite as he secured the victory.
The Chief's race was dominated by local riders as Brian Beetem (Oglala) took home the crown. He was followed by Kyle White Hawk (Oglala), Jack Thomas (Cheyenne River), Lawrence Harvey (Oglala), Alligator Creek (Crow), and Alan Reddy (Oglala).
Going into the weekend's main attraction several local teams were expected to be in the running. The Lakota War Path had secured a place as one of the top teams in the country and deserving of their number 2 world ranking. The Brew Crew has shown the ability to win on any given weekend but many wondered how they could rebound from the loss of Hermis Tall.
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On the first day of preliminary racing Blue Moon, from Allen, won their initial heat, as did the Brew Crew. Lakota War Path couldn't seem to find their bearings. When push came to shove the only local team in the finals was the Brew Crew and their new rider, Lawrence Harvey. The Brew Crew would come in second to River Road in the final race.
"We held our own but came up a little short. We got beat by a damn good team," said Stan Brewer, owner of the Brew Crew. "I want to say thanks to all the fans who came out and supported us and all our family. We had a hell of a year filled with ups and downs. Sorry we didn't win this one for our brother Hermis Tall, but we sure gave it our all. We will be back and ready to make a run at it again."
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at email@example.com)
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