Crown ‘em: With Buena Vista win, Courkamp, Mary Margaret capture burro racing Triple Crown |

Crown ‘em: With Buena Vista win, Courkamp, Mary Margaret capture burro racing Triple Crown

Kirt Courkamp of Pine and a burro named Mary Margaret run through the Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race course on Sunday, Aug. 12. Courkamp and Mary Margaret completed the13-mile course in one hour, 56 minutes and 35 seconds, the fastest pace of any of the 75 finishers. The win also earned the pair the first pack burro Triple Crown title since 2015, as Courkamp and Mary Margaret previously won the Fairplay and Leadville pack burro races earlier this summer.
Michael Mewes / Special to The Daily

2018 Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race

1. Kirt Courkamp-Mary Margaret 01:56:35

2. John Vincent-Crazy Horse 02:03:28

3. Joel Malander-Buckwheat 02:03:30

4. Andrew Knutsen-Hershey 02:03:36

5. Louise Kuehster-Pandora 02:03:36

6. Steve Kuehster-Finngan 02:03:36

7. Bob Sweeney-Yukon 02:03:44

8. Hal Walter-Full Tilt Boogie 02:04:42

9. Shad Mika-Alice 02:09:59

10. Patrick Sweeney-Smokey 02:10:01

Make that two Triple Crown winners for the year of 2018.

Two months after Justify and jockey Mike Smith won the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing at Belmont Park in New York, local Coloradan Kirt Courkamp and his burro Mary Margaret secured the Triple Crown of pack burro racing here in their home state on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Courkamp, 56, and Mary Margaret did so by winning their first-ever Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race, a 13-mile excursion on pavement, single-track and Jeep-road trails in and around Buena Vista.

The 45th annual Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race served as the third leg of the annual Triple Crown circuit. After Courkamp and Mary Margaret won at the July 29, 29-mile Fairplay World Championship Pack Burro Race and the Aug. 5, 21-mile Leadville Boom Days Pack Burro Race, the duo ran away with the crown in the finale down in Buena Vista.

Courkamp and Mary Margaret’s time of one hour, 56 minutes and 35 seconds was more than six minutes faster than runners-up John Vincent and Crazy Horse (02:03:28). Paired with a different human racer — Andrew Knutsen — last year, Crazy Horse and Knutsen defeated the 2017 second-place Buena Vista pairing of Courkamp and Mary Margaret by just under eight seconds.

The 2018 win at Buena Vista was the first for Courkamp and Mary Margaret in three tries at Buena Vista, after the second-place showing last year and a third-place finish in 2016 that was more than three-minutes off the winning pace. The pair’s 2018 win was also the most dominant performance by a pack burro racing duo at Buena Vista since at least 2010, the most recent year for which the Western Pack Burro Ass-Ociation publishes race results.

Courkamp and Mary Margaret’s win was an improvement of more than four minutes versus their 2017 pace in the same race. It was also well ahead of not only Vincent and Crazy Horse, but the entire second wave of pack burro racers in Buena Vista. Those pack burro pairings that finished in spots two through seven all finished within 16 seconds of Vincent and Crazy Horse, but well off the pace of Courkamp and Mary Margaret.

Courkamp and Mary Margaret’s 2018 Triple Crown season began with their third consecutive victory in three annual tries at the 70th annual Fairplay World Championship Pack Burro Race. A week later, they captured an event that had been elusive to them, the Leadville Boom Days Race, via edging out second-place finishers Jeff Bennett and a burro named Jack by just 14 seconds.

The 56-year-old ultra-runner Courkamp joined forces with Mary Margaret once again this summer after another spring during which he lived with and took care of Mary Margaret. She’s a burro gifted to him by the legendary, late Curtis Imrie, who’s regarded as “the dean of Colorado burro racing” and died at the age of 70 a year-and-a-half ago. Courkamp was originally gifted Mary Margaret by Imrie a week before his first ever pack burro race in 2016. The deal back then was if Courkamp could get Mary Margaret back down to his trailer before any of the other runners and burros, he could take her home.

Sunday’s race in Buena Vista also served as “Curtis Imrie Day,” which only made Courkamp and Mary Margaret’s win that much sweeter.

Pack burro racing features runners pulling their burro — or donkey — by a 15-foot rope while carrying a 35-pound saddle pack containing miner’s tools: a pick axe, shovel and gold pan. For more information on the races, visit

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