(Editor's note: PRCA release)
Tim O'Connell immediately searched for a scoreboard after dismounting from Frontier Rodeo's Gun Fire at the Riggin Rally Xtreme Broncs in Weatherford, Texas, April 3.
He knew the number had the potential to be massive.
The three-time world champion bareback rider from Zwingle, Iowa, was right. The board lit up with a glowing 94 — the highest mark his event has ever seen — as he tied the PRCA world record for the second time in two years.
"To have two 94s in my career is just special," said O'Connell, who originally posted a 94 Feb. 15, 2020, aboard Northcott Macza's Stevie Knicks to win in San Angelo. "I didn't know what it was going to be tonight, but I knew it was going to be big. To do it in front of your peers and for them to agree with what just went down, that means more than anything."
O'Connell now shares the world record twice over, matching Wes Stevenson (Kesler Rodeo's Cover Girl, Dallas, 2002); Will Lowe (Kesler Rodeo's Sky Reach, Omaha, Neb., 2003); Ryan Gray (Carr Pro Rodeo's Grass Dancer, Eagle, Colo., 2009); and Tilden Hooper (Classic Pro Rodeo's Big Tex, Silver City, N.M., 2010).
Gun Fire is the cream of the crop in bareback riding these days. Clayton Biglow was 93 on the horse to win San Antonio earlier this year, and Hooper took home The American crown with a 90.5-pointer aboard the bucker in early March.
"That horse is on a different level right now from any other horse out there," said O'Connell, who qualified for Weatherford's six-man short-go with an 85 on Frontier Rodeo's Bottom Line in the opening round. "It's the front-runner for Horse of the Year right now. That's just a special animal."
Their trip together at the Steiner Ranch was special and reminded O'Connell of their first meeting years ago when he was 86 on the gifted horse.
"It was similar to the trip I had a long time ago, but she was so good," said O'Connell, who is second in the 2021 PRCA | RAM World Standings behind Hooper. "She came out, turned back to the right and was pretty honky coming around in her typical one full circle and then just jumped out of it and started getting straight up and down and bucking. It was just everything you'd want out of a big-time horse like that.
"She gave me every opportunity to do my job to the best of my ability, but also gave me the opportunity to get bucked off every time, too."
Being able to celebrate with his wife, Sami, and son, Hazen, was worth much more than the winner's check.
"I got to grab my 3-year-old boy and bring him over the fence to celebrate with me," O'Connell said. "That's a moment I'll never forget."