(Editor's note: PRCA media info contributed to this story)
LAS VEGAS – No bull rider is hotter than Montana's Parker Breding after contestants passed the halfway mark Tuesday at this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Breding leads the high-paying average after earning another paycheck with a sixth-place finish on Tuesday. The Edgar cowboy rode Zombie Time for 81.5 points to collect $4,354. He's beaten the eight-second horn on five of six nights for an aggregate score of 425.5 aboard five head. No other rider this week has ridden more than three bulls, which leaves Breding a healthy cushion rolling into the final four nights.
The NFR average winner earns an additional $69,234. Breding currently sits fourth in the PRCA world standings with a season total of $209,380.44.
Texas cowboy Sage Kimzey, chasing his record-break sixth world championship, has a firm grip on the top spot with $321,983.41.
Former Montana State cowboy Shane Proctor failed to earn a score.
World champion tie-down roper Haven Meged clocked in at 7.4 seconds for a second place finish and $21,336. Miles City's 2019 world champion finished three-tenths of a second behind Cory Solomon (Prairie View, Texas).
Melstone's Sage Newman is on the board with his first ever NFR paycheck. Newman, competing in his first NFR, was fourth in saddle bronc with an 87 aboard Sue City Sue. The former Montana State cowboy collected $11,321 after finishing out of the money during his first five rounds.
Reigning world champion saddle bronc rider Ryder Wright has found his groove.
The Milford, Utah, cowboy won Round 6 with an 89.5-point ride on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Border Town.
It was Wright’s second consecutive round win and upped his 2021 NFR earnings to $84,459. He leads the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $266,353. Wright owns the Round 6 record with his 90.5-point trip on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Billie last year at the NFR at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s one of Hi Lo’s (Pro Rodeo) best horses and, shoot, he jumped out of there and did just about what I thought he was going to do,” Wright said. “I had that horse in Kissimmee (Fla.) earlier this year and I scored 88 points on him, so I knew he was going to go out and give me a shot. All I had to do was my part and luckily it worked out. I want to keep it one horse at a time. One jump at a time. Just keep it simple.”
The Wright family had a memorable round as Ryder won, Stetson was second and Spencer was third.
“Oh, it’s super awesome. We got the draw last night and we were standing out in the parking lot, and I told them we were going to be one, two, and three tonight (Tuesday) and it worked out.”
Bareback rider Larsen gets first payday with record ride
Bareback rider Orin Larsen had not collected a check at the Wrangler NFR before Tuesday night.
That changed in Round 6.
The Inglis, Manitoba, cowboy had a 91-point ride on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Night Gazer to win Round 6. The ride broke the Round 6 bareback riding record shared by Cimmaron Gerke (2004) and Kaycee Feild (2008)
“I didn’t realize I broke the record,” Larsen said. “Any time you can break a record it feels great and if you can do it at the NFR it is even better.”
Larsen, an NFR veteran, was making his ride on Night Gazer.
“No, I had never seen him,” he said. “Anytime you are 90 or more at any rodeo, but especially at the NFR it is dang sure pretty special. He was very exotic. It was very exciting. It is better late than never to get a check. It’s funny how Vegas will just turn around and kind of go your way when you let it. This is a huge game changer for me. I can start getting momentum shifted my way and look for a better second half.”
Bull rider Creek Young is only a rookie, but he is riding like a savvy veteran.
Young won Round 3 and then added the Round 6 victory with a 90.5-point ride on Macza Pro Rodeo’s Ugly Wish.
“It feels great. I got on a bull, Ugly Wish, from Macza Pro Rodeo that Parker Breding rode in the first round and they’ve won several rodeos in the summer,” Young said. “I knew I had a really good bull that should fit me really well and I got it done for 90.5.”
This is a time Young relishes being a part of.
“Well, it’s been like nothing I’ve experienced before,” Young said. “Being a rookie, I just decided to take it all in and have as much fun as possible. I feel like when you’re doing that, that’s when you’re riding your best and I got another round win doing that. So, I think I’m going to keep doing that.”
Dirk Tavenner is having a memorable Wrangler NFR.
The Rigby, Idaho, cowboy split the Round 1 win, won Round 2 outright and added the Round 6 win with a 3.4-second run Tuesday night.
“Yes, I got a great start, my horse worked well,” Tavenner said. “I’ve done well on sleeper steers like that one. I have won a lot of rodeos; it’s been my bread and butter.”
Tavenner, who also split third in Round 4, has moved up to the second in the world standings with $170,926. He has earned an event-best $101,877 at this year’s NFR.
Tavenner is riding Oscar, a converted steer wrestling horse.
“He was a barrel horse, they tried roping steers on him and he hated his job, so I bought him, and he fits me well and has just been awesome,” Tavenner said. “When you have a great horse and a hazer you trust, it takes so much pressure off me to just do my job. I just have to keep this rolling and see what happens at the end.”
Cory Solomon set the pace in tie-down roping with a 7.1-second to claim the Round 6 title.
“That’s the one Caleb Smidt went 7.1 on so I knew it was a great calf so I just decided I would go for the go round win,” Solomon said.
Solomon was quick to credit his horse Cisco.
“He came into my life a couple of years ago, I never dreamed he would get to this stage,” Solomon said. “I bought him to be a jackpot horse, took me couple of years to get him to where we are now. If anyone knows about south Texas calves, that calf tonight was just like being at home going to jackpots and just thankful to get a win on a good calf.”
Cisco gives Solomon confidence moving forward.
“He allows me to go fast or to stay in the average, he doesn’t make a mistake,” he said. “When I first started, I didn’t have the money to get a horse like that, so I am so blessed and lucky to know that now 10 years after making my first NFR, I can know my horse is going to help me do whatever I need to do to be one of the top (tie-down) ropers in the PRCA.”
Solomon has now placed in three rounds and earned $68,348 at the NFR. He’s sixth in the world standings with $167,500.
After a rough start to the 2021 Wrangler NFR, team ropers Coy Rahlmann and Douglas Rich Rich changed their fortunes in Round 6.
The duo stopped the clock in 3.6 second to take the Round 6 victory.
“We are pretty far down in the average so now we are just shooting at the rounds,” Rahlmann said. “I knew this was going to be a pretty tough round so I just tried to get a really good start and go as fast as I could without missing. This a great confidence builder knowing we can do it and hopefully we can get some more money out of the rounds.”
Rich echoed his partner.
“We just had a great steer and Coy hit the barrier good and I had a good start and it all worked out and we made a good run. This is a dream come true.”
After earning $26,997 each, Rahlmann and Rich are 11th in their respective world standings.
Ivy Saebens had a tough start to the 2021 Wrangler NFR, placing in just one of the first five rounds.
Saebens turned it around in Round 6 winning with a time of 13.43 seconds.
“It has just been a rough week. Definitely not the way I thought this was going to play out, even last night was not what I had planned and no idea it was going to go that way. I am just glad I could get this done for JLo and her owners. I have just been in her way.”
Saebens was thrilled to get back on track at the Thomas & Mack.
“It is all a mental game on what we are doing. Our horses are just so good and the ground has been amazing. We can’t thank Las Vegas Events, Allen (Rheinheimer – Wrangler NFR General Manager) for their effort this year to make the ground so good. I was trying to force it too much and decided if it was meant to be it would be.”