Jake Gardner is no stranger to success. A crowd favourite everywhere he competes, the Fort St John cowboy has twice been crowned All-Around Champion and in 2022 was the first-ever recipient of the coveted Kenny McLean Award. But the talented Prince of the Peace Country, as he has been affectionately dubbed, makes no secret of the fact that he has several boxes still to check.
Being the 2023 Maple Leaf Circuit Bull Riding Champion helped him take a big step toward fulfilling some of those career aspirations with an outstanding performance that saw him go four for four and take home almost $10,000 for his effort at the Regina, Sask. event.
“Last year I had a bad Circuit Finals and I felt like I was playing catch-up all season,” Gardner admitted. “I’m grateful to get to go to this and get the 2024 season off to a good start. I just don’t want to relax. I’d like to be season leader, Canadian Champion and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.”
Gardiner was quick to dole out both congratulations and praise to the stock contractors and event organizers. “I thought the pen of bulls was excellent, really even. No matter what you drew, you knew you had a chance to ride him and to win. My bull in the second round, Big Bird, bucked me off in Wainwright and I really wanted another shot at him. And Teeka, the last bull I got on was one of the best bulls all week. I thought if I could get out over top of him and stay there, I could ride him. So getting all four of those bulls ridden is a confidence booster for sure.
“From a contestant’s perspective, this committee did a great job,” Gardiner added. “I was thankful for the opportunity this rodeo gave me. Now I can take a little time off, then hit the gym, get on some practice bulls and get ready for Denver, Fort Worth and all the big winter rodeos.”
Taylor Manning was another competitor who came up large in her trip to the Saskatchewan capital. Coming off a CFR that saw her win three rounds that were bookended by costly hit barrels in rounds one and six, the 2022 Canadian Champion was on her game at the MLCF. The talented teenager left the Agribition hub with a pair of go-round wins, a second and a third to capture the aggregate title and the overall Maple Leaf Circuit championship.
2023 (unofficial) Maple Leaf Circuit Champions and Winners:
Bull Riding: Jakob Gardner, Circuit Champion and Aggregate Winner
Barrel Racing: Taylor Manning, Circuit Champion and Aggregate Winner
Bareback: Clint Laye, Circuit Champion
Ty Taypotat, Aggregate Winner
Steer Wrestling: Scott Guenthner, Circuit Champion
Stephen Culling, Aggregate Winner
Tie-Down Roping: Shane Smith, Circuit Champion
Stran Dunham, Aggregate Winner
Saddle Bronc: Lucas Macza, Circuit Champion
Sawyer Eirikson, Aggregate Winner
Team Roping: Kavis Drake, Circuit Heading Champion
Devin Wigemyr, Circuit Heeling Champion
Kavis Drake/Denim Ross, Aggregate Winners
Breakaway Roping: Aubrey Ross, Overall Champion
Lawrie Saunders, Aggregate Winner
Overall Champions and Aggregate Winners earn a spot at the 2024 NFR Open slated for July 9-13 in Colorado Springs, CO provided they have the required rodeo count and hold a PRCA membership. A confirmed list of qualifiers will be available soon.
For complete Maple Leaf Circuit Finals results, go to rodeocanada.com
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with headquarters in Airdrie, Alberta is the official sanctioning body for Professional Rodeo in Canada. The CPRA approves 55 events annually with a total payout exceeding $5.7 million. The organization oversees the SMS Equipment Pro Tour Finals each fall in Armstrong, BC, holds their premiere event – the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) – at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB in early October and endorses the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals as part of Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, SK in November. Follow the CPRA on Facebook and Instagram @prorodeocanadaofficial, on Twitter @prorodeocanada or online at RodeoCanada.com.