CHEYENNE, Wyo., July 30, 2023 — From three bareback riding champions to unheralded first-time winners to repeat champions to arena records, Championship Sunday at the 127th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo (CFD) was a day to remember.
The record-setting day began in the bareback riding when, for the just the third time since the event began here in 1936, three cowboys were crowned champions at the “Daddy of ‘em All.” Louisiana’s Kade Sonnier, Wyoming’s Cole Reiner and California’s Clayton Biglow shared the winning stage after they each scored 87.5 points. Biglow won the title here in 2019; Sonnier is a rookie competing here for the first time and Reiner, who grew up in Buffalo and attended college in Sheridan and Casper, has three Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifications since turning pro in 2019.
Both Sonnier and Reiner felt lucky to even have a chance at the title. CFD advances 12 contestants to the finals in each event, but in the rough stock events those who tie for sixth also advance. Of the 14 bareback riders who competed on Sunday, Sonnier and Reiner were two of the three who advanced on a tie in Semi Finals 1.
Joey Williams, a rancher from Volberg, Montana, won the breakaway roping with a time of 3.8 seconds. The mom of three is a former collegiate champion who has qualified for the National Finals Breakaway Roping twice. Williams, who earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of South Dakota, won nearly $20,000 in Frontier Park.
Luke Potter of Maple City, Kansas, ranked 24th in the tie-down roping world standings when Cheyenne Frontier Days began. He started in the qualifying round July 17 on a borrowed horse since his main mount was injured last month and did well enough to qualify for the Quarter Finals last Thursday. On Wednesday he purchased an experienced roping horse called Katniss and finished third with both his quarter-final and semi-final runs. His time of 10.6 seconds on Sunday gave him the CFD title as well as a big boost in the standings which could put him in contention for his first NFR berth.
The CFD record in saddle bronc riding had been 91 points since Louisiana’s Cody DeMoss set it in 2010 and it took another Louisianan to break the record. Ryder Sanford of Sulphur bested the mark by one and a half points when he scored 92.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls’ horse named The Black Tie. Sanford, who ranked 24th in the world when the rodeo began, was thrilled to win the championship here in the same year as Sonnier. They competed together on the McNeese State University rodeo team in their home state where Sanford earned a degree in civil engineering.
Texas team ropers Billy Bob Brown of Carbon and Kirby Blankenship of Lampasas may not be household names, but their time of 8.0 seconds gave them the CFD championship. The duo spent most of the past four years competing part time at rodeos and stand-alone ropings near home. They decided to make a month-long trip to major rodeos this month and success here has them altering their plans and staying on the rodeo trail.
Eli Lord of Sturgis, South Dakota, became the first of three men to win a repeat championship here. Some of Lord’s earliest memories are of Cheyenne Frontier Days as his father J.B. competed here for more than two decades, coming close but never winning a title. Lord took an early lead in the steer wrestling with a time of 5.9 seconds Sunday, then watched the rest of the field, including two world champions, try unsuccessfully to best his time. Lord, the 2019 winner, earned his second CFD championship.
Cheyenne Frontier Days steer roping runs in Troy Tillard’s veins. His grandfather competed here for the first time 80 years ago. “As a kid we worked all summer and got to spend the (rodeo) week in Cheyenne,” Tillard said. “Cheyenne is a huge deal for most rodeo people, but for our family it’s like 10 times.”
Tillard’s uncle Marty won the steer roping title here in 1991; his father Tim won the senior steer roping championship in 2010; and Troy won his first CFD title in 2004. Nineteen years later he was back on the winner’s platform with a 14.6-second run.
Records also fell in the barrel racing. Summer Kosel of Glenham, South Dakota, broke the long-standing record for the fastest barrel racing time here in 2022 with a 17.02-second run. On Sunday, she broke her own record with a 16.97 and it looked like she was on track to win the championship. But Sue Smith of Blackfoot, Idaho, and her mare Dashs Centerfold had other plans. They beat Kosel’s time by .08 seconds and set a new record with a time of 16.89 to win the championship.
This was the first time for Smith to run Centerfold in Frontier Park and “she likes it,” Smith said. A trainer of futurity horses who generally competes at rodeos in the Wilderness Circuit, Smith earned more than $200,000 at futurities on Centerfold and has won a similar amount at futurities on one of the sorrel mare’s colts.
Seven of the 12 bull riders made qualified rides in the finals with Tyler Taylor of Stephenville, Texas, taking the lead when he scored 89 points on Stace Smith Rodeo’s bull named Tom Horn. Stetson Wright of Beaver, Utah, who was the 2019 bull riding champion here, bumped Taylor to second with a 91.5-point ride on Dakota Rodeo’s bull Trump Train. The closest anyone came to Wright’s score was an 89.5 by Josh Frost of Randlett, Utah on Stace Smith’s Let’s Gamble.
Wright, the two-time world champion bull rider, won the bull riding here as a rookie in 2019 and added another CFD bull riding title to his trophy case this year. Wright won the saddle bronc riding at CFD the past two years and also won the all-around title in both 2019 and 2022. Although he missed qualifying for the finals in saddle bronc riding in 2023, he earned enough in that event, when added to his bull riding winnings, to take home the CFD all-around championship for the third time.
Other champions at Frontier Park included Slade Keith of Stanfield, Arizona, who earned the Rookie Saddle Bronc Riding Championship on Saturday, and Team Agin who were crowned Wild Horse Race champions for the third time.
The 128th edition of Cheyenne Frontier Days will be held July 19-28, 2024, at Frontier Park.
2023 Cheyenne Frontier Days Champions
Bareback Riding – (tie)Clayton Biglow, Clements, Calif., $10,225
Kade Sonnier, Carencro, La., $9,298
Cole Reiner, Buffalo, Wyo., $8,074
Breakaway Roping – Joey Williams, Volberg, Mont., $19,589
Tie-Down Roping – Luke Potter, Maple City, Kan., $15,737
Saddle Bronc Riding – Ryder Sanford, Sulphur, La., $12,114
Team Roping – Billy Bob Brown, Carbon, Texas, and Kirby Blankenship, Lampasas, Texas, $10,600 each
Steer Roping – Troy Tillard, Douglas, Wyo., $11,291
Barrel Racing – Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, $14,296
Bull Riding – Stetson Wright, Beaver, Utah, $15,133
Rookie Bronc Riding – Slade Keith, Stanfield, Ariz., $1,543
All-Around – Stetson Wright, $15,722 in saddle bronc and bull riding
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (July 29, 2023)- The following are unofficial results from Championship Sunday at the 127th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo on Sunday, July 30.
Bareback Riding: 1, (tie) Kade Sonnier, Carencro, La., on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls’ MLW’s Irish Eyes; Clayton Biglow, Clements, Calif., on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Robinson Bulls’ Atomic Blonde; and Cole Reiner, Buffalo, Wyo., on New Star Pro Rodeo’s Chosen One, 87.5 points, $6,470 each. 4, Ben Kramer, Max, N.D., 87, $3,065. 5, (tie) Waylon Bourgeois, Church Point, La., and Leighton Berry, Weatherford, Texas, 86.5, $1,022 each.
Breakaway Roping: 1, Joey Williams, Volberg, Mont., 3.8 seconds, $11,966. 2, Martha Angelone, Stephenville, Texas, 3.9, $9,065. 3, Shayla Hall, Belle Fourche, S.D., 4.0, $6,527. 4, Brandy Schaack, Chadron, Neb., 4.4, $4,351. 5 Bryana Lehrmann, Lexington, Texas, 4.5, $2,538. 6, Cassidy Boggs, Stephenville, Texas, 4.7, $1,813.
Tie Down Roping: 1, Luke Potter, Maple City, Kansas, 10.6, $9,200. 2, (tie) John Douch, Huntsville, Texas, and Britt Bedke, Oakley, Utah, 10.9, $7,400 each. 4, Marcos Costa, Tolar, Texas, 11.2, $5,600. 5, Carsyn Sunvision, McDade, Texas,12.0, $4,400. 6, Taylor Santos, Creston, Calif, 13.0, $3,200. 7. Westyn Hughes, Caldwell, Texas, 14.6, $2,000. 8. Haven Meged, Miles City, Mont., 15.7, $800.
Saddle Bronc Riding: 1, Ryder Sanford, Sulphur, La., 92.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Black Tie, $8,068. 2, (tie) Q Taylor, Casper, Wyo., and Sage Newman, Melstone, Mont., 89.5, $5,256 each. 4, Lefty Holman, Visalia, Calif., 88.5, $2,933. 6, Stu Wright, Coalville, Utah, 85.5, $1,711. 7, Cameron Messier, Herald, Cali., 85.5, $1,222.
Team Roping: 1, Billy Bob Brown, Carbon, Texas, and Kirby Blankenship, Lampasas, Texas, 8.0 seconds, $9,200. 2, Kaleb Driggers, Hoboken, Ga., and Junior Nogueira, Presidente Prude, Brazil, 8.2, $8,000. 3, Bubba Buckaloo, Kingston, Okla., and J.R. Gonzales, Maypearl, Texas, 9.0, $6,800. 4, Clayton Van Aken, Yoder, Wyo., and Cullen Teller, Ault, Colo., 9.5, $5,600. 5, Edgar Aguilar, Greeley, Colo., Edgar Villegas, Denver, Colo., 10.6, $4,400. 6. Jr. Dees, Aurora, S.D., and Ross Ashford, Lott, Texas; Billy Bob Brown, Carbon, Texas, 13.2, $3,200. 7, Andrew Ward, Edmond, Okla., and Buddy Hawkins II, Stephenville, Texas, 14.6, $2,000. 8. Corben Culley, Muse, Okla., and Blayne Horn, McAlester, Okla., 14.8, $800.
Steer Wrestling: 1, Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D, 5.9 seconds, $6,900. 2, Tristan Martin, La, 6.6, $6,000. 3, Walt Arnold, Coleman, Texas, 6.7, $5,100. 4, Tate Petrak, Martin, S.D., 6.8, $4,200. 5. (tie) Dakota Eldridge, Elko, Nev., and Cameron Moorman, Glen Ullin, N.D., 7.3, $2,850 each. 7. (tie) Chisum Docheff, Mead, Colo., and Newt Novich, Twin Bridges, Mont., 7.5, $1.050 each.
Steer Roping: 1. Troy Tillard, Douglas, Wyo., 14.6 seconds, $11,291. 2. Duck Benson, Worden, Mont., 15.5, $9,597. 3. Paul Tierney, Oklahoma City, Okla., 16.4, $7,904. 4, Tuff Hardman, Atoka, Oka., 16.80, $6,775. 5. Austin Posey, Jourdanton, Texas, 18.0, $5,645. 6, Don Eddleman, 20.90, $3,952.
Barrel Racing: 1, Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, 16.89, $10,495. 2, Summer Kosel, Glenham, S.D., 16.97, $8,685. 3, Kassie Mowry, Dublin, Texas, 17.16, $6,876. 4, Lacinda Rose, Willard, Mo, 17.54, $5,066. 5, Tarryn Lee, St. David, Ariz., 17.55, $3,257. 6, Taycie Matthews, Wynne, Ark., 17.56, $1,809.
Bull Riding: 1, Stetson Wright, Milford, 91.5 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Trump Train, 8,334. Josh Frost, Randlett, Utah, 89.5, $6,314. 3, Tristen Hutchings, Monteview, Idaho, 89.0, $4,546. 4, Trey Holston, Fort Scott, Kansas, 87.0, $3,030. 5, Parker Breding, Edgar Mont., 86.5, $1,768. 6, Riggin Shippy, 86.0, $1,262.
Wild Horse Race: 1, Cowboy Chaos, $880. 2, Team Agin, $660. 3, CLS Team, $440. 4, Wagon Burners, $220. (Total money) 1, Team Agin, $4,510. 2, Cowboy Chaos, $3,382. 3, CLS Team, $2,255. 4, Wagon Burners, $1,127.