Even Google Maps might have a hard time tracking the roads and routes Curtis Cassidy has been traveling this summer, in his drive to get back to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. A couple of solid wins both in Canada and the U.S. in the last few weeks have him within shooting distance of the top fifteen steer wrestlers. The September 7th PRCA standings showed him at 19th, with nearly $58,000 won, putting him less than five thousand dollars out of 15th.
The two-time Canadian bulldogging champion has hit the bank lately at places ranging from Filer, Idaho to Miles City, Montana. But he picked up some real gold in a buckle after splitting the win at the Ellensburg Rodeo. He and Taylor Gregg both managed to toss three steers in a combined time of 14.2 seconds, for a healthy $5,835 payout, tipping the scales to keep his travel time in high gear.
“Ellensburg helps, but it wasn’t just Ellensburg,” points out Cassidy. “It was the whole week put together in one that made it good. That shot me from being quite a ways back to being in contention again.”
The haul included $1,105 from Armstrong, $991 from Merritt, $2,049 from Montana stops Dillon, and $1,512 from Miles City. Then there were smaller cheques from Manila, UT ($746) and Filer, ID $212.
“Basically from the end of July, things have been going pretty good.”
It’s meant Cassidy has had to jump in a lot of different saddles, trying to use his own horse Tyson in Canada, Milan’s horse Jerry in the U.S. and Tom Lewis’s horse as his main three. But when he’s traveling on his own to some shows, he has to use whatever’s available.
However much of the year he’s been part of #TeamBigWhiteTruck, with fellow bulldoggers Tanner Milan and Scott Guenthner, which has posted a pretty impressive track record of success.
“Tanner and Scott have been rolling all year, and winning a bunch of money, so there’s no question, you feed off that. It helps a lot being in a good crew like that. It makes you want to do the same thing, and step up your game.”
Cassidy’s body, which had hampered him the last couple of season, has been holding up through the weekly 4-6 rodeo runs, but he admits he is tiring.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the end coming up here soon,” he chuckles. “But at the same time, when you’ve got a shot to make Vegas, it’s what you’ve got to do to get over the hump to try and get in.”
A late-season scramble isn’t totally foreign territory for the twenty-year pro.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s like the saying goes. You’re a lot better off to be in the mix and trying to get in, than being $20,000 back and just rodeoing for the heckuva it.”
Cassidy has competed at the WNFR five times in his career, but he’d love to be back in a year when there would be so much Canuck company.
“The odd time there were three Canadians at Vegas in the steer wrestling, and that’s pretty cool. It says a lot for the steer wrestlers in Canada. I’m going to make a run for it and see how it goes. It definitely would be very neat to be there, regardless, but to have three of us there would be awesome.”
Cassidy would love to join Milan and Guenthner, who are secure in their NFR spots. Guenthner, now up to fifth, boosted his tally with money from San Juan Capistrano, CA ($3,205), Coeur D’Alene, ID ($2,551), and Miles City ($1,826); while Milan moved up to eighth after topping Miles City ($2,357); and placing at Walla Walla, WA ($1,427) and Ellensburg ($426).
Cassidy collected another $1,500 towards his Canadian Finals quest when he split second with Layne Delemont at the signature event at the IPE and Stampede during the Canadian Pro Rodeo Tour Final. It featured the top point getters from the eight Tour rodeos and was another cash opportunity for those looking to secure a spot in Edmonton. The bonus is that the overall Tour winners receive an invitation to the 2018 Calgary Stampede. Getting that done at Armstrong after the points were tabulated were Todd Chotowetz in the bull riding; Scott Guenthner in the steer wrestling; Layton Green in the bronc riding; Al Bouchard in the tie-down roping; and Jake Vold in the bareback riding. Winning the Tour (but not eligible for the Stampede bye) in barrel racing was Lynette Brodoway, and Brady Chappell and Riley Roy in the team roping.
B.C.’s own Carman Pozzobon was the big money winner of the weekend when she and her horse Ripp ran away with both the Armstrong rodeo win and the Tour final, plus a nice bonus for placing fourth in her hometown show at Merritt, for a total of $6,900. That padded her number one position in the Canadian standings.
Another big winner of the B.C. run was tie-down roper Al Bouchard. Not only did he win the Tour, he was fast man in the Tour Finals and got a share of third at Armstrong, for $4,953 of insurance to get to his 17th CFR.
Other big news was bull rider Tanner Girletz announcing that he was retiring at the end of the season. But he intends to go out in style and helped his cause by being the only rider to make the eight at the Tour Final, for all the ground money and a $6,000 hit, to bounce into CFR range for one last time. He’s putting pressure on Zane Lambert in the bottom hole, while Tyler Pankewitz emerged from injury recovery land to win Armstrong ($3,632) and insert his presence into the race as well.
Other battles to solidify a spot for Edmonton are heating up too. In the bareback riding, Dantan Bertsch showed he wants to be among the top 12 again, by winning the Tour Final and placing at Merritt. But Kyle Bowers and Luke Creasy remain hot on his heels. Josh Harden ($2,021) and Troy Crowser ($914) are making a valiant attempt to catch Jim Berry at the bronc riding cutoff line.
The number 12 man in tie-down roping, Jesse Popescul, got a little security at Armstrong ($1,021) while Randall Carlisle, in 13th, caught some cash in Merritt ($682). However, Kyle Lucas is making a backstretch charge ($2,255) and is right in the mix as well. A win at Okotoks ($1,384) helped Coleman Kohorst, who was 12th in steer wrestling. But Tyson Willick, who was less than $100 behind him, kept up the pressure by finishing second at the same rodeo ($1,023). In the barrels race, Rene Leclercq clicked at Armstong ($1,534) and at the Tour Final ($600) to make up some big ground, but Jackie Ganter, in 12th, did a little winning of her own ($959), leaving Crystal Christman now in the hot seat. Also Taylor Manning edged in front of Diane Skocdopole for the overall rookie race with her weekend success ($2,477). It was an important second place finish for the brothers Brady and Riley Minor in the team roping at Armstrong ($1,943 each) for their CFR hopes.
One of the biggest one-head rodeos of the year stateside is the Rancho Mission Viejo in San Juan Capistrano, and two Canadians flew away with the biggest hauls from the California town. Bronc rider Clay Elliott took the honors with an 87 on the famous Flying 5 horse Blue Feather for $7,811 while Jake Vold claimed the bareback title for his 86.5 point ride on Cervi’s Baby Face for $8,890. Vold notched an even higher score, closer to home, in Armstrong, when he chalked up 87.25 points on Outlaw Bucker’s 41 River Reflection ($3,790). He also picked up a cheque at Okotoks ($794) to be 9th in the NFR race. Orin Larsen kept up his winning ways, with a victory at Pueblo, CO for an 87 point ride ($2,953) and paydays at Filer ($1,572) and Evanston, WY ($1,036) to keep him in 12th for the world.
Elliott, meanwhile, reached deep into the purse at Kennewick, WA, pulling out $3,087, tossing in another $892 for his efforts across the state at Ellensburg. His bronc riding compatriots are keeping up the pace in the win column as well. Zeke Thurston has put himself in good shape to defend his world title, sitting less than half an WNFR go-round victory behind season leader Jacobs Crawley now. His earnings haul came from a go-round win at Kennewick on the Calgary Stampede horse Nutty Champagne to finish second in the average ($5,428); another win at Bremerton ($2,109); plus an 88 mark to top Tremonton, UT ($3,452); and one more W at Parowan, UT ($1,839); with some pocket change from Walla Walla ($682).
Layton Green got a bit out of Bremerton ($211) but had better fortunes in Canada, where he finished second at Armstrong ($3,295) and third in the Tour Final ($1,200), plus he tied for first at Merritt ($1,020) and won Okotoks the weekend before ($1,422) to put a lock on the Canadian season leader honors, pushing his earnings well over $73,000. He’s fourth on the world roster.
Team ropers Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler find themselves on the outside looking in right now at 16th, but did pick up some helpful Canadian cash winning Merritt ($1186 each) and placing at Okotoks ($723). They also got a bit at Kennewick ($731 each). Bull rider Jordan Hansen bumped up to 11th in the world, after placings at San Juan Capistrano ($1,189) and Bremerton ($1,410), plus a go-round win at Ellensburg, as well as some average money there ($5,143). Best among other Canadians winning south of the line was roper Kyle Lucas, who placed at Kennewick ($1,288), Coeur D’Alene ($1,081) and Ellensburg ($1,807). Team ropers Clay Ullery and Riley Wilson won Coeur D’Alene in 4.4 seconds ($2,518 each) and also figured in the average at Walla Walla ($1,482).
A tragic accident not far from his home ranch claimed the life of former pro roper Blair Stroh of Elkwater. He qualified for the CFR six times as a header and three times in the tie-down roping. He leaves behind his wife Brandi, daughter Abbi, and sons Jake and Nate.
There’s been a change in time for the Winston Bruce Memorial at the Ponoka Stampede Grounds on September 19th. As the days are getting shorter, the family decided to start the proceedings at 3:00 pm now, to be followed by the Invitational Bronc Riding match and even fireworks to close out the night. Donations will be accepted for the Winston Bruce Academy of Rodeo.
Kyle Rock is no longer the Operations Manager at the CPRA. He left his position August 28th. There’s no word yet on a replacement.
There’s good news on the recovery front for steer wrestler Chance Butterfield, who survived a frightening injury at High Prairie, when he was kicked by a horse. Emergency surgery removed a ruptured spleen and after a checkup with his surgeon in Grande Prairie this week, Butterfield shared on social media that he got the thumbs up to return to full training. He won’t be throwing steers just yet but since he’s held on to his CFR spot, the Ponoka cowboy hopes to get some practice time in before November.
The Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine Team was presented with a $10,000 cheque at the Innisfail Eagles Sports Banquet recently. A picture first presented at the ‘Sutter family’ night at the Innisfail Pro Rodeo made the rounds and eventually netted the big bucks at the Sutter Fund Golf Tournament for the Sports Medicine Crew. An additional $4,200 was also presented from the Night at the Ranch special event this summer, where another $4,200 was also raised for the Ty Pozzobon Foundation.