A couple of races that looked all but over got a whole lot more interesting in round number four of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One of the biggest moves came in the bronc riding. On a night that pitted the cowboys against the eliminator pen of broncs, Canada’s Zeke Thurston showed exactly how he won two world titles and is on the prowl for a third. The Big Valley, Alberta cowboy rode Heaven on Earth from Championship Pro Rodeo for 88.5 and a half-point victory over Montana’s Chase Brooks to take home the whopping first place cheque of $28,914. Just as importantly for the second generation Canadian, the man who held a commanding lead coming into the Finals, Sage Newman, bucked off on Sunday night. That meant that the gap between Newman and Thurston, who sits 4thoverall is still $86,000 but Newman is out of the very lucrative average for the moment. Two more Canadians went to the pay window—Kolby Wanchuk who has placed in every round and sits 4thin the average, was 86.5 to split 3/4 while Logan Hay captured 4thplace with an 84.5.
In the bareback riding, things got interesting as well. Cole Reiner, who came to Las Vegas as the overall leader had seen his lead evaporate; he got back on track Sunday night, winning the round with an 89 score on Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics Southlands Shoutin’ Shoes. Reiner was able to regain some of the ground he had lost to Jess Pope who has won the average at each of the last two NFR’s but has come up just short of the world title in each of those years. Pope stays on top of the world standings and still leads the average but there’s a lot of rodeo to go and the race is definitely on. Canadian Orin Larsen, who has taken a pounding through the first four rounds, was off the pace in round number four.
On a night that saw a new name atop the overall leaderboard in the tie down roping—three-time champion Caleb Smidt—it was Marty Yates who cashed the big cheque (and his first at this Finals) with a sparking 7.4 second run. And in the team roping it was Tyler Wade and Trey Yates who posted the fast time—a lightning quick 3.9 second run. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira remain in the driver’s seat with close to a hundred-thousand-dollar lead on the field. Canadian Jeremy Buhler and his Utah partner, Rhen Richard, took a no-time in the round.
Another event that saw things tighten up a bunch was the steer wrestling as two-time world champion, Hunter Cure, won his second round of the four nights to date to consolidate his hold on first place in the average and second place overall as season leader Stetson Jorgensen had a rough night with a 21.2 second run to fall to 9thplace in the average.
Stetson Wright was up to his old tricks–doing Stetson Wright things in the bull riding with a sensational 92 point ride to extend his world standings lead to an incredible $138,000. Another highlight-reel moment came when Duane Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Alberta Prime Devil’s Advocate, Canadian Bull of the Year flung both his rider, Jeff Askey and bullfighter, Dusty Tuckness into the upper reaches of the storied Thomas and Mack Arena. Fortunately, everyone was okay.
Veteran Emily Beisel and her horse, Chongo, turning in a very rapid 13.60 second run for the round win in barrel racing. One of the feel-good stories of the NFR—Lisa Lockhart, (four-time Canadian Champion), from Oelrichs, South Dakota, has placed in three of four rounds and has the lead in the average. Reigning champion, Jordon Briggs, remains first overall and is in second spot in the average.
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 Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB in early November and endorses the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals as part of Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, SK. Follow the CPRA on Twitter @prorodeocanada and Instagram @prorodeocanadaofficial, ‘Like’ Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Facebook or online at RodeoCanada.com.