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Chomping at the bit – that’s how you’d describe pro rodeo contestants as the calendar turns over to June. They’ve had a taste of action at some spring events, but now it’s time to ‘get back at it’, and the first weekend of June is an example of how the season begins to heat up, with four events on the Canadian lineup.
With the summer schedule as tantalizing as ice cream on a hot day, competitors have made good use of spring to heal up sore spots, do some training, and get caught up on ranch work. But it’s go time now and there’s nothing they crave more.
Some have gotten a bit of a head start in the standings, thanks to early season success. One competitor with a big leg up is barrel racer Diane Skocdopole, who has the largest lead over the second-place competitor in any of the major events. Her total of $9,417 is almost $4,500 in front of Kylie Whiteside. The dynamic duo won money nearly everywhere they raced this spring, snapping up third place finishes at Medicine Hat, Camrose, and Drayton Valley, plus they were second at Coleman. Hard to believe it was just a year ago where Skocdopole cracked out as a pro after doing well at Camrose, and made it all the way to her first CFR, as well as winning rookie of the year honors.
If you follow Skocdopole on social media, you’ve seen how she likes to give her steed Sonic a break from barrel racing by putting her to work on the family ranch west of Big Valley. A recent post showed her husband Dale heeling off Sonic. It’s a change of pace she sees as important for competition horses.
“It gives them something else to think about,” says Skocdopole. “I guess my belief is that, with the horses we have anyway, they want something else to do. They get bored with doing the same thing in the arena. They want to go get out and do something else. It changes their mindset and then they come back really focused to their event after you’ve gone out and put some miles on them. They’re athletes – they just like the work, they’re bred to be horses, to go do stuff like that.”
If their winning continues, Skocdopole might consider dipping down to the U.S. for some rodeos, after purchasing her WPRA card this year, ‘just in case’. But her main focus is on keeping the same mindset that has worked so well.
“I said all last year, and it sounds kind of funny, but I just want to rodeo like a permit girl where you’re just happy to be there, and you’re grateful for every opportunity you get.”
If you get a feeling of deja-vu looking at the saddle bronc standings, you’re not alone. Layton Green is living it. For the second straight year, he emerged as the Falkland Stampede champion. The only difference this year was the special buckle as the BC rodeo celebrated its centennial with a beautiful commemorative one. The Canadian champ would have no problem at all seeing his 2018 season mirror his very successful 2017 run, which included his first NFR appearance. Also of note, Novice Saddle Bronc champion Dawson Hay, who was second in Stavely, seems to be having no problem adjusting to the big leagues, as he’s already fourth in Canada and the front runner in a talented rookie race this year.
If the early season jostling is any indication, it should be another tight, tough year for bareback riding. Ty Taypotat, helped by a second-place finish at Falkland, snuck in front of Ky Marshall that weekend for the top spot in Canada, by a mere $133.
Zane Lambert took some time this winter for home renos and to let his body recover and it was well worth it, as he’s come back strong in all his bull riding pursuits. He’s got the jump in the Canadian race by about three thousand dollars over the rest of the field.
Canada’s reigning High Point Champion, Morgan Grant, leads both the tie-down roping and steer wrestling standings in Canada. He’s been busy farming in Didsbury, so is looking forward to climbing off the tractor and into the saddle, especially on his roping horse Sparky that he debuted at the CFR.
Saskatchewan’s Jesse Popescul has been sizzling this spring. He’s number one in the team roping heading standings but he’s also hot on Morgan Grant’s heels in the tie-down roping, at second place.
While it’s always interesting to see new combinations surface in the team roping, it appears the brothers McCarroll are tied together again. It’s a family combo that works, with Brett the number one heeler and Justin just trailing Popescul, for second among the headers.
After working to accommodate former Six-Pac ticket holders for CFR, and holding a lottery for new All-In fans, CFR organizers in Red Deer opened up general sales on Tickets Alberta May 24th. Westerner Park CEO Ben Antifaiff reports the selling pace has been rapid, and less than a few hundred tickets are available for certain dates. (availability can be checked at TicketsAlberta.com) Antifaiff says 4,047 All-In packages were snapped up. Tickets are also now on sale for the live simulcast of the rodeo, with nightly entertainment, at the Parkland Pavilion next door.
Pro rodeo in Canada gets a boost with a new partner coming on board. Finning Canada will become the title sponsor for the Finning Canada Pro Rodeo Tour, a series of nine large and lucrative Canadian rodeos, culminating with the Finals in Armstrong, B.C. It’s the first time the Edmonton based firm, which is the world’s largest Caterpillar dealer, has been involved with the sport of rodeo.
There are big changes coming to The American after the PRCA and the folks at RFD-TV inked a sanctioning deal. In 2019, RFD-TV’s The American will become a two-day event, hosted once again at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The changes next year will see the final qualifications round held Saturday March 2, followed by the finals round on Sunday, March 3rd. With another $355,000 in prize money, it will become the ‘richest weekend in western sports at AT&T Stadium’, which also signed a five-year deal to host The American. Points earned at the American will then count towards the NFR. As well, in 2019, break-away roping and #9 team roping will be added to the program.
In the category of ‘doesn’t count but spends well’ cash events, Cloverdale, BC was a rich stop for a few invited contestants. There were some high marks turned in for the three riding events on the program. Topping the saddle bronc finals was Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston, who collected the $20,000 winners’ cheque for a 92-point ride. The bareback bonus went to world leader Caleb Bennett who went 90-89-90 on his three outs. The bull riding went to Toby Collins of Australia but living in Texas, while Oregon’s Callahan Crossley took the barrel racing honors. Other Canadians to finish well in the Cloverdale Finals included Clint Laye, who tied for third in bareback; Tyrel Larsen, second in the saddle bronc riding; and Lynette Brodoway, second in barrel racing, along with Sydney Daines, who was fifth.
Where in the World?
After the winter run south of the line, with a few rich spring ones already done, there are seven Canadians ranking in the top 15 of the world standings. Highest money winner to date among them is Curtis Cassidy, sitting 6th in the steer wrestling race with $39,117. Scott Guenthner is making a bid to be back for his second NFR and sits 15th, with $25,179.
The biggest batch of Canucks is in the bareback riding where Orin Larsen is in tenth place, but has nearly has much money in his NFR bank as Cassidy, with $38,574. Luke Creasy is 14th, with $28,609, while Clint Laye is hovering just outside at 16th, with $25,538.
Zeke Thurston shows up at 7th spot in the saddle bronc stats, with $36,414, followed by Clay Elliott at 11th, with $33,128.
After her first serious American campaign, barrel racer Carman Pozzobon shows up 19th in the WPRA ranks, with $27,402.
The Rodeo Road
This weekend’s pro stops include the Grande Prairie Stompede with four performances May 31-June 3rd; the Leduc Black Gold Rodeo, which also has four performances May 31-June 3rd, the historic Hand Hills Lake Stampede, with its 102nd edition June 2nd and 3rd; and the Wildwood Bronc Bustin’ on Saturday, June 2nd.