(PRCA media release)
LAS VEGAS – It’s only Day 2 of the 10-day Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.
When the first team ropers of the night shot out to a 4.1-second time, Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza didn’t let it pressure them.
The team roping veterans topped it with a time of 3.9 to win Round 2, tying the round’s second quickest time, and cashing in for $26,231 apiece.
“After missing one last night, we weren’t going to just catch him, that’s for sure,” Bird said. “He was a good enough steer that allowed us to make a good run and win first.”
Bird and Cardoza are old hats at making the trip to Vegas. Bird is in his fifth WNFR competition, while Cardoza is in his sixth.
“Vegas is fun anytime you come, but if you’re in the rodeo it makes it that much better,” said Cardoza, who sits fourth place in the team roping heeler world standings.
Bird is fifth place among headers after scoring the first-place check.
“That’s the big thing, being back here in Vegas, but to actually go and do good is another thing, so it feels good,” Bird said.
Header Kaleb Driggers and teammate heeler Junior Nogueira did not place, but continue to lead the world standings in their respective events. Each lead by at least $11,000 over their nearest competitor.
Saddle bronc rider CoBurn Bradshaw may have already found his groove.
A night after placing second in the saddle bronc riding, Bradshaw scored 89.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Tiger Warrior to win Round 2 at the WNFR on Friday, Dec. 9, at the Thomas & Mack Center. The score tied for the second most points in Round 2 history.
Bradshaw was good for 87 points in the first round on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Big Tex.
“The saddle is feeling good,” said Bradshaw, 23. “I was nervous coming in since it’s a new saddle and I had been on 15 horses with it, and they were little. So, I took my leathers up and was nervous they would be too tight. Last night’s horse (Big Tex) I had been on before and I knew Tiger Warrior was a good horse and my leathers were feeling good. I was nervous about Tiger Warrior because he is big and strong, and I was questioning my saddle, but now my confidence is up.”
Bradshaw also won Round 2 in 2015.
“I don’t know, I just have good luck in it and I guess it’s turning into my round – I’ve been nervous every year in the first round,” he said. “Last year, I had new leathers, too, and I threw my old ones on after the third round and did better.”
Also rising for Bradshaw after two nights were his season earnings. The Utah cowboy has earned $56,962 – including his $10,000 check for qualifying for the WNFR – in two rounds, putting him in the lead for the RAM Top Gun Award.
He’s still sitting in third place in the saddle bronc riding competition, but instead of being behind by more than $61,000, he’s behind leader Jacobs Crawley by about $12,000.
“I hope to be first place every night from now on,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve got a lot of ground to make up.”
Smith rides for 87 points to win bull riding competition
Once upon a time, Garrett Smith was at the WNFR in an accomplice role.
Smith, at the ripe old age of 19, hazed for his brother, Wyatt, at the 2014 Finals.
On Friday, Smith won Round 2 of the bull riding competition with 87 points on Rafter G Rodeo’s J Lazy.
“It means a lot and helps your confidence going into the next round; and going into the week it makes everything better,” said Garrett Smith, now 22 years old.
Smith can operate at either end of the arena, but for him, there’s only one end he’s interested in at the moment, and it’s showing with his second-place position in the world standings.
“That’s always been my dream since I was little, to be a bull rider, but when my brother asked me to haze it was cool,” he said. “I bulldog quite a bit, but I’m having too much fun riding bulls while I’m young to go for the Linderman Award.”
Smith’s win gives him $253,797. He trails three-time, defending World Champion Sage Kimzey by less than $12,000.
Smith isn’t planning on changing anything to close the gap further.
“You’ve got to keep doing what you are doing, and if you keep doing that it should go good,” he said.
Brazile wins tie-down roping title, extends all-around lead
Trevor Brazile was back to his old ways Friday night, winning his record 67th career go-round by taking the Round 2 tie-down roping victory in 7.4 seconds.
“It is just cool every time you win a round here,” said the 41-year-old Texas cowboy. “It just puts you in the (record) book and lets you be a part of the rich history of our sport, and it’s a lot of the reason we do what we do.”
With the win, Brazile increased his PRCA record in career go-rounds won overall, including the National Finals Steer Roping and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, to 67. Tie-down roper Cody Ohl (55) and saddle bronc rider Billy Etbauer (51) are second and third, respectively.
Brazile has won 23 career PRCA gold buckles (all-around 2002-04, 2006-15; tie-down roping 2007, 2009-10; team roping 2010; steer roping 2006-07, 2011, 2013-15).
The win also added to Brazile’s lead in the race for the all-around cowboy gold buckle, as he built his total winnings for 2017 up to $298,183. He leads brother-in-law Tuf Cooper by $58,161.
“I know it’s a race, but I also know it’s not a sprint either,” he said. “So, I’m just roping, and you can start worrying about it (the all-around standings) when you get close to the end, but until then, there’s nothing you can do.”
Amberleigh Moore posts Round 2 record
The barrel racer who holds the NFR earnings record won Round 2 in a round record time of 13.54 seconds on CP Dark Moon (Paige).
“I took a deep breath before I came up the alleyway because last night took a little bit of wind out of my sail,” Moore said. “I’m very happy for tonight.”
Moore bested the previous record (set by Sherry Cervi in 2013) by .12 seconds.
“Being top of the ground (second out) definitely was an advantage, I feel,” Moore said. “Tonight, Paige readjusted how she ran and adapted to the ground and got it done.”
Moore made an equipment change ahead of her ride.
“I had a new saddle,” Moore said. “I’ve had it for about two months and a couple times I felt a little bit uncomfortable in it, and last night was the final, ‘Go back to the saddle you’ve ridden in for the past year.’ I think it helped – at least I felt more confident in it.”
Aus, Champion share bareback riding title
Entering the WNFR, Tanner Aus had the largest deficit of any cowboy sitting in second place. He trailed defending world champion Tim O’Connell by $65,259.
After missing out on the money in the first round while O’Connell took home more than $13,000, Aus went back to his hotel and refocused.
On Friday night, Aus and Richmond Champion each scored 87.5 points to split the Round 2 victory.
“It’s nice to start off early,” said Aus, who rode Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet Fever. “I had kind of a slow night last night. You go back to the hotel and you think about your mistakes and try to rectify the situation, so I felt like I did an all right job doing that.”
Champion did his damage on a familiar horse, Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Fancy Free.
“Man, it was awesome,” Champion said. “It’s a horse that’s been around a long time – Fancy Free of Pete Carr’s – I think she might be older than I am. I knew I had a good one. I wasn’t sure she was going to be enough. Like I said, she’s an older horse, but she bucked like a colt today.”
While Aus and Champion each won $23,481, O’Connell placed again, bringing his 2017 WNFR earnings to $36,654.
Over the months leading up to the WNFR, Aus was contemplating what he needed to do to track down O’Connell.
“From the end of September to the beginning of December, those two months are pretty slow,” the Minnesota cowboy said. “Then the three days when you get to Vegas are the slowest. You try to keep your mind right and have a little fun. But here we are, second night down, and once she gets started it goes pretty fast.”
In his third trip to the Finals, this was Champion’s first time placing before the fourth round. Friday brought a different feeling.
“In the past two qualifications here, I’ve been a notorious slow starter,” an elated Champion said. “My goal this year was to get the ball rolling early. Last night didn’t go my way, but I kind of had a feeling tonight was going to be a better night, and I guess we’re right on track.”
Tanner Milan wins first career round win
With a little help from his family steer wrestler Tanner Milan nailed down his first career WNFR round win.
Milan won Round 2 in 3.5 seconds, tying for the fifth-fastest Round 2 time.
“This is incredible. This is just a heck of a feeling. This feels awesome,” Milan said. “Now, I have to just stay real aggressive on the start and run at the barrier every night and try and catch up as fast as I can.”
The win has Milan in fifth place in the world standings. His brother, Baillie, had a big hand in Friday’s win.
“I got a real, real good start and that little horse I’m riding (Maverick) is owned by Tom Lewis, and he gets across there so fast and he’s a real good, honest horse,” Milan said. “I had my brother, Baillie, hazing, and I have great support here from my family and friends. I couldn’t ask for a better way to have things go for me in Round 2.”
Tyler Pearson took second place in Round 2, bringing his NFR earnings after two nights to $51,462. Pearson now trails leader Ty Erickson by less than $12,000. Erickson’s lead going into the NFR had been more than $52,000.