This is the UNOFFICIAL list of the top 15 barrel racers in the WPRA who should be heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this December in Las Vegas, thanks to Miles McNarland, who keeps tabs on this all year long! As official results come in from the WPRA, I will update this post!
The number one cowgirl, Tiany Schuster and her horse Showmance, are ahead of Stevi Hillman who is occupying second position by $65,319, unofficially. The next closest by money won in the rough stock and timed events is bull riding sensation Sage Kimzey, who has won $234,136.27 in his 2017 season, then Tuf Cooper with $211,927.32.
Canada will be sending 9 of their best south of the border for finals, including Jordan Hansen, Tanner Milan, Scott Guenther, Jake Vold, Orin Ellis, Clay Elliot, Zeke Thurston, Layton Green, and Jeremy Buhler who will not be competing with his roping partner Levi Simpson as Simpson fell into the crying hole. Buhler will be roping with Tom Richards. Thanks to Ted Stovin with Everything Cowboy for the update. To learn more, check out his story here.
1 Tiany Schuster Krum, TX $250,016.98 90
2 Stevi Hillman Weatherford, TX $177,791.92 92
3 Nellie Miller Cottonwood, CA $130,536.75 46
4 Amberleigh Moore Salem, OR $120,852.11 50
5 Kassie Mowry Dublin, TX $115,162.81 24
6 Kathy Grimes Medical Lake, WA $111,785.38 45
7 Hailey Kinsel Cotulla, TX $97,778.87 66
8 Lisa Lockhart Oelrichs, SD $93,438.32 57
9 Taci Bettis (R) Round Top, TX $93,222.32 66
10 Sydni Blanchard Albuquerque, NM $91,376.73 74
11 Tillar Murray Fort Worth, TX $86,019.79 88
12 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi Victoria, TX $83,741.30 90
13 Kellie Collier Hereford, TX $83,342.23 96
14 Ivy Conrado Hudson, CO $77,490.74 83
15 Kimmie Wall Roosevelt, UT $73,819.70 58
16 Sherry Cervi Marana, AZ $73,015.80 76
17 Emily Miller Weatherford, OK $71,704.09 79
18 Jana Bean Ft Hancock, TX $70,654.26 92
19 Jackie Ganter Abilene, TX $68,758.99 96
20 Ari-Anna Flynn Charleston, AR $62,607.25 86
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- I know I just did a world standings post after the Calgary Stampede, but another huge paying rodeo was on this weekend and shifted the standings yet again. Of course this will continue to happen right ’til the last rodeo of the season, but this is important.
Hailey Kinsel, the same college student who won RFD-TV’s The American this past February for 1/3 of a MILLION dollars on her 5 year old mare named Sister who is out of Dinero aka PC Frenchmans Hayday, oh, and also won a College National Finals Rodeo title, won The Days of ’47 rodeo this past weekend, which paid $50,000 to first, plus the qualifying rounds, which send Kinsel from sitting in the 20’s, maybe it was even the 30’s, up to 7th spot with $92,812.19 after 47 rodeos attended. HOW EXCITING!!
The silver medalist, Kellie Tovar moved to 22nd and bronze medalist Lisa Lockhart moved to 9th position in the world rodeo standings.
Canadians Kirsty White and Carman Pozzobon are 32nd and 33rd respectively!
OH, and Tiany Schuster has almost a $100,000 ($97,961.10) lead over second place cowgirl, Stevi Hillman. No big deal..
Excited to watch how the standings play out the remainder of this season! Will we see Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi make a return to the bright lights of Vegas and finally get to watch the record setting Mona run at the T&M? Will Sydni Blanchard make it back? Will Amberleigh and Paige run again and break the arena record this year? I cannot wait to find out!
Standings courtesy of the WPRA–>
1 Tiany Schuster Krum, TX $229,279.82 63
2 Stevi Hillman Weatherford, TX $131,318.53 62
3 Kassie Mowry Dublin, TX $115,201.07 20
4 Nellie Miller Cottonwood, CA $112,500.60 34
5 Amberleigh Moore Salem, OR $106,751.81 37
6 Kathy Grimes Medical Lake, WA $99,804.79 28
7 Hailey Kinsel Cotulla, TX $92,812.19 47
8 Tillar Murray Fort Worth, TX $73,451.97 55
9 Lisa Lockhart Oelrichs, SD $67,642.11 34
10 Emily Miller Weatherford, OK $66,189.48 45
11 Taci Bettis (R) Round Top, TX $63,453.31 48
12 Kellie Collier Hereford, TX $61,404.53 56
13 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi Victoria, TX$54,318.68 53
14 Kimmie Wall Roosevelt, UT $51,730.41 34
15 Ari-Anna Flynn Charleston, AR $51,629.15 52
16 Sydni Blanchard Albuquerque, NM $51,334.25 44
17 Tammy Fischer Ledbetter, TX $49,212.45 56
18 Ivy Conrado Hudson, CO $48,826.05 48
19 Taylor Langdon Aubrey, TX $45,574.64 45
20 Carley Richardson Pampa, TX$45,074.60 38
21 Sherry Cervi Marana, AZ $43,848.12 37
22 Kelly Tovar Rockdale, TX $42,469.18 45
23 Cayla Small Bokchito, OK $40,261.91 41
24 Sabra O’Quinn (G) Ocala, FL $39,791.37 42
25 Jackie Ganter Abilene, TX $39,447.93 61
26 Sidney Forrest Lipan, TX $36,145.34 52
27 Jana Bean Ft Hancock, TX $36,102.27 50
28 Carmel Wright Roy, MT $35,699.73 48
29 Ericka Nelson Century, FL $35,366.56 60
30 Christine Laughlin Pueblo, CO$33,303.02 41
31 Jordan Moore Mauston, WI $33,000.69 47
32 Kirsty White Maricopa, AZ $32,432.23 22
33 Carman Pozzobon Aldergrove, BC $32,229.10 21
34 Shelby Janssen Coleman, OK $32,033.10 63
35 Tracy Nowlin Nowata, OK $31,892.57 34
36 Sammi Bessert Grand Junction , CO$29,785.80 27
37 Kim Schulze Larkspur, CO $28,842.32 31
38 Nicole Laurence Cresson, TX $28,456.15 48
39 Jane Melby Bokchito, OK $28,263.78 47
40 Laura Kennedy Quitman, AR $28,129.91 59
41 Michele McLeod Whitesboro, TX $28,100.88 62
42 Jaime Hinton Bulverde, TX $27,082.05 38
43 Mary Walker (G) Ennis, TX $26,282.39 39
44 Lori Todd Willcox, AZ $26,104.94 24
45 Jana Griemsman Piedmont, SD $25,818.53 25
46 Fallon Taylor Collinsville, TX $25,687.64 16
47 Nikki Hansen Dickinson, ND $24,157.40 25
48 Jessica Telford Caldwell, ID $23,682.42 37
49 Trula Churchill Valentine, NE $23,537.05 37
50 Brooke Rix Skidmore, TX $23,230.16 34
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is over for another year. This means we can all start to catch up on some sleep, our non-rodeo friends can talk to us about civilian matters again, and those of you who unfollowed me on Facebook for fear of seeing live results before you witnessed the run, can “follow” or “friend” me again.
First things first. HOLY INTENSE BARREL RACE!!! Huge congrats to Mary Burger and Mo on their world title. Though her and Mo may not have the prettiest pattern each night, he still managed to make up time with his huge stride, probably saying to Mary, “hang on tight lady, here we go!”
Queen B beat Ambereigh Moore by $10,793.24. Moore came into the finals in 15th position and finished 2nd! Amber & her mare Paige were amazing to watch and quickly became all anyone could talk about. They even tied Taylor Jacobs arena record of 13.37 and could’ve beat it but tipped a barrel to be a 13.31. Now, you may say “Cass, she tipped that barrel, if she went around it she wouldn’t have been that fast.” But when you watch that run, the horse had to take an extra stride around the tipped barrel and she didn’t hustle the mare home. So I still believe she would’ve had the new record. I got in on a WNFR Barrel Draft and after I had made my picks, watched Amberleighs runs on Facebook from earlier in the year, and KNEW I should’ve put her on my team. Paige works phenomenal indoors. They are a great team and hope to see a lot of them in the 2017 season.
Lisa Lockhart and Mr. Consistency himself/Louie, won the Average title staying clean for all ten rounds, and have the new average record of 137.98! They always make just the prettiest runs. Sherry Cervi broke her own WNFR earnings record which was $155,899 from 2013; Sherry earned $164,634.63 this year and Amberleigh Moore earned a whopping $187,692.29. Poor Mary Walker & Latte were unable to pull a single cheque and only had a few clean runs. I was completely shocked that Tibbie ducked third barrel on the first night and second barrel on the last night. Hats off to Ivy for riding the hair off of that power house each night. They are still one of my favourites to watch! I was also happy to see a Facebook Live feed with Sarah Rose McDonald where she was asked how she feels about all the talk regarding her riding, where she happily replied “I don’t care.” Round 7 was my absolute fave to watch of her and Bling where they ended up 2nd with a 13.66. Also, how about Cervi and Arson bringing the heat! She rides him so so well (duh, Cassie it’s Sherry, she could ride a camel at finals and do well) but they also won (tied for 1st) the last round the same as she did last year on him. Way to be Sherry!
My recommendation for all barrel racers for next year that will be watching, go follow Blaine McDougal on Facebook. He’s a barrel racer out of Kansas and did hilarious 20 minute live feed recaps of each round. He also has perfect brows. You’re welcome.
Lastly regarding the barrels, kudos to those who were able to bring new ground into the Thomas & Mack, which allowed the top 15 to give us the most exciting finals to watch!
Okay, okay, now onto other WNFR excitement. Snow Mexican’s (Canadians’s) brought home THREE World Championship titles. Holy sweet maple syrup, we’re really doin’ it Harry!
Levi Simpson won the world with $249,133.31 and the average along side his pard Jeremy Buhler who took home a grand total of $258,311.13. They were the first all Canadian team to make it to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and the first to clinch the world title. Though it was not Buhler who started #FearTheBeard, ropers across the world now do, fear the beard.
Zeke Thurston beat out Jacobs Crawley for the world title by $2,831.39 after winning the average and a 3/4 place split in the final round where Crawley received a no score for missing his horse out of the chute. Jake Watson made it into the finals just by a few hundred bucks, and silently flew under the radar during the first bit of the finals, slowly climbing up by dominating the average. Watson ended up 2nd to Thurston in the average, and finished 5th in the world!
Jake Vold finished second in the world with $240,161.06. Vold had 3 go-round wins which launched him towards the top. Orin Larsen finished third in the world with $219,372.59 and had a go-round win despite all the pain he was in with his ribs during the finals. Kolton Schmidt came into the finals first in the world, but the pressures of the finals may have got to him with several misses, though he and Shay Carroll did win Round 9, they finished 10th in the world. We all know that Kolton is one hell-of-a roper and all of Canada looks forward to watching his 2017 season!
Also I would like to give a shout out to Dennis Halstead for being Alternate Barrel Man during the WNFR, and to Gary Remple as one of the pickup men! As well a shout out to Calgary Stampede as their 6 year old mare Xplosive Skies was named top Bareback Horse of the 2016!
Other Canadian’s who were making it big in Vegas this December were Daryl Thiessen, Travis James & Monty Philips who competed at the Bull Fighters Only Championships, Thiessen making it to the short round, Monty was out early with a bad knee, and Travis did not advance.
Veronica Swales won the 2D taking home $10,000 at the All In Barrel Race in Las Vegas that ran during the WNFR. Sandy McGinnis & Jordyn Schuett also competed at the All In. McGinnis figured she may as well go big or go home while down in Sin City, she entered the American Qualifier finishing 20th against NFR horses and some of the best out there right now. Rylee Shields & Lindsay Sears also entered and finished in the Top 10 and will be competing at the Semi-Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Canadian Matthew Mousseau won the Pro Fantasy Rodeo draft that thousands of people enter.
Dang, the Canadians sure cleaned up down south the past ten days, eh?
Full World Standings are below.
1 Tim O’Connell $374,271.53, 2 Jake Vold $240,161.06, 3 Orin Larsen $219,372.59, 4 Caleb Bennett $217,167.12, 5 Tanner Aus $213,152.41, 6 R.C. Landingham $211,986.10 7 Clayton Jon $171,064.17, 8 J.R. Vezain, $159,508.019,Winn Ratliff $153,679.51, 10 Wyatt Denny $148,861.91, 11 Richie Champion $129,092.09, 12 Jake Brown $120,282.43, 13 Evan Jayne $119,081.12, 14 Ty Breuer $114,329.92, 15 Jessy Davis $79,916.05
1 Tyler Waguespack $298,675.58, 2 Matt Reeves $226,542.67, 3 Clayton Hass $213,111.08, 4 J.D. Struxness $213,107.74, 5 Jason Thomas $205,136.76, 6 Dakota Eldridge $176,672.53, 7 Ty Erickson $145,672.82, 8 Riley Duvall $129,103.74, 9 Josh PeekP $119,156.51, 10 Nick Guy $118,308.09, 11 Billy Bugenig $109,330.21,12 Trevor Knowles $101,336.11 13 Cody Cabral $101,331.34, 14 Jacob Talley $96,686.36, 15 Baylor Roche $93,635.63
Team Roping (Headers)
1 Levi Simpson $249,133.31, 2 Kaleb Driggers $230,283.97, 3 Luke Brown $228,435.76, 4 Riley Minor $220,166.07, 5 Clay SmithB $218,611.20, 6 Dustin Bird $200,102.27, 7 Erich Rogers $189,184.93, 8 Matt Sherwood $145,906.76, 9 Zac Small $143,787.19,10 Kolton Schmidt $132,378.12, 11 Colby Lovell $122,245.15, 12 Tyler Wade $114,529.41, 13 Garrett Rogers $109,731.45, 14Cody Snow $100,717.73, 15 Coleman Proctor $92,049.18
Team Roping (Heelers)
1 Jeremy Buhler $258,311.13, 2Junior Nogueira $230,283.97, 3 Jake Long $225,091.16, 4 Paul Eaves $219,900.02, 5 Brady Minor $218,658.07,6 Russell Cardoza $193,441.35,7 Cory Petska $190,411.17, 8 Quinn Kesler $145,876.06, 9 Wesley Thorp $138,221.06, 10 Dakota Kirchenschlager, $120,755.43, 11 Shay Carroll $110,968.20, 12Jake Michael $109,152.43, 13 Dugan Kelly $106,510.45, 14 Travis Graves $106,450.23, 15Billie Seabees $98,833.62
The Canadian contingent went into their night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo needing just $38,000 to top the half million dollar mark in take home pay from the ten million dollar event, easily surpassing the best previous Canadian performance.
And Orin Larsen wasted no time in getting ‘Team Canada’ closer to that milestone payoff as he made his best ride of the 2016 WNFR with an 87.5 score on Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage to win his first ever go-round and the $26,000 plus first place cheque. The talented Manitoba cowboy has fashioned an inspirational story as he re-injured a painful rib tear in the opening round but has refused to give in. And over the last three days, Larsen has placed in all three rounds to win almost fifty thousand dollars.
“Full Baggage – he’s a big, strong horse that I’ve always wanted to get on and there’s no better place to do that than right here,” Larsen noted with a smile. “That trip to the South Point (nightly go-round buckle presentations) is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid – that’s going to be an emotional roller coaster for sure.”
Referencing the pain that has been an unpleasant accompaniment to every one of his rides at the Finals, the two time WNFR qualifier was philosophical. “It’s not too bad during the ride other than the popping and crunching that’s happening. But after the ride, that’s when I can feel it. But tonight I won so I feel pretty good.”
Airdrie’s Jake Vold who won three rounds in a row earlier at this Finals, had some trouble with the Pickett Rodeo bareback horse, Top Notch and had to settle for just 70.5 points.
Canadian bareback horses had a big night as C5 Rodeo’s Virgil packed Winn Ratliff to 86.5 and second place while Big Stone Rodeo’s Call Me Kindra carried JR Vezain to an 85 point 3/4 split.
For the third night in a row all three Canadian saddle bronc riders were in the money. The ‘kids’ (the oldest is 23) were led by Nanton’s Clay Elliott who rode Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic Fringe to an 86 point second place finish and a $20,730 dollar payday. Big Valley cowboy Zeke Thurston spurred out an 85 point effort on Pete Carr Rodeo’s Manhattan Moon for third place money of $15,653 and the guy who has been Mr. Consistency through the first eight days in Las Vegas – Jake Watson of Hudson’s Hope, BC – made it eight for eight with an 82 point ride on JK Rodeo’s Dakota Babe for 6th place and $4230.
Watson sits in top spot in the average and Thurston who has bucked off only one horse (at 7.92 seconds) is right behind Watson in the average with just two go-rounds remaining.
Two time World Champion, Cody Wright turned back the clock on this night and rode like his two sons Rusty and Ryder who are among the five Wrights qualified for Las Vegas in 2016. The elder statesman of the family was a brilliant 88 points on Lipstick and Whiskey from Powder River Rodeo, a horse that eighteen year-old Ryder rode to a go round win earlier in the week.
The lone disappointment for the dedicated Canadian fans, who had the flags waving with attitude tonight, came in the team roping as Levi Simpson (Ponoka) and Jeremy Buhler (Arrowwood) took their first no time of the rodeo and fell to third place in the average. Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt went after it but broke the barrier to take him and Texas partner Shay Carroll to a 13.9 with the ten second penalty.
The 2016 Canadian champion team of Dustin Bird from Cutbank, Montana and Russell Cardoza from Terrebonne, Oregon were picture perfect in making the fastest run of the week, a sensational 3.7 seconds to win the round and keep Bird in the #1 spot in the All-Around standings.
Terrell, Texas bulldogger Clayton Hass won the round in his event with a 4.1 second run and remains in contention for both the steer wrestling and all-around titles. And in the barrel race, Oregon cowgirl, Amberleigh Moore, equaled the arena record with her 13.37 to win the round while former champion, Mary Burger, at 68 years young finished third in the round with a 13.66 to inch closer to her second world title.
Three Canadian champions finished atop the tie down roping leaderboard for the eighth go-round. Sulphur, Louisiana’s Shane Hanchey topped the round with a 6.8 second run; Blackfoot Idaho’s Matt Shiozawa (the reigning Canadian Champ) was second at 7.1 and the new dad from the state of Washington, Tyson Durfey, finished up in third spot with a 7.3.
It was fitting that in the Canada Night finale, it was a Canadian bull, Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Cooper’s Comet, that carried Fruita, Colorado cowboy, Tyler Smith, to an 89 point win in a round that saw only two men able to ride. In two trips at the 2016 WNFR, Cooper’s Comet, the 2016 Canadian Bull of the Year, has been 88.5 and 89 points and his riders, Smith and Roscoe Jarboe have both won the rounds.
Canadians continued their assault on the Wrangler National Finals’ chequing account and their own all-time earnings record in Wednesday’s seventh round.
The big move for the Canadian contingent once again came courtesy of the team roping duo, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler. The talented twosome, from Ponoka and Arrowwood, Alberta respectively, roped their steer in 4.3 seconds to split second in the round and add $18,192 to their earnings total. More importantly, they moved to first place in the average and are the only team to have roped all seven of their steers. The average or aggregate – which is the total time on ten head – pays $67,000 to the first-place finisher.
“We just missed getting to the Finals last year,” Simpson commented, “so we changed a few things so that wouldn’t happen again. We went to fewer rodeos so we could be rested and focused for the ones we did go to.”
“We’re just trying to stay aggressive and take it one night at a time,” Buhler added. “Levi’s turning ‘em just great and I’m just trying to do my job on the back side.”
Matt Sherwood and Quinn Kesler won the round with a 4.1 while the third Canadian in the team roping, Barrhead, Alberta’s Kolton Schmidt along with Texas partner, Shay Carroll continued to struggle and finished out of the money in round seven.
Jake Watson is quickly becoming one of the very cool stories of the 2016 WNFR. On a night that saw all three Canadian bronc riders cash some chips, the 23 year old Hudson’s Hope, BC cowboy stuck an 83.5 point ride on the three time Canadian champion saddle bronc, Get Smart from the Northcott Macza firm. Watson, who barely squeaked into 15th place to qualify for his first WNFR, split 2/3/4 in the round, for a $15,794 payday. He’s climbed all the way to first place in the average and 7th in the world standings with over $143,000 won. Watson split the round with world leader and defending champion, Jacobs Crawley and Jake Wright who was aboard the Calgary Stampede’s Waning Moon. Another Stampede bronc, Tiger Warrior, ended the perfect run of first time finalist Allen Boore who was 6 for 6 before tonight’s encounter with the Grated Coconut son.
Reigning Canadian champion Clay Elliott put together an 81 point effort on Stace Smith’s Pretty Boy for a fifth place $6769 cheque while Zeke Thurston, who won round six, teamed with Burch Rodeo’s Angel Slings for 6th place in the round and $4230.
Orin Larsen followed up his 2/3 spilt and first cheque of the Wrangler National Finals rodeo in Tuesday’s sixth go-round with a split of sixth place in round seven to add a $2215 cheque to the $18 thousand plus he collected the day before. The Manitoba product, who came to the WNFR in second place, was 78 points on Rafter G Rodeo’s Ankle Biter. Meanwhile the blazing pistols of Jake Vold cooled slightly on this night. The Ponoka cowboy who had won the previous three rounds was out of the money in round seven as he managed a 76 score on Beutler and Son’s Nod Big .Com Wonderland. Vold remains in second place in the average and fourth in the world.
The California man and Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier, RC Landingham won the round with an 84.5 on a horse called Scarlet Fever while Tim O’Connell continues to enjoy a commanding lead atop the bareback riding leaderboard. On the stock side where going into round seven, $240,000 had been won on Canadian horses and bulls, the Calgary Stampede’s Trail Dust carried Texan Richie Champion to 79 points and a fifth place cheque for $6769.
Defending average champion, Dakota Endridge won the round in the steer wrestling with a 3.4 second time. Leading the world after seven rounds is Louisiana cowboy Tyler Waguespack with $204,000. Mary Burger came to Las Vegas leading the world and the 68 year old grandmother continued her storybook year as she and her tremendous gelding, Mo, posted a 13.58 to win the round and consolidate her lead for the world title. Canadian champion Matt Shiozawa of Blackfoot, Idaho won his first round of this WNFR with a 7.3 second run one night after he suffered the misfortune of having his rope break to force a no time.
And in the bull riding, all eyes were initially focused on Sage Kimzey and his quest for a third world title. But former world champion, Shane Proctor, has become one of the big storylines and tonight he made it seven for seven as the Washington cowboy was part of a three-way split of first with 85 points. Joining Kimzey in the Winner’s Circle were Garrett Tribble and Cody Rostockyj.
The Canadian saddle bronc riders have been watching the bareback riders and team ropers getting all the headlines. And in go-round six of the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, they decided to do something about it.
The youthful trio enjoyed their finest hour to date as all three Canadian bronc riders placed in the round for the first time at this Finals. It was Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston leading the way as he put together a spectacular 88.5 on C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills for his first-ever WNFR go-round win. The win gives him $49,923 in earnings to date and third place in the slot machine-like average.
Right behind the second generation bronc rider was Hudson Hope, BC’s Jake Watson with his 87 point effort on Frontier Rodeo’s Times Up. The second place cheque meant the very consistent Watson is now 6 for 6 and has moved to the overall lead in the average. The third member of the Canuck threesome, Canadian Champion Clay Elliott, saw his 82.5 on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Pearl hold on for a split of sixth place and $2115.
“That’s just a really nice little horse of Vern’s (MacDonald),” Thurston grinned after his ride. “I’ve had her a couple of times before and I’ve won quite a bit of money on her. She felt really good out there.”
Thurston had to put the disappointment of a 7.92 second buckoff earlier in the week behind him and is definitely in a groove now. “Yeah, Killer Bee is one of the buckiest horses I’ve ever been on.” Thurston acknowledged. “I set an arena record on him at Tucson but here he got me. You just have to put those things out of your mind and get ready for the next one.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“It’s not over ‘till I win.”
Those were the words of Canadian bareback rider, Orin Larsen. The talented Manitoba cowboy had not had the finals he had hoped for, particularly as he came into the Wrangler NFR in second place in the world standings and was coming off a terrific Canadian Finals Rodeo that saw him win three rounds.
But it was clear almost from the outset that all was not right with the soft-spoken two time WNFR qualifier.
“I’d torn some ribs back in September but after the CFR I thought I was pretty well home free. But about two or three jumps out on my first round horse here (Frontier Rodeo’s Night Watch) I felt a pop and knew I’d tore them again.”
Not one to look for an excuse, Larsen was quick to accentuate the positive. “The Sport Medicine Team has done as awesome job of keeping me in one piece,” he stated. “ I’m really looking forward to the last half of the Finals.” That despite admitting to ‘feeling it crunch and pop’ as he rides.
Larsen noted as well that he’s aware of the support of Canadian fans both here in Las Vegas and back in Canada. “That means so much to me; I really appreciate it,” he smiled. “I don’t have any choice. I have to go out there and win.”
It turns out that those fans and Larsen’s attitude were just the combination to get his week turned around.
In tonight’s round six, he climbed aboard Bar T Rodeo’s Ruby’s Girl and did what he has done all season long, spurring out an 85 score to split 2/3 in the round and pocket his first cheque of this finals, a sizable $18,192 payoff. In fact only one man was better.
And that man, fellow Canadian, Jake Vold, was a half point better on Burch Rodeo’s Jim Dandy to post his third go-round win in succession. Vold’s $91,000 plus haul has moved him to 4th place in both the average and the world standings with four rounds remaining.
“I had Jim Dandy here in 2014; I think it was in the same round,” Vold recalled, “and I knew he was good. But I think I rode him better this time.”
As happy as he was with his own performance, Vold was equally tickled to see his countryman enjoy some success. “Orin is as tough as nails – riding with separated ribs; I was really excited to see him win a big cheque tonight.”
A couple of Canadian horses grabbed a share of the spotlight in the bareback riding as well. The Calgary Stampede’s Tootsie Roll carried Tanner Aus to an 84 point ride and 4th place in the round while Kesler Rodeo’s Starburst was the mount for Jake Brown’s 84 point 5/6 split.
The all Canadian team roping duo of Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler kept their streak of qualified runs going with a 9.3 to finish just out of the money but maintain their hold on second place in the average. Lady luck continued to plague the third Canadian team roper, Kolton Schmidt, and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll as the team is still without a cheque to date.
The $416,000 won by Canadian competitors at the 2016 WNFR has made this finals the most lucrative for Canadian contestants in the history of the event.
In the bull riding, Outlaw Buckers’ Chip Shot carried Rexburg, Idaho’s Garrett Smith to 82 points, just outside of the money in a round that saw Minnesota’s Brennon Eldred ride Championship Pro Rodeo’s The Duke to a 90.5 score for the win.
There was a three-way split for first in the steer wrestling between Billy Bugenig, Riley Duvall and Tyler Waguespack – all with 3.6 second runs. Two time Canadian Champion Tyson Durfey was the quickest of the tie-down ropers with a 7.4. And in the barrel racing, Utah cowgirl Kimmie Wall ran the fastest time of the finals to date – a 13.46 – for her second round win this week.
Canada Night doesn’t happen until Thursday at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. But apparently the Canadian contingent of WNFR qualifiers either didn’t get the memo or they just plain couldn’t wait.
The first all Canadian team roping team hasn’t just showed up at this Finals, they have been a factor in every round, including a win in round one. Tonight the Alberta twosome, Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and Arrowwood heeler, Jeremy Buhler, had their fastest run to date, a 4.0 to split the round with Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, each of the four men pocketing $23,480. Simpson and Buhler remain in 2nd place in the average and have moved to 7th and 6th respectively in the world standings.
“We just missed the WNFR field last year,” Simpson commented. “This year, we worked harder at it, put in more practice time and prepared mentally for every situation in the arena.”
That preparation served the Alberta duo well in Round 5. “Like Levi, I don’t get caught up in the show,” Buhler, the man sporting the most famous beard at this NFR added. “I don’t hear the music, I just keep it simple and watch the feet.”
It took Jake Vold 14 WNFR rounds to win his first go round buckle. It took him one to win his second. Twenty four hours after winning round four with a sensational 89.5, the Airdrie (via Ponoka) three time Canadian champion came back with a spectacular 89 score on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez. The back to back wins have propelled Vold to 4th place in the average and fifth in the world.
Before the twenty-nine year-old talent nodded his head tonight, there were already three scores of 86 points or higher on the board. No problem for Jake Vold.
“I want someone to jump out there with a 90 so I can go get them,” he confided. “Seeing big rides before me fuels my fire.”
The Calgary Stampede bucking sensation Xplosive Skies lived up to his name as he pitched Manitoba bareback rider Orin Larsen to the Thomas and Mack turf before the eight second klaxon en route to winning the Rank Horse of the Night Award.
And not to be outdone, the three Canadian bronc riders brought their A (Eh!) game with Canadian Champion, Clay Elliott grabbing a 3/4 split – courtesy of his 86.5 ride on Bar T Rodeo’s Son of Sadie. And right behind his countryman was the Hudson Hope, British Columbia man, Jake Watson who took home a 6th place cheque with his 85 score on Stace Smith Rodeo’s Resistol’s Top Hat. Watson has quietly fashioned a solid Finals to date after qualifying in fifteenth spot. He is now five for five and has climbed to third in the average.
The third Canadian bronc rider, recent bridegroom Zeke Thurston was 81 points on the appropriately named Maple Leaf of Frontier Rodeo. The Big Valley cowboy was just out of the money in Round 5. Reigning World Champion, Jacobs Crawley, from Boerne, Texas, bounced back from a Round 4 buck-off to mark a spectacular 89 on Frontier Rodeo’s four time world champion, Medicine Woman. The Monday night go-round also marked the end of 18 year old Ryder Wright’s record-tying run. After four consecutive go-round wins, the Milford, Utah cowboy bucked off Flying 5 Rodeo’s Spring Planting.
Minnesota bull dogger JD Struxness continued his hot streak with a 3.5 second run. Over the last three days, Struxness has two go-round wins and a 1-2 split. In the barrel racing, go-round winner was Keizer, Oregon cowgirl Amberleigh Moore with a 13.62 second run. And in the bull riding, Scottie Knapp of Albuquerque, New Mexico made his first ride of the 2016 WNFR a profitable one. His 87 on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Breaking Bad was good for the go round win.
As Jake Vold made the first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo victory lap of his career, the three time Canadian champion’s grin lit up the Thomas and Mack Arena. And why not—his 89.5 score on the back of Flying U Rodeo’s Lil Red Hawk was the highest marked ride to date in the bareback riding and netted the Airdrie cowboy a cool first place cheque for $26,230 to raise his total WNFR earnings to $48,782 and jump him to fifth place in the average.
But Vold made it clear that it’s the go-round buckle that is the icing on the cake. “I was close a couple of times the last time I was here but didn’t quite get there,” Vold admitted.
“I saw some of the guys this week with their buckles and I thought to myself, I want one of those,” the 29 year old superstar added. “Canada will be pretty excited about this. It’ll be quite the night over there.” (at the nightly buckle presentation at the South Point Casino).
Inglis, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen had his best result to date, posting an 83 on J Bar J’s Pass the Hat to finish just one half point out of the bareback riding money.
On the best night so far for ‘TeamCanada’, a pair of saddle bronc riders enjoyed a lucrative round four as well. Jake Watson of Hudson Hope, British Columbia put together a solid 84 point effort on the Calgary Stampede’s Tokyo Bubbles to split 3/4 and collect $13,326 on the night. Right behind Watson was Zeke Thurston whose 83.5 on United Pro Rodeo’s Ropin Dreams netted the Big Valley cowboy a 5/6 split and $5500. The third Canadian bronc rider fared less well. Canadian champion, Clay Elliott was unable to navigate eight successful seconds on the back of United Pro Rodeo’s Pow Wow Nights.
The dream sequence that has been the Ryder Wright story of the WNFR continued as the 18 year-old became just the second rough stock cowboy in the history of the event to win four consecutive rounds outright. (The other was two time world champion Robert Etbauer in 1991). In round four, the amazing teenager who is riding here with his brother, his dad, and three uncles (qualifier CoBurn Bradshaw married into the family in 2013) spurred out an 85.5 points on Flying Five Rodeo’s Sundance.
The Utah teenager, who cam to the Finals in 14th place, is now just a thousand dollars out of the lead for the world and sits comfortably in the lead in the average while season leader and defending champion, Jacobs Crawley, bucked off his round four horse.
Team ropers Levi Simpson of Ponoka and Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood kept their solid run going despite catching one leg on the backside to incur their second five second penalty in a row. Tonight, however, saw several teams struggle with six no times and a broken barrier leaving the Alberta duo splitting 6th for a $2115 payday per man. The ‘go-round from hell’ , while costly for so many, including Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll, was especially beneficial for Simpson and Buhler as the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the NFR team roping climbed all the way to second place in the cash-rich average. The round was won by the Minor brothers, Riley and Brady Minor of Ellensburg, Washington with a 4.4 second run.
In the steer wrestling, the big man from Appleton, Minnesota, J.D. Struxness, followed up a 1/2 split in the third round with a 3.8 run in round four to win it outright this time around. And in the tie down roping, Marty Yates, the Stephenville, Texas hand was just two tenths of a second off Cody Ohl’s arena record to pocket the big cheque. Yates who qualified for the WNFR in 15th place was 6.8 seconds for the go-round victory. The barrel racing got blazing fast as Michelle McLeod of Whitesboro, Texas smoked a run of 13.49 to post her first go-round win of the 2016 Finals.
Jake Vold wasn’t the only Canadian to collect the go round buckle on this night. The Calgary Stampede’s Wranglers Extreme was top bull of the round as he carried Sulphur, Oklahoma’s Brennon Eldred to 86.5 points and the win. The seven year-old bull was purchased by the Stampede in the spring from Todd Braithwaite and just three weeks ago carried eventual Canadian Champion, Jordan Hansen to a second place go round result with an 85 score.
The performances of Stampede stock added to an already productive week for the organization’s stock contracting division. Earlier in the week, it was announced that the Stampede had been named the primary stock contractor for Horse Heaven Round Up in Kennewick, Washington.
“We already have a major presence in the Pacific Northwest at that time,” Stampede spokesman Keith Marrington related, “so this fits really well with our program. Kennewick is a very progressive committee; they have $20,000 added and a short round so we’re very excited to become the primary stock contractor there.”
Outlaw Buckers’ Rodeo’s No Good Deed was also outstanding in the round as he bucked off NFR rookie Rory Maier from Timber Lake, South Dakota.
The all-Canadian matchup of three time Canadian champion, Jake Vold and the Big Stone bareback horse Spilled Perfume, netted the Ponoka cowboy 83.5 points for a 4/5 split and $8884. For Vold, who now lives in Airdrie, it was his second placing in the first three rounds.
“I’ve had that horse before,” Vold commented, “and it’s been kind of a love-hate relationship. But I went back to one of my older riggins tonight and it felt really good. It’s early yet but I’m happy with the way the Finals have gone so far.”
And for the second night in a row, it was a Canadian horse grabbing a share of the spotlight as C5 Rodeo’s Virgil carried Minnesota talent, Tanner Aus to a spectacular 88.5 and a share of first place. Aus shared the winner’s circle with Clayton Biglow, the California-bred PRCA bareback riding Rookie of the Year who so far has split first and second in two rounds and been second in the other for total winnings of over $77,000 and top spot in the average.
The second Canadian bareback rider, Orin Larsen, put together his best effort so far with a 79.5 on Corey and Lange’s Tripwire but finished out of the money.
In the team roping, Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler had a five second penalty rob them of another big cheque as their 9.0 (with the penalty) left them out of the money in the round but the Alberta duo sits in third place in the lucrative average race after three performances. Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll, continued to struggle and were blanked for the third time in three nights.
Zeke Thurston, the second generation Water Valley, Alberta bronc rider shook off the disappointment of round two’s 7.92 second buckoff and spurred out an 85 point ride on J Bar J’s Julia for a 2/3 split in the round and his first cheque of the finals—a tidy $18,192. Thurston split the round with Rusty Wright but it was the youngest Wright, Ryder, who continued to be the story of this finals as he rode Powder River Rodeo’s Lipstick N Whiskey to 86.5 and his third go-round win in a row. The eighteen year-old’s earnings to date are a whopping $88.000; he holds a commanding 14 point lead in the average and he’s climbed from 14th place coming in to the WNFR to second place in the world standings, hot on the heels of season leader and reigning world champion, Jacobs Crawley.
It was a split of first place in the steer wrestling as well with Tyler Waguesback and JD Struxness (Louisiana and Minnesota respectively) bulldogging their steers in 3.9 seconds for $23,480 apiece.
Apache, Oklahoma’s Hunter Herrin and Winnie, Texas cowboy Cade Swor split the round in the tie down roping with identical 7.0 second rounds. And four time Canadian champion Lisa Lockhart and the ever-dependable Louie blazed the cloverleaf pattern in 13.92 seconds for her first go round win of this finals.
And in the bull riding, the much anticipated matchup between reigning world champion Sage Kimsey and the Calgary Stampede bull, Night Moves was as advertised. The two time world champion won the confrontation to score 87.5 and finish second in the round. But it was another former World Champion, Shane Proctor of Grand Coulee, Washington who brought the Thomas and Mack faithful to their feet. Proctor matched up with the 2016 Bull of the Year, Midnight Bender, for a spectacular 91 score and the round win. A second Canadian bull, Spotted Demon from the Big Stone Rodeo Company made short work of the Sulphur, Oklahoma hand, Brennon Aldred.
Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler had already written a page in Canadian rodeo history when the pair became the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the team roping. But they might have written an even cooler story when the duo blistered a 4.4 second run to win the opening round and collect the go-round winner’s cheques of $26,230 each. Simpson, the Ponoka (via Claresholm) header and Buhler from Arrowwood, showed almost no sign of first-time jitters as they backed into the box at the hallowed Thomas and Mack Arena for the first time.
“To tell you the truth,” Buhler commented after the run, “the money wasn’t on my mind at all. It was just awesome. I’ve run that steer in my head ten million times. It was nice to run him in real life tonight. And the way it went, it couldn’t get any better.”
His partner was equally thrilled, “When we were on stage getting our back numbers, it kind of hit me right there,” Simpson admitted. “Well, maybe we could be back here getting a buckle. But to have it happen in round one is pretty exciting.”
Both cowboys were especially appreciative of the support they have received from the Canadian rodeo community. “You have a whole country standing behind you, Buhler noted. “The messages, the calls, everything we got from our families, friends, acquaintances… it felt awesome knowing that there’s that many people pulling for you.”
Unfortunately, Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead, Alberta and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll took a no time as, like Simpson and Buhler, Schmidt made his debut appearance at the WNFR.
Jake Vold was the first of the eight man strong Canadian contingent to display his wares at Thursday night’s first round of the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Ponoka native posted an 81 score on Sankey and Robinson’s Sozo to earn a 5/6/6 split and $3666. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well for Inglis, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen as he and Frontier Rodeo’s Night Watch combined for only 66.5, not the start the number two man in the world coming into the NFR was looking for.
Recently married Tanner Aus, the Minnesota bareback rider, won the opening round with an 85.5 score to collect $26,230
The saddle bronc riding was the other event that featured Canadian contestants and like the team roping there were three Canucks three in all. Clay Elliot had a tough start to his ten days in Las Vegas as he was bucked off a nasty bronc from Dakota Rodeo called Bridal Shower. Jake Watson, the BC man who just made the WNFR roster in 15th spot, spurred out a 77.5 on Bar T Rodeo’s Heart of Gold. That left it up to Zeke Thurston on Sweet Maria from Pete Carr Rodeo and Thurston, at his second consecutive Finals managed an 80.5 to finish just out of the money in a round that saw the amazing Wright family finish one-two-three. It was 18 year old Ryder, (Dad) Cody and (Uncle) Jake with 87.5, 86.5 and 85.5 respectively. First man out, Alan Boore, of Ardell, Utah, was 4th in the round with an 85 on a Canadian bronc, C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills.
Other winners included travelling partners Clayton Hass and Tyler Waguespack in the steer wrestling, each with 3.8 seconds on the clock; two time Canadian champion tie-down roper and 2013 World titleist, Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, Louisiana with a 7.1 second run; Cheney, Washington’s Pamela Capper with a an arena record-tying 13.75 in the barrel race and in the bull riding, two time World Champion, Sage Kimsey did what Sage Kimsey does, posting a sensational 86.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Aftershock to win the round. A couple of Canadian bulls made their presence felt. Outlaw Buckers’ Chip Shot carried Brennon Eldred to an 83 points and a third place cheque. And Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Flight Plan bucked off Garrett Tribble.