Day At The Track

Bunker clinches 2020 title at What Cheer

10:28 AM 10 Sep 2020 NZST
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Candy Cane Cannae, harness racing
Rob Anderson drives Candy Cane Cannae to victory in race 10, the final race of the 2020 Progressive Pick Ten
Gretchen Roland photo
What Cheer, IA -- After weeks of carefully studying race programs for each meet at What Cheer, David Bunker took home the top prize in the fan favorite Progressive Pick Ten contest on Sunday (September 6). It was the final day of racing at the Keokuk County Fairgrounds in 2020.
"I'm pretty lucky," said Bunker modestly. "There's a little bit of skill to it with watching the program, but a lot of luck."
Participants in the Progressive Pick Ten try to pick the winner in the first ten races of each day of racing at What Cheer. For each winner picked they get a point. At the end of the season, the $2,000 prize is divided among the top participants in the same split as winning purse money, with the winner taking 45 percent, or $900.
Roger Roland started the Progressive Pick Ten competition at What Cheer six years ago as a way to keep fans coming back to the grandstand every week all summer.
"I started it to get more attendance at the races and it definitely helps," said Roland. "They come every week, they compare notes, and they don't miss a day of racing. Of the top twenty, only two people didn't come every week and one of them was in the hospital."
After each race day people in the grandstand can be heard asking each other, "How many did you get?" There are good days and tough days. Saturday (September 5) was one of those tough days with lots of upsets in 2-year-old Iowa-Registered competition. Bunker managed to do alright.
"What clinched it for me was getting five out of ten on Saturday," said Bunker. "It was a terrible day. Some only got two and I got five somehow."
With only six picks separating the top seven participants every race is important.
On the last day of the competition everybody missed race three and four when Itsonlymoneyhoney, a son of Banker Volo, took the first division of the 3-year-old Iowa-Registered Trot and Always Hotspeed, a Real Desire colt, came from the back tier to take the first division of the 3-year-old Iowa-Registered Pace. In race ten, the final race of the 2020 What Cheer Progressive Pick Ten, Bunker picked the winning Big Jim filly Candy Cane Cannae.
Bunker took the top prize with 62 wins, only two picks ahead of Larry Mather's 60. June Huffman and Jerry Hamilton tied for third with 57 and Dina Gooch, Sherry Bunker and Earl McCay rounded out the prize winners with 56 picks each.
Bunker makes his picks early in the week when the What Cheer race program is posted on the Iowa Harness Horsemen's Association website.
"I go by times, who's doing well, and who's driving," said Bunker. "If there's a driver change I may change my pick because of that."
This is Bunker's fourth time winning the Progressive Pick Ten. The first time he split the win three ways, he won it all his second time winning, and last year split it with Jerry Hamilton, another competitive Progressive Pick Ten enthusiast.
In addition to the Progressive Pick Ten, Roland has come up with another creative way to keep fans in the stands at What Cheer. He saw people were leaving the races early, so he also started The Late Pick Five.
"We also play the last five," said Roland "It's $75 a day with a maximum $375. It's a way to keep people in the stand and keep people entertained."
Both of these contests have kept people coming to the races and brought new interest to the Iowa racing circle. Look for new fans and familiar faces when both contests return to the Keokuk County Fairgrounds in 2021.
by Gretchen Roland, for the Iowa Harness Horsemen's Association
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