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Did Kern win the race? Probably not

We’ve been writing about a horse race sponsored by The Denver Post that took place in 1908.

The race was open to all comers and covered approximately 600 miles from Evanston, Wyoming, to Denver.

Twenty-five horses left the starting line at 6 a.m. on April 30. We’ve reported pretty much a blow-by-blow account as presented in an Argosy Magazine article written by Jack Schaefer.

Our last article ended as the eighth day of the race started.

In the lead were Charlie Workman riding Teddie, Dode Wykert on Sam, “Old Man Billie Kern on Dex, and two other riders and their horses.

We’re writing the article because “Old Man Kern” was a well-known Pagosa Country pioneer.

At the time Kern entered the race, he was 50 years old and his horse was 30 years old. Descendants of Kern sent me a copy of the Argosy Magazine article and I began writing from it without realizing the final pages were missing.

I already knew a little about the story from Kern descendants I talked to in Pagosa Springs. Family members believe that Kern won the $300 first prize for winning the race.

They might be right, but since I don’t have the finish of the article, I can’t be sure. I found an article on the Internet titled “The Great Horse Race of 1908,” under an entry titled “The Long Rider’s Guild Academic Foundation.” The race information was said to be extracted from “Into the Sunset,” published by George S. Ball in 1966.

According to the latter article, as the riders were in the Brighton-Henderson area on their way to Denver, the officials declared all bets were off, the race was a tie. Because their horses were worn out, Wykert and Workman were ordered to walk into Denver side-by-side, led by an automobile.

As the two men approached the finish line applauded by as many as 25,000 spectators, Wykert manipulated Sam around the car and over the finish line first. Sam and Teddy were declared tied for first, Clipper, Dek (Dex?), and Bluebell were judged second third, and fourth. Dex, of course was the horse ridden by “Old Man Billie Kern,” formerly of Pagosa Springs.

Another Internet article written by Mauchline Muir in the Aug. 8, 1908, edition of The World To-Day Magazine reported this finish: Wykert on Sam, first; Workman on Teddy second; Edwards on Sorrell Clipper third, Kern on Dex fourth, Casto on Blue Bell fifth; and David Lee on Cannonball sixth.

Obviously, the story needs more research. I’m sure the Denver Post and Argosy Magazine both have archives with information about the race, as will other newspaper along the route.

Our readers may be interested to know that Jack Schafer was the author of “Shane,” the book on which the movie was based.

In addition, the movie titled “Bite the Bullet” which came out in 1975, was abased the 1908 race. Starring in that movie were Candice Bergen, Gene Hackman and James Coburn.

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