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Courtesy of CPRA

Courtesy of CPRA

Big Moves on Critical Finning Pro Tour Weekend

Brendan Laye knew he was running out of time.

The four-year pro responded to the urgency of the moment with a 3.7 second run at the Armstrong IPE and Stampede, which hosted the last Finning Pro Tour Rodeo of the season, and the Finning Pro Tour Finals Sept 1. Laye earned the Tour rodeo steer wrestling win and $3790. He followed that up with an even quicker 3.2 second effort to top the field at the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo in Merritt and add another $1513. The $6300 haul jetted the 2016 CPRA top rookie up almost ten spots in the Canadian standings, from 16th place entering the weekend to a comfortable spot well inside the top ten, virtually assuring Laye of a late October/early November date in Red Deer (CFR ’46).

“With the position I was in, I knew I had to have a big weekend,” the Consort bulldogger acknowledged. The “position he was in” was about $2000 out of the 12th and final qualifying berth with only a handful of rodeos left in the 2019 regular season. The good news for Laye was that the Armstrong Stampede, followed by the Finning Pro Tour Finals, made up the two biggest remaining potential paydays on the CPRA schedule.  Coupled with the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo, the BC run is always a critical moment in the long, challenging Canadian rodeo season.

Laye was ready. “I just wanted to be excited about the things that could go right and not worry about the things that could go wrong,” the 2018 PRCA Steer Wrestling Rookie of the Year noted. “I was riding (Curtis Cassidy’s Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year) Tyson and I knew he’d give me a good chance to win. I guess it worked out pretty well. There’s a lot less stress for the rest of the season, that’s for sure.”

And while the 29 year-old was blanked in the Finning Tour Finale on Sunday night, he was able to watch his talented cousins enjoy a profitable evening at the picturesque Armstrong rodeo layout. Cadogan’s Clint Laye captured the bareback riding win and a $4800 cheque, and Provost dogger, Scott Guenthner split the Finning honours (with Curtis Cassidy) for a $4200 boost to his earnings, keeping him comfortably at the head of the pack as the season roars down the home stretch.

“We’re not just cousins, we’re buddies,” remarked Brendan Laye, “going back to starting out in the Wild Pony racing together. We cheer each other on and it’s pretty cool when we all have a weekend like this one.”

Lacombe, AB barrel racer, Justine Elliott, is enjoying a fairy-tale year. The 17 year old high school senior and her cow-bred mare, Blondie, are not only headed to their second CFR, but they’re doing so in style. With solid placings at both Armstrong (15.890 secs/7th/$997) and Merritt (16.254 secs/6th/$464), and a winning 15.844 sec run at the Finning Pro Tour Final ($4800), Elliott added an overall $6261 to her bank account and is well placed to earn Season Leader barrel racing honours.

“I went into the Finning Pro Tour Finals just trying to have a good run, and let whatever happened, happen,” explained the young horsewoman. “I wasn’t one bit expecting to win it. The field was very tough. I tried to stay off Blondie until right before my run as I was nervous and didn’t want to make her worried. But Blondie likes the crowd and smoked a run.” Elliott grinned.

The duo will enjoy a more limited schedule for the next month, then start preparing for CFR at the start of October. With a 2018 CFR appearance behind her, Elliott is heading to this year’s Finals with a better idea of what to expect.

2019 Finning Pro Tour Finals Champions are: Clint Laye (bareback), Jake Burwash (saddle bronc), Edgar Durazo (bull riding), Shane Hanchey (tie-down roping), Scott Guenthner and Curtis Cassidy (steer wrestling tie), Dawson and Dillon Graham (team roping) and Justine Elliott (ladies barrel racing). This year’s Finning Pro Tour Final was particularly lucrative as it paid double the prize money of 2018.

Additional Weekend Highlights

It was just six weeks ago that Jake Burwash posted his first professional win in the Saddle Bronc Riding at the Teepee Creek Stampede. This weekend he all but assured himself of a spot on this year’s CFR roster with a huge 85.5 ride on Outlaw Buckers’ Bright Lights to take home the Finning Tour Finals win and the $4800 reward. The sizeable payoff vaulted the second generation Nanton, Alberta talent from 15th into the top ten in the standings.

And a couple of eye-popping 90 point rides bookended the weekend’s Armstrong action. Regina bareback rider, Ty Taypotat, matched up with the Calgary Stampede’s Agent Lynx in the opening performance of the Stampede to earn a $3711 stipend (an Armstrong IPE arena record) while Mexican born and raised bullrider, Edgar Durazo, made the final ride of the Finning Finals a good one as he combined with Outlaw Buckers’ One-Eyed Charlie for his 90 pointer and the accompanying $4800.

About the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with headquarters in Airdrie, Alberta is the sanctioning body for professional rodeo in Canada. The CPRA approves 55 events annually with a total payout exceeding $5.7 million. The organization holds their premiere event – the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) – at Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB, October 29 – November 3, 2019 and will oversee the Finning Pro Tour Finals September 1 in Armstrong, BC and their inaugural Maple Leaf Circuit Finals November 27-30, 2019 at the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, SK. Follow the CPRA on Twitter and Instagram @prorodeocanada, ‘Like’ Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Facebook or online at RodeoCanada.com. 

Courtesy of CPRA

Huge Weekend For Cort Scheer

Cort Scheer is making up for lost time.

The Elsmere, Nebraska bronc rider set his sights on the Canadian Finals Rodeo and National Finals Rodeo when he established his goals for 2019.

The plan took a hit when the 33 year-old broke some ribs while competing at Leduc at the end of May, forcing him to miss a number of rodeos on both sides of the 49th parallel. But this past weekend’s results at the Medicine Hat Stampede, the Hard Grass Bronc Match in Pollockville, AB and the Bruce Stampede have the likeable Nebraskan back on track.

“We live for weekend’s like this,” Scheer grinned. “It was awesome to win a bunch at those really good rodeos.” The five time CFR qualifier topped the field at Medicine Hat (Finning Pro Tour rodeo) with 87.5 points on Kesler Rodeo’s Flaming Shadow for $2722.08. 

“That horse was outstanding,” Scheer noted. “I’d seen Zeke (Thurston) at Cloverdale and knew he was good, but he was even better than I thought he would be.”

Scheer then added $7462 to his weekend pay packet by splitting second and third in both the long and short go’s, and the average, at Pollockville. He collected an additional $848 for a third place result at Bruce for an overall total of $11,032 – second only to Zeke Thurston who padded his Canadian and Season totals by $12,258 – much of that courtesy of his win at Pollockville’s Bronc Match. While Thurston remains comfortably in the lead in the Canadian saddle bronc standings, Scheer’s weekend success vaulted him from 25th to well inside the top ten.

A frequent visitor at Canadian rodeos since the beginning of his career, Scheer recalled, “I was rodeoing with Chet Johnson and Tyler Corrington and I was a ‘young, dumb kid’. I just went where they wanted to go. I came to love these Canadian rodeos and keep coming back.”

Scheer, like all of the bronc riders, is pursuing Thurston, who has been ‘lights out’ all season long. “He’s awesome,” Scheer acknowledged. “I think he’s riding better this year than the year he won the World. And when somebody’s riding like that, it makes all of us ride better.”

Other recent event winners included Regina, SK bareback rider, Ty Taypotat, who hit the winner’s circtle at the Bowden Bonanza Daze Bareback Challenge; Sunnybrook, AB bull rider, Shay Marks, who captured the crown at the inaugural Lacombe Bull Riding event and Lonnie West (Cadogan, AB) who forty percented the field (won both go’s and the average) at the White Lightning Professional Cowboy Crunch in Oyen, AB.

See rodeocanada.com for complete results.

There CPRA roster remains busy with the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo July 30-31, two Finning Pro Tour events – Strathmore Stampede August 2-5 and Regina, SK’s Pile ‘O Bones Rodeo August 2-4 as well as the North Peace Stampede in Grimshaw, AB August 3-4.

Courtesy of CPRA

Thurston Wins Cowboy Christmas Tour Events

The 2016 World Champion saddle bronc rider rode like a world champion is expected to ride. And when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, Big Valley, Alberta’s Zeke Thurston, had just added another $26,000 to his bank account, and just as importantly to his Canadian and PRCA world standings earnings.

The second generation cowboy rolled into Williams Lake for the Finning Pro Tour stop and matched up with Duffy Rodeo’s CFR selected Appaloosa mare, Rip n Zip for 86.5 points and the win. After adding a small cheque at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo, Thurston saved the high drama for Canada Day at the Ponoka Stampede (also a Finning Pro Tour event). Having already won the long go with 89 points on C5 Rodeo’s Showtime, the 24 year old mastered a pair of Calgary Stampede buckers—Timely Delivery for 88.25 to win the short go and clinch the average, then another 89 point-er on Ancient Delivery in the Showdown for the biggest of his six weekend cheques—a $9750 strike. 

Coming off “the best winter I ever had”, Thurston has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks and the huge start to his Cowboy Christmas vaulted him to first place in the Canadian standings and helped him close ground on the world leader—Ryder Wright.

On a cold, blustery Canada Day evening, Thurston grinned, “It’s only fitting that a rodeo in Canada takes place in sub-zero temperatures.” But despite the coolness, the gifted central Alberta athlete was blazing hot throughout the weekend. Of the Ponoka win, Thurston added, “This is awesome. Ponoka’s not far from home; the family’s all here to support me and it’s a lot of fun.”

Another big mover on the weekend was Mexican born bull rider, Edgar Durazo who picked up the win at Ponoka including a spectacular 90 point effort on Vold Rodeo’s Whisky Hand in the Showdown round. The July I weekend haul ($17,818 at Ponoka and $1059 at Airdrie) took him closer to the goal he stated was his primary focus for 2019—a first trip to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. Durazo will wake up Tuesday and see his name at or near the top of the CPRA standings leaderboard.

Additional Weekend Highlights:

The Manning twins from Edson, Alberta grabbed a share of the spotlight – Taylor for her Williams Lake barrel racing win (16.571 seconds, $4291.10) which will keep her placed near the top of the standings and Tristen for earning the Ponoka Stampede Steer Riding title (80.5 points, $1908.96).

* Manitoba bareback rider, Orin Larsen, thrilled the Airdrie Pro Rodeo crowd with a spectacular 91 point ride aboard Outlaw Buckers’ Awkward Todd – good for the win and $1931.89.

Mike Beers, 23 time NFR qualifier and 1984 World Champion heeler and his partner, Chad Evenson came away from the weekend over $10,000 richer courtesy of their performance at Ponoka that included the Showdown win (8.3 seconds) for over $7500 each.

For complete weekend results, go to rodeocanada.com

Pro Rodeo Canada action continues this week with Cody Snyder’s Charity Bull Bustin; July 2-4, Coronation Pro Rodeo July 5-6 and the 102nd Benalto Fair and Stampede July 5-7.

Courtesy of CPRA

Kimzey Looks North

It’s the question Canadian rodeo Fans have been asking: Is Sage Kimzey eyeing a Canadian Finals Rodeo qualification? The five time World Champion bull rider answered that question right after another successful weekend at Canadian rodeos.

“Definitely,” Kimzey responded. “That is absolutely one of my goals for this year.”

The Strong City, Oklahoma superstar added another $4245 to his Canadian bank account with wins at Rocky Mountain House (85.5 points on Vold Rodeo’s Simple Man, $1460) and Lea Park (87 on Calgary Stampede’s Wounded Warrior for $2030) and a second place finish at Brooks (79.5 for $755).

“The CFR had been in the back of my mind since I was in college with (Canadian cowboys) Layton Green and Jacob Stemo. They were both in the novice events back then and talked a lot about the CFR. This year my schedule worked out so that I could get my fifteen rodeo count so I’m excited about trying to get to Red Deer.”

The productive weekend will put Kimzey in the top three in the Canadian standings and give the Oklahoman eight of the fifteen rodeos he needs to punch his ticket to CFR 46.

“It was all good up here until the cold this weekend,” Kimzey chuckled. “It was 91 degrees (Fahrenheit) when I left home and I was awful cold in Brooks and Rocky. But the people are super nice and super accommodating. It’s been great being up here.”

Kimzey and traveling partner, Tyler Bingham, will next be on this side of the 49th parallel for the Wainwright-Sundre-High River run later this month followed by stops at Ponoka and Williams Lake as part of his July 1st run in Canada and the 4th in the US.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Blair Smith is another name that keeps popping up on top of the leaderboard. The young tie-down roper from Wimborne, Alberta won two of three CPRA rodeos over the weekend – Brooks Kinsmen Pro Rodeo and Rocky Pro Rodeo.

“I drew some good calves,” the second generation cowboy noted. “My calf in Rocky was an add-on and I didn’t know him. He was faster than I thought he’d be. And in Brooks I knew I had a pretty good calf. I had a good start, was solid on the ground and everything worked out.”

Smith topped the field of 65 ropers with an 8.3 second run at Brooks – good for $1686. And his run in slack at Rocky (9.2 secs) added $1772 for a total of $3458.

As for his horse, “With my regular calf horse out for some maintenance, I rode an older gelding I hadn’t been on yet this year. He’s a pretty trustworthy horse. I actually had him for sale,” he grinned, “but I might have to keep him now.”

With his main goal in 2019 to qualify for his first CFR, and a tradition of roping in his family (Dad, Garnet and cousin, Guy were both CPRA ropers and both brothers compete) Smith is off to a great start.

Additional Weekend Highlights:

– Jake Watson kept his amazing streak going on the weekend, adding two more wins to give him six over the last four rodeo weeks and ten Canadian rodeos in that span. This time up, the number one bronc rider in the Canadian standings won Lea Park with an 87.5 point effort on Calgary Stampede’s Redon Acres for $2156 and added a ½ split (with Layton Green) at Rocky Pro Rodeo, putting up 83 points on Prime Time Rodeo’s Good Vibrations for another $1260.

Justine Elliott, the Lacombe high school student, followed up her Grande Prairie win of a week ago with another strong performance this weekend as she topped the field at Lea Park with a 16.573 second run for $2838.80 and added a fifth place $968 cheque at Rocky to move to within $1000 of season leader (and fellow teenager) Taylor Manning.  

Check out www.RodeoCanada.com for complete results.

Next up on the CPRA schedule are two Maple Leaf Circuit events: Bonnyville Pro Rodeo June 14-15 and Innisfail Pro Rodeo June 14-16.

Courtesy of CPRA

Weekend Rodeo Wrap – Watson Goes Two for Two in Southern Alberta

Saddle bronc rider Jake Watson is enjoying a change from the way his rodeo seasons have unfolded in the past. 

“I’ve never had much luck at the spring rodeos up here,” the Hudson’s Hope cowboy admitted. “So this is definitely a lot better.”

Coupled with a solid run at the winter rodeos south of the 49th parallel, the weekend’s successes at the Stavely Indoor Pro Rodeo and the Kananaskis Pro Rodeo have the 25 year-old solidly in 10th place in the world standings and moving up the season leaderboard in Canada as well.

Watson kicked off his weekend at Stavely on Thursday night and teamed with a Jesse Dutchik bronc, Big Booty Judy, for 84 points and $1400. 

“I didn’t know that horse but Nick Patterson showed me a video of her from an amateur rodeo so I kind of had an idea. But to tell the truth she was better than what I expected. She just jumped and kicked and was good.”

Twenty-four hours later, the three-time CFR qualifier was back at it, this time in Coleman on a paint stallion from Kesler Championship Rodeo, Sugar and Spice. The B.C. cowboy put together an 85 point effort for $1313. The dual wins will propel Watson solidly into the top five in the Canadian standings.

The early season successes have fit well with the 2016 WNFR qualifier’s 2019 goals—appearances at the WNFR, the CFR and the recently unveiled Maple Leaf Circuit. It’s a tall order but Watson is used to big-time challenges having had to overcome a fairly serious geographical handicap just to get started on a career as a professional rodeo cowboy. Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia, a couple of hours north of Dawson Creek, is not an area noted for providing a lot of opportunities for a young man wanting to get on bucking horses.

“It didn’t matter,” Watson chuckled. “The first horse I got on threw me off pretty hard and made me question buying that bronc saddle. But after the second horse I was hooked.”

A few years later most observers concede that the former San Antonio Champion has earned the right to be considered among the best in the game. And with his acknowledging that “This is the best I’ve felt in a few years,” Jake Watson might just be a big time handful for the rest of the bronc riding fraternity throughout the 2019 season.

Additional weekend highlights:

– Five time World Champion, Sage Kimzey, capitalized on an early trip north where he won the short go (86.5 points on Outlaw Buckers’ 096 Tennessee Whisky) and average at Innisfail’s Night at the Ranch Bull Riding for more than $3300. The Strong City, Oklahoma cowboy then added a fifth place $395 cheque at the Kananaskis Pro Rodeo. 

– Jonny Webb was just 3/10ths of a second off the Canadian record as the Okotoks bulldogger posted a blistering 3.2 second run to take home $1649 at Coleman.

– Connor Hamilton followed up on last weekend’s Drayton Valley success with an 87 point ride on Vold Rodeo’s True Grit for the win and $1412 at Stavely.

– Ponoka barrel racer, Jennifer Massing, surprised the field with a dazzling 12.738 second run at her second pro rodeo ever to take home $1880.24 at Kananaskis.

– The reunited duo of Brett Buss and Klay Whyte split top spot in the team roping at Stavely with Roland McFadden and Devin Wigemyr with both teams turning in 5.4 second runs for $1283 per man.

For complete unofficial weekend results, go to rodeocanada.com

Up next on the CPRA schedule is a May long weekend stop at the legendary Falkland Stampede. The May 18-20 British Columbia interior rodeo celebrates its 101st anniversary this year.

Courtesy of CPRA

Agribition Welcomes the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals

The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) and Canadian Western Agribiton (CWA) are excited to announce that Agribition is the home of the inaugural Maple Leaf Circuit Pro Rodeo Finals.

The four day rodeo, featuring the top ten contestants in each event from the 2019 Maple Leaf Circuit standings, runs November 27-30, 2019 at Regina’s Evraz Place. The Rodeo Finals is a key part of Agribition – a long-standing livestock show and agribusiness marketplace that attracts more than 1,200 international guests from over 86 countries. 

“Western culture has been a key piece of the foundation of Agribition for almost 50 years,” says CWA President Bruce Holmquist. “Rodeo has been a very important part of that and through the years we have worked hard at growing the profile of the sport for both its fans and competitors. We are confident that the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals will take that profile to the next level.”

With over $12,000 up for grabs in each Agribition rodeo event, contestants are excited to compete for a qualifying spot. An added bonus for rodeo athletes is the opportunity for the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals Champion and the Circuit Season Leader in each event to qualify for the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee, Florida, starting in April, 2020.

“The Maple Leaf Finals are a good fit for Agribition,” says CWA CEO Chris Lane. “We have the facilities, the committee, the expertise and 20,000 rodeo fans that want to see the most exciting rodeo possible. We’re excited about putting that all together in November.”

The November Finals will cap the first complete year of the Maple Leaf Circuit – a partnership between the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and the CPRA – which includes the majority of CPRA rodeos outside of the Finning Pro Tour. The Circuit will shine a spotlight on non-Tour rodeos and help maintain solid entries throughout the season.

“It’s excellent that Agribition will be the home of the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals,” notes CPRA President Terry Cooke. “With Agribition’s long-standing history of rodeo success, the Finals should be a great experience for fans and athletes alike. And the opportunity for contestants to qualify for the Ram Circuit Finals is an added incentive.”

Maple Leaf Circuit Facts and Figures:

* Circuit includes CPRA rodeos with less than $7999 added purse that do not have special entry qualifications and that accept permits

* PRCA/CPRA Canadian residents are automatically assigned to the Maple Leaf Circuit

* For 2019, a contestant must be a Canadian resident to compete at the Circuit Final.

* Full cards, semi-pro cards and permits accepted

* Maple Leaf Circuit Finals are part of Canadian Western Agribition, and runs November 27-30, 2019

* Maple Leaf Circuit Champion and Circuit Season Leader in each event qualify for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida. (Circuit season leaders must compete at the Finals to move on.)

* Rodeo count to qualify for the Finals will either be 40% or 15 total rodeos (whichever is less)

* No PRCA card is required for a contestant to qualify for the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals; however, if a CPRA contestant would like to qualify for the RNCF, he/she must purchase a PRCA card before competing for money won to count. (Rodeo count/money won will not be back dated)

* The Maple Leaf Circuit Finals will be available by live stream through Flo Rodeo

Structure of the Finals:

10 contestants in each event per performance

4 performances

$12,300 minimum added per event

Entry fee $300

Payout – four (4) places in all go-rounds and the aggregate

See further details at RodeoCanada.com 

Courtesy of CPRA

Moore Off to Blazing Start

Clayton Moore is a busy guy.

With calving about to start in the next ten days or so, the family soon expanding – baby three will join brother Pecos and sister Rainey later this year – a busy fall guiding hunters anticipated and his excellent art works still appearing from time to time, the life of the 2013 Canadian Steer Wrestling Champion is “never boring”.

Nevertheless, the Pouce Coupe, British Columbia cowboy found time to travel to Medicine Hat for the first CPRA rodeo of 2019 and bulldogged his steer in 3.5 seconds to come away with the victory.

“It was a nice one to win,” Moore acknowledged, “but I’ve been going long enough to know that winning the first one doesn’t mean a lot in terms of making the CFR. It’s a long season but you get ‘em where you can get ‘em.”

The eight-time CFR qualifier put together a 3.5 second run to collect $1940 as he edged reigning Canadian champion, Scott Guenthner and veteran Craig Weisgerber by 4/10ths of a second for the win. 2017 Champion Jason Thomas (Benton, Arkansas) returned from the injury that kept him out of action throughout most of last year and was 4.2 seconds for fourth place at Medicine Hat’s Broncs and Honky Tonks Indoor Spring Rodeo.

Moore was on his nine year-old mare, Ditto, for the run and credited longtime pal, Stephen Culling with having the mare in tip top shape for the spring kickoff to the season. 

“Stephen had her down south for most of the winter. He did a great job and had a lot of success on her; it was great to have her ready to go for 2019.”

One of the challenges Moore has faced throughout his career is the distance he has to travel to compete at CPRA rodeos (most of which are in Alberta) and the fact that he is by himself for most of those grueling miles. He’s excited, however, by the fact that the travel arrangements will be changing soon. 

The plan for 2020 is for (2014 Canadian Barrel Racing Champion) wife Steffanie to return to competition with the entire Moore entourage heading down the road together. “That’s going to make those miles a whole lot better.”

But for the present, Moore will concentrate on going hard and doing what it takes to get back to the CFR.

“I’m only rodeoing in Canada this year but I plan to get to everything at least until Armstrong when my guiding gets pretty busy.”

Longview, Alberta barrel racer (and 2018 CFR qualifier), Kylie Whiteside, picked up where she left off in 2018 with a smokin’ 12.782 second run to collect the biggest cheque of the weekend, a $2312 stipend while Blair Smith topped the tie-down roping field with an 8.2 second run to earn $2021. And in the team roping event, Logan Spady and Wyatt Eirikson clocked a speedy 3.6 second run that netted the Alberta ropers $1551.23 each.

Other Medicine Hat winners included Clint Laye in the bareback riding (86.5 points on Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Double Dippin’, $1447) and reigning Canadian Saddle Bronc Champion, Clay Elliott (88 points on Kesler Rodeo’s Gone Country, $1613). The bull riding title was shared by 2018 All-Around Champion Jacob Gardner (87 points, Kesler Championship Rodeo’s All Fired Up) and New Zealand hand, Wade Marshall (87 points, Kesler Rodeo’s Late Nite Host) for $1435 each while Bailey Schellenberg earned the junior steer riding win with a 77 point ride – good for $343.37.

For complete unofficial Medicine Hat results go to rodeocanada.com

Next on the slate for CPRA events are the Picture Butte Bullarama April 12 and the Tofield Bull Bash April 13.

Courtesy of CPRA

Thurston Stays Hot in the Desert

In his first three years at the WNFR, Big Valley, Alberta’s Zeke Thurston, despite winning the 2016 world title, had made only one victory lap at the Thomas and Mack Arena here in Las Vegas. In round nine of the 2018 Finals, Thurston won his second go-round of the week, this one with a spectacular 90 point mastering of Andrews Rodeo’s Brutus. The seldom-ridden gelding with one buckoff to his credit already at this Finals threw everything at the cowboy on his back but Thurston withstood all of it and was still there at the horn.

 

“They don’t call this the eliminator pen for no reason,” Thurston acknowledged. “That little horse bucks off a lot more guys than actually ride him but you just throw caution to the wind with a horse like that and go after him.”

Thurston has placed in eight of nine rounds, the only blemish on his 2018 resume a buckoff in round 4. Sitting third in the aggregate and sixth overall, it will come down to round number ten exactly as it should be. Heading to tomorrow’s final round, reigning champion, Ryder Wright clings to the lead with CoBurn Bradshaw leading the aggregate and sitting 9th overall. There are at least half a dozen men with a shot at the title moving to the final round and one of those guys is Zeke Thurston.

The second Canadian in the field, Nanton, Alberta’s, Clay Elliott, did not fare as well as his free hand came in contact with his mount, Cowboy Casino from D and H Cattle, at a heart-breaking 7.97 seconds.

In the bareback riding, the Canadian cowboy from Manitoba, Orin Larsen, placed for the third time in three nights. He was 86.5 on a Bridwell Pro Rodeo bucker called Ted to split 4/5 in the round and collect $8884 to climb back into 3rd place in the world standings. The Friday night cheque gives the long, tall four-time WNFR qualifier $75,727 with placings in five rounds in total, a remarkable performance by a man just three weeks removed from meniscus surgery on his left knee.

“To be honest, I’m totally ecstatic with the way the week has gone,” Larsen smiled after the ride. “I wouldn’t have believed this was possible when I was in the hospital and the doctor was telling me we’d have to re-think Las Vegas. I have to give so much of the credit to Sport Medicine. They’ve really done a number on me.

Reigning World Champion, Tim O’Connell won the round with a 90 score leaving the two-time titleist from Iowa very much in the driver’s seat as he sits first in the world and in the aggregate with one round remaining.

Recently crowned Canadian Champion steer wrestler Scott Guenthner kept his solid WNFR going as he matched Larsen’s performance with a 4/5 split of his own. After an opening round no-time, Guenthner has placed in six of eight rounds and sits 8th in the aggregate and 4th in the world. Teammate Curtis Cassidy checked in with a 4.7 second run and wound up 7th in the round just one spot out of the money. Cassidy sits second in the world but is well back in the critical aggregate standings. 2016 World Champion Tyler Waguespack inched closer to a second title. While his 5.1 time wasn’t fast enough to get a cheque in the round, the Louisiana man they call “Wags” is first in both the aggregate and the overall standings heading to Saturday night.

Round 9 in the barrel racing event saw some rapid runs from start to finish, with World leader, Hailey Kinsel, proving once again why she’s been in command through much of the 2018 season. The Cotulla, Texas cowgirl ran her fastest time to date – a 13.40 – from the bottom of the ground to move from eighth to seventh in the average and garner her third go-round win of the Finals. With nearly $340,000 in earnings, Kinsel continues to enjoy a commanding and likely insurmountable World lead. Canadian, Carman Pozzobon, ran clean once again (14.17) to maintain her first place ranking in the aggregate.

Stephenville, Texas roper, Sterling Smith, was the ninth go-round winner on Friday night with a 7.4 second run, a nice turnaround for a cowboy who has struggled at this Finals with four no-times to date. Three-time Champion Tuf Cooper is still atop the standings but is a distant 8th in the aggregate standings which means that, like the saddle bronc riding, the tie-down race is far from decided. 2015 Champion, Caleb Smidt, is well-placed heading to Saturday as he holds the head in the lucrative aggregate standings and sits 6th overall. What makes this race so intriguing is the fact that the top five men in the world standings are all at the bottom end or out of the aggregate standings with one round remaining.

In the bull riding Eli Vastbinder of Union Grove, North Carolina turned in the highest marked ride of the week, a spectacular 91.5 on D and H Cattle’s Sweet Pro’s Bruiser. Canby, Oregon’s Chase Dougherty kept his fine Finals going with a second place 87 score and moved to second place in the world standings as well but won’t be able to catch Texan Sage Kimzey who, on Saturday night, will be crowned champion for the fifth time in his remarkable five-year career.

Derrick Begay and Cory Petska earned their third team roping go-round win of the week with a 3.8 second run – their fastest of the Finals so far. The Arizona ropers moved from seventh to fifth in the average as a result and sit fourth and third respectively in the World Standings. The top two rankings in those standings remained unchanged heading into tomorrow’s final round with both teams – Clay Smith and partner Paul Eaves along with Kaleb Driggers and his heeler Junior Nogueira sharing the 2/3 spot in the round with identical 4.1 second runs. The two teams stay in first and second overall heading to the final round while in the all-important aggregate race, Aaron Tsinigine and Trey Yates are first but are well down in the World standings while Driggers and Nogueira are in second place with Smith and Eaves in 4th place. And all of that means it’s a one-head run for a world title come Saturday night.

For WNFR results, stories and highlights, go to http://www.rodeocanada.com

Courtesy of CPRA

Canadians Go Six For Six On Canada Night

Every year on Canada Night (Round 8 of the WNFR), Canadian flags are an even bigger part of the action than they are during the other nine performances.

And, with all six Canadian competitors getting to the pay window, Canadian fans were on top of the rodeo world.

In the bareback riding, Canada’s Orin Larsen followed up his 7th go-round win with an 87 point ride on Hi Lo ProRodeo’s Pretty Woman, good for third in round 8 and a $15,653 injection into the Larsen bank account. That ride moved the Manitoba product to 8th place in the aggregate (average) and third in the world standings with only Caleb Bennett and defending world champion Tim O’Connell ahead of him on the season leaderboard. Shane O’Connell of Rapid City, South Dakota won the round with an 89.

Both Canadian steer wrestlers got to the pay window on Thursday night with Provost bulldogger, Scott Guenthner checking in with a 4.0 for third place while Donalda, Alberta’s Curtis Cassidy added a $4230 6th place cheque to his WNFR earnings. After eight rounds 2016 World Champion Tyler Waguespack has gone to the lead in the world standings, dropping Cassidy, (who at the moment is out of the aggregate) to second place. But first time finalist Will Lummus, from West Point, Mississippi, has placed in seven of eight rounds, leads the average and sits in 3rd place overall, just $14,000 behind Waguespack. Guenthner, coming off his first Canadian championship just a month ago, moved up one spot to fourth overall but sits well back in 8th place in the average.

The Canadian successes continued in the saddle bronc riding as two-time and reigning Canadian Champion Clay Elliott of Nanton enjoyed his best moment of the Finals so far with a sparkling 87.5 point ride on C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills, good for 4th place and $11,000. 2016 World Champion, Zeke Thurston, was right behind his teammate with an 86.5 point effort on Bailey Pro Rodeo’s James Bond. Elliott’s $6769 payday keeps him 4th in the aggregate and 6th in the world standings. Rusty Wright and Chase Brooks spilt the round with a pair of 90 point rides, which has become almost the commonplace winning score in the bronc riding this year. While Ryder Wright continues to sit atop the season leaderboard, there are several cowboys in hot pursuit including Thurston, the Water Valley, Alberta hand, who sits 6th overall but a strong 4th in the aggregate. Elliott is also in the aggregate at present, in sixth spot, and sits 10th overall.

But on Canada night, the Canadian contingent saved the best for the last. With the pressure mounting in the barrel racing event as contestants have struggled to keep the barrels up, Texan, Taci Bettis, earned her first round win of 2018 with a 13.57 second run. But Canada’s Carman Pozzobon took full advantage of her number one position on the ground as she ran her best time of the Finals so far – 13.70 and turned in her eighth clean run. With Jessica Routier hitting a barrel, the British Columbia cowgirl and her tremendous mare, Ripp (Ripn Lady), moved to number one in the very lucrative ($67,000 for first) aggregate. Texan Hailey Kinsel remains first overall.

Team ropers Bubba Buckaloo and Chase Tryan enjoyed the Round 8 win with a smoking 3.6 second run – the fastest time so far. And Clay Smith and Paul Eaves maintained their first place world standings ranking – a position they’ve held for the last three rounds – courtesy in part of a share of 2/3/4 tonight with a 4.1 second time – which paid $15,794 per man. And they sit fourth in the aggregate. 2015 World Champion header, Aaron Tsinigine, and heeling partner, Trey Yates, are still first in the aggregate (59.40/8) and hold down ninth and sixth respectively overall. Among the strongest contenders for a world title with only two rounds remaining appear to be the teams of Smith and Eaves and Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira (who despite not placing in round 8) are still second in in the average and second in the world.

In the tie-down roping, Ryan Jarrett, the 2004 World Champion, got off to a slow start at this Finals but has been lights out in the last three rounds including winning round 8 with a 7.3 second time giving him $55,000 over the last three performances. Three-time champion Tuf Cooper continues to lead the world and benefited from an inadvertent quick flag from the officials that gave him a 7.4 second split of 2nd and 3rd in the round. As well, the Texas superstar has closed to within $1000 of brother-in-law Trevor Brazile in the All-Around race.

The bull riding event was considered a lock before the WNFR began with the twenty-four year-old four-time champion, Sage Kimzey, having won over $300,000 before the week got underway. After round eight that saw Kimzey buck off for the fifth time in eight trips, the talented Texan is still in the driver’s seat but credit Chase Dougherty and Joe Frost with making it interesting. Dougherty, the Oregon bull rider, at his first WNFR, sits first in the average and 3rd overall with Frost, from Randlett, Utah, now sitting first in the average and 4th overall.

For WNFR detailed results, daily stock draws, stories and highlights, go to http://www.rodeocanada.com

Courtesy of CPRA

Orin Larsen – Overcoming the Odds

“You probably shouldn’t be going to the NFR.”

Those were the words of the surgeon who operated on Orin Larsen’s knee just three weeks ago and a week after the Canadian Finals Rodeo. The Manitoba bareback rider had torn his meniscus halfway through his final ride of the CFR. “And to emphasize his concern the surgeon added, “And if you do, there’s a risk of tearing that surgery apart again.”

And while the medical professional’s caution was understandable, so far Larsen has stared down the adversity and tonight put the exclamation point on his improbable comeback. Larsen, who is at the Thomas and Mack Arena for the fourth time, won round seven of the WNFR with a sensational 89 points on a cool Frontier Rodeo bucker named Tip Off.

“I was pretty cautious early in the week but I’m feeling more and more confident with it now,” Larsen noted. “I’ve been seeing the Sport Medicine team every day and they have been amazing. I owe them a lot for keeping me together.

“And that is such a good horse. Clayton Biglow had him earlier in the week and he made a great ride so I knew I had a chance. That horse is really up and down out there. Every time he hit me I just tried to hit him twice as hard.”

Larsen now sits 9th in the aggregate and 5th in the world. He did admit the knee injury has impacted one part of his Las Vegas experience. “I’ve had to cut back on Cowboy Christmas (western lifestyle market/trade show),” he grinned. “I can’t really handle that thirteen miles of walking.”

In the steer wrestling, neither of the Canadian bulldoggers hit the pay window in round seven. On a night when two world champions, Tyler Pearson and Hunter Cure, shared the victory lap in the go-round, newly-crowned Canadian Champion, Scott Guenthner, managed a 4.3 to finish 7th in the round, one spot out of the money. The good news is he moved up one notch in the aggregate and now holds the eighth and final payoff place there and is fifth in the world. Meanwhile Curtis Cassidy continues to lead the world despite a 6.1 in round seven. The difficulty facing the two Canadians in their quest for the world title is that Will Lummus sits second in the world just $15,000 back of Cassidy but Lummus is in the driver’s seat in the all-important aggregate that pays a whopping $67,000 to win it.

90 point rides were the order of the day in the saddle bronc riding as Wade Sundell and Chase Brooks split the round with identical nineties. Zeke Thurston, the 2016 World Champion from Big Valley, Alberta collected a fifth place cheque ($6769) for his ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Miss Ellie. Thurston has placed in six of seven rounds including a 1/2 split of round six. The 24 year-old sits third in the aggregate and fifth in the world, but trails world leader, Ryder Wright, by a very makeable $58,000. Nanton’s Clay Elliott did not make the horn in round seven and remains in 11th place in the world standings.

Round 7 in the team roping saw a tie for the win with 3.9 second runs for Luke Brown/Jake Long and Derrick Begay/Cory Petska. While Clay Smith and Paul Eaves remain in top spot in the World Standings, the pair experienced a set-back tonight by virtue of a no time in the round – dropping from second to fifth in the average. Kaleb Driggers and 2016 All-Around champ Junior Nogueira added a fourth place cheque to their WNFR tally and moved one notch up in the average to second spot. 2015 titleist Aaron Tsinigine and heeling partner Trey Yates remain contenders as well – picking up sixth place with a 4.9 to hang onto their number one average/aggregate position.

Fans enjoyed another speedy round of barrel racing with a number of thirteen second runs down on the ground. But it was the Cotulla, Texas cowgirl, Hailey Kinsel, who garnered top money for the third time at this WNFR with a 13.61 time in her bid for a first world title. Kinsel leads the world standings and sits third in the average. Savona, British Columbia’s Carman Pozzobon, clocked 14.01 from third position on the ground. While the run didn’t earn her a cheque, the 2017 Canadian Champion continued her climb in the lucrative average standings – moving up two notches from fourth to second spot.

2016 World Champion and a three-time Canadian title-holder, Tyson Durfey of Weatherford, Texas won round seven in the tie-down roping. Three-time champion of the world and reigning All Around Champion, Tuf Cooper, continues to lead the very tight tie-down race in an event that will almost certainly go down to the last few throws of the lariat on Saturday night.

Riding three of seven in the bull riding would be considered a solid winning percentage for most cowboys. But when that cowboy is the four-time world champion, Sage Kimzey, that’s as close to a slump as you’re likely to see for the Strong City, Texas superstar. Kimzey hit the ground prematurely in round seven, a go-round that saw Chase Dougherty taking home the big cheque courtesy of an 87.5 ride. Tennessee bull rider, Jeff Askey, has the hottest hand of all as he made his fifth ride in a row on Wednesday night, this one a fifth place effort with 84 points on the Wayne Vold bull, Mish Mash. C5 Rodeo’s Double Vision carried Roscoe Jarboe to 4th place in the round with an 84.5 point ride. Kimzey still holds a more than comfortable lead over the rest of the field with three rounds to go although a few guys, notably Dougherty and Askey are doing all they can to mount a late charge at the leader.

For WNFR detailed results, daily stock draws, stories and highlights, go to http://www.rodeocanada.com

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