A statistical analysis of burro racing greatness in Colorado’s Triple Crown
August 1, 2018
It only takes one trip to a "Triple Crown" pack burro race in Fairplay, Leadville or Buena Vista to realize this sport is different.
Yes, it's competitive. But the communal pomp and circumstance and Main Street energy of pack-burro events focuses more on celebrating the sport's atypical racing spirit and Colorado history. That said, as we are in the midst of the annual Triple Crown of pack burro racing, it's worth recognizing not only who the championship racers are, but how dominant they've been.
Each summer, beginning with the last full weekend in July, the Western Pack Burro Association hosts three consecutive weekends of burro racing in Fairplay, Leadville, and Buena Vista. Last Sunday, at the 70th annual World Championship Pack Burro Race, 56-year-old Kirt Courkamp and a burro named Mary Margaret won the 29-mile race for the third straight year.
This coming Sunday, Pine-resident Courkamp and Mary Margaret are eyeing winning the 70th annual Leadville Boom Days Pack Burro Race, a 21-miler, for the first time. Then, come August 12, the Triple Crown will conclude with the 13-mile Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race, another race the duo has yet to win.
Over the past few years, the list of Triple Crown race winners is a short one. Since 2010, just a dozen different humans have won any of the 24 different Triple Crown series races that have taken place. And, in terms of burros, the number is even smaller: 10.
As for pack burro racing "dominance," one racer of recent stands above the rest: George Zack of Broomfield. And if Zack chooses to run again at Leadville on Sunday, he'll likely be the primary foil standing in Courkamp and Mary Margaret's way.
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Since 2010, George Zack and a burro named Jack have teamed for more wins at Triple Crown races, nine, than any other tandem. And "Zack and Jack," as they are affectionately referred to, also have the most dominant — statistically speaking — singular race win of any of the 24 Triple Crown races between 2010 and 2017.
At the 2015 Fairplay World Championship Race, Zack and Jack finished with a time of 5 hours, 23 minutes and 34 seconds. The blistering pace was more than 13-percent faster than second-place finishers Justin Mock of Coniferand his burro Yukon Jack (6:13:14).
Zack and Jack's 2015 Fairplay win bests the second-most dominant performance of the past eight years — the 2010 Leadville win by Barb Dolan of Buena Vista and her burro Dakota — by almost two percentage points. And Zack and Jack also register with the third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth most dominant Triple Crown race margins in that span. And that includes five wins in Leadville.
Check out the Summit Daily's accompanying chart for a full graphical breakdown of the most dominant pack burro racers since 2010:
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