BILLINGS – Fourth of July week is always known as a gold mine on the rodeo trail. It’s the richest week of the regular season every summer with pro rodeos criss-crossing the nation.
We’re watching plenty of Montana and Wyoming competitors, with both in the bareback. Cowley, Wyoming’s J.R. Vezain is back in business. He’s 10th in the world right now, with plenty of room to climb after finishing 4th with over $220,000 last year. Power’s Jessy Davis could use some of that – he’s 20th, about $8,000 behind the coveted Top 15 that qualify for December’s National Finals Rodeo.
Ty Erickson knows all about the Finals. He’s been in position to win a world title the last two years, only to come up just short both times. The Helena steer wrestler is 16th right now – a big week would put him right back in position. One guy he’s chasing – Stevensville’s Bridger Chambers, who made a lot of money by winning the Montana Circuit Finals and then finishing 2nd at the Ram National Circuit Finals. He’s 5th in the world now.
Billings has two team roping headers chasing the Top 15. Max Kuttler is 26th in the world after winning almost $4,000 in Oregon earlier this month, and three-time world champion Clay Tryan is 30th – both a little over $5,000 out of qualifying range.
Fans remember Brody Cress’ magical run at his first NFR last year. The Hillsdale, Wyoming saddle bronc rider had a chance to win a world title, ending up 2nd by a mere $2,000. He’s proving it was no fluke. The 22-year-old is 3rd in this year’s standings and would love nothing more than to win a couple big ones in his home state this week.
Circle native Lisa Lockhart is back in barrel racing. She’s 6th in the world after a strong start. Lockhart is looking to qualify for her 12th straight NFR.
And finally in bull riding, a familiar name is back near the top. Parker Breding is having the best year of his career – he’s 2nd in the world, earning over $100,000 already. Longtime fans will remember his dad Scott, an NFR staple for years. Parker qualified as a 21-year-old in 2013, but hasn’t been back since. He’ll be back right before Christmas this year – no matter what Cowboy Christmas holds this week.
We’ll have an eye on three PRCA rodeos surrounding us – Livingston, Red Lodge and Cody all coming up next week.