The saddle bronc rider is the copyrighted logo of the Pendleton Round-Up and today’s competitors demonstrated again why this historic image fits so well. Much like bareback riding, but this time with a saddle, bronc riding ended Wednesday with Oklahoman Hardy Braden, Welch, OK, leading the field of 17 competitors with 85 points. The 28-year-old has over $100,000 in winnings this year bringing him from his 29thplace finish last year in the event to #6 currently. And he says the Pendleton Round-Up is one of his two favorite rodeos because the 107-year-old rodeo is “nostalgic”.
Braden gave credit to his horse, Sheridan WYO’s Tango, as so many rodeo competitors do.
“That horse is really good. I was excited about drawing that horse.“ Noting that the Round-Up now has nine stock contractors supplying the animals who make the rodeo go, Braden said, “There’s a lot of good horses left to go. It’s really good compared to the past.” Braden has competed for four years at the Round-Up but “this is my first year of doing good at Pendleton. I don’t really know what I want (in choice of horses) but I’ve had an incredible season. I’ve been drawing lots of good horses and it’s like a dream coming true.”
Speaking of his chances at the WNFR he noted, “There’s so much money added that it almost doesn’t matter what place you come in at.” He described one competitor who entered at 15th in the standings and won so much money at the NFR that he finished first. “It’s been a great game and it’s just exciting to be a part of it.”
The Wranglers National Finals Rodeo, the world series of rodeo, takes place in December in Las Vegas and is the final rodeo of the season for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. It admits the top 15 finishers in each rodeo event.
Close behind Braden, with 83 points, was Brody Cress, 21, Hillsdale, WY, a three-year veteran of the PRCA, who has moved all the way from his 2016 finish at 98th place to #11 in the current world standings with over $80,000 in winnings, meaning he has a good chance of making his first appearance in the WNPR this December. Cress was followed by Sterling Crawley, 82.5 points, Stephenville, TX. Crawley, 26, and ranked 8th in the world standings, finished several places ahead of his brother, Jacobs, Boerne, TX, who had 79.5 points. Jacobs Crawley, 29, is ranked #1 in the world standings, approaching $200,000 in annual winnings, has already won one national title (2015), and is certain to appear at the WNFR for the 7th time. Brother Sterling has appeared three times already.
Dancing Queen took Canadian Jake Vold, Ponoka, AB, to the top of the list in the bareback competition Wednesday at the Round-Up. With an 85 point ride the 30-year-old, seven-year Professional Rodeo Cowboys veteran took another step toward the goal of every rodeo professional this late in the season, accumulating enough winnings to make the WNFR.
The WNFR produces the annual world champion in each event by adding their total winnings during the year to their WNFR additional earnings. Vold was second last year in the world standings in bareback and is 10th currently, with just over $90,000 in winnings for the season. It’s probable he’ll be at the NFR, although not a slam dunk, since #15 currently, Ty Breuer, Mandan, ND, is almost at $80,000. And Breuer also competed in the Round-Up today, collecting more winnings when he tied for 5th with 79.5 points on back of Sign Language.
Points in bareback, as in all rough stock (bucking) events,are divided between the performance of the rider and of the ridden. Meaning every rider longs for the meanest, most challenging horse in the herd as the route to a great performance.
Vold was followed in second by Shane O’Connell, Rapid City, SD, with 83, atop Outclassed. The 21-year-old O’Connell, a 19th place finisher last year, is just about in the same place, currently 20th in the world bareback standings. He was followed on Wednesday by another, unrelated O’Connell, Tim, Zwingle IA, who won this event at last year’s Round-Up and who is currently ranked #1 in the world standings with nearly $200,000 in 2017 winnings, after winning the #1 spot last year in the WNFR. Tim O’Connell, 25, just joined the PRCA in 2013 but has already accumulated about $800,000 in winnings and qualified three times for the WNFR. Last year he set a bareback riding record while collecting $347,272, the largest single-season total ever in a single event.
Also known as tie-down roping, the calves proved once again that they can be very difficult to catch, with five of Wednesday’s 12 competitors unable to rope their calf. Tuf Cooper, Weatherford, TX, who scored well in two roping events in the slack earlier in the week, leading up to the Round-Up, maintained his poise by finishing with a time of 14 seconds Wednesday, not the best time but enough to keep him in the running. Cooper is currently #1 in the event’s world standings, a sure bet for the WNFR in December, approaching $200,000 in winnings. The 27-year-old, a nine-year veteran of the PRCA, has earned approximately $1.7 million over those nine years while winning three world titles, most recently in 2014. He entered the PRCA the year after he won the Texas high school team roping championship.
Leading the calf ropers on Wednesday was Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, LA, with a time of 9.5 seconds, just ahead of the man often referred to as the king of the cowboys because he has won more money than any competitor in history, Trevor Brazile, Decatur, TX, at 9.7 seconds. Hanchey, 27, has qualified for the WNFR every year 2010 to 2016, finishing 8th last year with earnings of over $180,000, but he has yet to win an event at the Pendleton Round-Up. He currently ranks 4th in the event’s world standings with over $100,000 in winnings.
Brazile ranks 6th in the current world standings. Perhaps the most famous face in rodeo, the 40-year-old Brazile, with over $6 million in PRCA winnings and 23 PRCA world titles, won the All Around Championship at the Round-Up four years running, from 2012 to 2015. He might have won it again in 2016 but he missed the Round-Up when he and a number of other top competitors formed an elite rodeo association, leaving the PRCA to compete separately. The gambit did not win the audience they hoped for so they’re back in the PRCA and competing at its rodeos, including the Pendleton Round-Up. So far this year he has won nearly $100,000 in the calf roping event.
It’s been decades since the Round-Up had more than one women’s event so the introduction of breakaway roping this year had much interest from rodeo fans. The Round-Up is staging the event on only Wednesday and Thursday to see how things go. On Wednesday they went well, with four of eight competitors catching their calves with times ranging from the 2.5 seconds of top finisher Gracie Wiersma, Outlook, WA, to 5.4 seconds for Candida Eldridge, Nampa, ID. Wiersma was followed by Michelle Lyons, Touchet, WA, 3.1 seconds, and Kelsey Nonella, Redmond, OR, 3.2. In breakaway roping, popular at a number of rodeos, the women rope a running calf. As the rope is stretched out by the running calf it breaks from a string holding it to the saddle, which marks the end of the time count. The top finisher, Wiersma, also competes in barrel racing.
Bulldogging (Steer Wrestling)
Steer wrestling takes a big guy to manage a controlled fall from a galloping horse onto a few hundred pounds of equally speedy steer, then suddenly brake the steer with one’s boot heels and flip it over. And on Wednesday Cody Kroul, Solon, IA, performed the job in 5.5 seconds to take first in the event. Right behind him at 5.7 was Clayton Hass, Weatherford, TX, current #21 in the world standings, down from his #3 finish in 2016 and not good enough to make the WNFR in December. Hass, 33, has competed in the PRCA since 2005 and earned $130,788 last year in the WNFR for total career earnings of $846,833. He also competes in calf and team roping. He is currently 28th in team roping as a header, with over $43,000 in winnings in the event. In third place on Wednesday was local favorite Ryan Bothum, Hermiston Oregon, in 7.0 seconds.
Team roping’s tough, an event in which two cowboys must coordinate the roping of a running steer, with one required to rope the head and the other the two hind heels, hence their job titles, header and heeler. On Wednesday only four of the 12 teams managed the task. And only one-tenth of a second separated the first three places, with the team of Erich Rogers, Round Rock, AZ, and Cory Petska, Marana, AZ, finishing in 5.6 seconds. Behind them were two teams at 5.7 seconds, Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, TN, with Travis Graves, Jay, OK and Brandon Beers, Powell Butte, OR, with Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, AZ. Former world champion Trevor Brazile also competed in the event but was unable to put up a time with his partner, Clint Summers, Lake City, FL. Brazile is ranked 48th in the world standings.
Rogers, 31, and an 11-year PRCA veteran, is currently ranked #1 in the event’s world standings for headers. A member of the Navajo nation, Rogers, like many competitors, grew up in a rodeo family and so far this year has won at 11 of them with nearly $1 million in career earnings. His teammate of several years, Petska, is married to four-time world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi and his mom, Gail, was a two-time world champion in the event, holding the record for most rounds won in a single NFR, seven in 1972. His dad, Paul, also team ropes and has made it to the NFR three times while Paul’s brother Monty Joe appeared in the NFR 14 times. Finally, Petska’s sister, Tye, qualified for the NFR as a barrel racer once. The 38-year-old Petska has won nearly $2 million in winnings since joining the PRCA in 1998 and is ranked #1 among heelers currently, up from 7th in 2016.
Many see bull riding as the most exciting rodeo event, given the possible consequences of riding a leaping, twisting bull for an optimistic eight seconds. Steve Woolsey, Payson, UT, the 2014 bull riding champion at the Round-Up, stuck it out for the winning score of 84. As with other bucking events, the score is divided between the performances of the rider and the animal. Behind Woolsey was Elliot Jacoby, Fredericksburg, TX, at 82.5, and in third place Dakota Louis, Browning, MT, 81. Of the three Jacoby ranks highest in the world standings, #22 with just over $63,000 in winnings. Louis is #40 while Woolsey does not appear in the top 50. The 31-year-old Woolsey was the 2010 champion at the Championship Bull Riding event in Las Vegas.
Jacoby, 27, has earned nearly $250,000 in his five-year PRCA career and is up from his 2016 finish at 53 in the world standings.
4 of 12 caught steer
Shay Good, 13.3; Duck Benson, 14.5; Vin Fisher Jr 20.8
Shay Good, Midland, TX, nearly repeated his time from the slack on Monday to take first in the steer roping event Wednesday, 13.3 seconds vs. the Monday time of 13.8. As with all roping events it’s tough to catch that retreating steer or calf from a gallop and only four of the 12 competitors had times in steer roping. Behind Good were Duck Benson, Laurel, MT, 14.5, and Vin Fisher Jr, Andrews, TX, 20.8.
The 48-year-old Good has competed in the PRCA since 1989 and occupied the 8th place in the event’s world standings last year, but is now at #15, the last place to make it into the WNFR in Las Vegas. Close behind him is Tuf Cooper, Weatherford, TX, #17 in the standings and also competing here. Cooper has already earned his berth in Saturday’s finals at the Round-Up.
Fisher Jr was one of three Fishers competing in Wednesday’s steer roping event, including Dan Fisher and J. Tom Fisher, all from Andrews, TX. Fisher Jr. is currently #2 in the world standings with nearly $80,000 in winnings, while J. Tom is #5 with over $54,000. Fisher Jr., 36, finished 10th last year and has won over $800,000 in his 16-year PRCA career. His dad, Dan, was a 16-time qualifier for the National Finals Steer Roping competition. Brother J. Tom, 32, finished 9th last year and has competed in the PRCA since 2004.
Until the introduction of breakaway roping in the current Round-Up, barrel racing has been the only women’s event here, attracting the nation’s top competitors despite what many consider to be a difficult course. The times at Pendleton’s barrel racing event are about twice those of other rodeos because of the long course. Because the rodeo arena has a grass infield, the barrels that create the three legs of the course are positioned on a surrounding direct track, allowing horses to make the dashing turn around the barrels in dirt, rather than on the more slippery grass surface. Horses must dash across the grass, turn the barrel in the dirt, and then repeat the dash across the grass.
Carmel Wright, Roy, MT, did it fastest on Wednesday, with a time of 29.47 seconds, just ahead of Megan Brint, Watsonville, CA, 29.89, and Mary Ann Munkers, Lexington, OR, 29.94.
Wright, 57, joined the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 2009. She finished 4th in Pendleton in 2016. In 2015 she finished at #18 in world standings with winnings of $55,000. Her husband, Dave was a three-time New Zealand saddle bronc champ and they manage a ranch in Montana where she trains barrel horses. She moved to the US to rodeo, after capturing the New Zealand barrel racing championship five times, the first at age 18.
The Pendleton Round-Up continues its four-day run on Thursday at 1:15pm.