CANADIAN PROFESSIONAL RODEO ASSOCIATION
The grin said it all.
As Jake Vold made the first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo victory lap of his career, the three time Canadian champion’s grin lit up the Thomas and Mack Arena. And why not—his 89.5 score on the back of Flying U Rodeo’s Lil Red Hawk was the highest marked ride to date in the bareback riding and netted the Airdrie cowboy a cool first place cheque for $26,230 to raise his total WNFR earnings to $48,782 and jump him to fifth place in the average.
But Vold made it clear that it’s the go-round buckle that is the icing on the cake. “I was close a couple of times the last time I was here but didn’t quite get there,” Vold admitted.
“I saw some of the guys this week with their buckles and I thought to myself, I want one of those,” the 29-year-old superstar added. “Canada will be pretty excited about this. It’ll be quite the night over there.” (At the nightly buckle presentation at the South Point Casino).
Inglis, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen had his best result to date, posting an 83 on J Bar J’s Pass the Hat to finish just one half point out of the bareback riding money.
On the best night so far for ‘TeamCanada’, a pair of saddle bronc riders enjoyed a lucrative round four as well. Jake Watson of Hudson Hope, British Columbia put together a solid 84-point effort on the Calgary Stampede’s Tokyo Bubbles to split 3/4 and collect $13,326 on the night. Right behind Watson was Zeke Thurston whose 83.5 on United Pro Rodeo’s Ropin Dreams netted the Big Valley cowboy a 5/6 split and $5,500. The third Canadian bronc rider fared less well. Canadian champion, Clay Elliott was unable to navigate eight successful seconds on the back of United Pro Rodeo’s Pow Wow Nights.
The dream sequence that has been the Ryder Wright story of the WNFR continued as the 18 year-old became just the second rough stock cowboy in the history of the event to win four consecutive rounds outright. (The other was two time world champion Robert Etbauer in 1991). In round four, the amazing teenager who is riding here with his brother, his dad, and three uncles (qualifier CoBurn Bradshaw married into the family in 2013) spurred out an 85.5 points on Flying Five Rodeo’s Sundance.
The Utah teenager, who cam to the Finals in 14th place, is now just a thousand dollars out of the lead for the world and sits comfortably in the lead in the average while season leader and defending champion, Jacobs Crawley, bucked off his round four horse.
Team ropers Levi Simpson of Ponoka and Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, AB, kept their solid run going despite catching one leg on the backside to incur their second five second penalty in a row. Tonight, however, saw several teams struggle with six no times and a broken barrier leaving the Alberta duo splitting 6th for a $2,115 payday per man. The ‘go-round from hell’ , while costly for so many, including Barrhead’s Kolton Schmidt and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll, was especially beneficial for Simpson and Buhler as the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the NFR team roping climbed all the way to second place in the cash-rich average. The round was won by the Minor brothers, Riley and Brady Minor of Ellensburg, Washington with a 4.4 second run.
In the steer wrestling, the big man from Appleton, Minnesota, J.D. Struxness, followed up a 1/2 split in the third round with a 3.8 run in round four to win it outright this time around. And in the tie down roping, Marty Yates, the Stephenville, Texas hand was just two tenths of a second off Cody Ohl’s arena record to pocket the big cheque. Yates who qualified for the WNFR in 15th place was 6.8 seconds for the go-round victory. The barrel racing got blazing fast as Michelle McLeod of Whitesboro, Texas smoked a run of 13.49 to post her first go-round win of the 2016 Finals.
Jake Vold wasn’t the only Canadian to collect the go round buckle on this night. The Calgary Stampede’s Wranglers Extreme was top bull of the round as he carried Sulphur, Oklahoma’s Brennon Eldred to 86.5 points and the win. The seven-year-old bull was purchased by the Stampede in the spring from Todd Braithwaite and just three weeks ago carried eventual Canadian Champion, Jordan Hansen to a second place go round result with an 85 score.
The performances of Stampede stock added to an already productive week for the organization’s stock contracting division. Earlier in the week, it was announced that the Stampede had been named the primary stock contractor for Horse Heaven Round Up in Kennewick, Washington.
“We already have a major presence in the Pacific Northwest at that time,” Stampede spokesman Keith Marrington related, “so this fits really well with our program. Kennewick is a very progressive committee; they have $20,000 added and a short round so we’re very excited to become the primary stock contractor there.”
Outlaw Buckers’ Rodeo’s No Good Deed was also outstanding in the round as he bucked off NFR rookie Rory Maier from Timber Lake, South Dakota.