LAS VEGAS -- It's only fitting Billy Etbauer is one of Zeke Thurston's idols.
Thurston bested the rodeo legend Etbauer on Wednesday night at the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, setting a new Round 7 record in the saddle bronc competition with his 92.5-point ride on the bronc Get Smart, breaking the old round record of 90 points first set by Etbauer in 2009.
Chase Brooks and Wade Sundell both tied the 90-point record at the 2018 NFR.
"It felt like he was bucking very hard," laughed Thurston. "That little horse, I've been on him a lot and he's just, I don't know how much money I've won on that horse, but he's incredible. We kind of have a history. He's the bucking horse of the world, and to be able to ride him here at the Finals and win a round, that's pretty cool."
Thurston, the Canadian cowboy from Big Valley, Alberta, who won the 2016 world saddle bronc title, currently leads the 2019 world standings with $277,953. He opened the rodeo with an 88-point, first-place performance on Sue City Sue, but Wednesday night's ride, the one that broke the record previously held by his idol, Etbauer, was one for the ages.
"There's no other horse like him. I've never been on another bucking horse like him. He's itty-bitty, probably weighs 800 pounds, and he's hard as a rock. He comes in there, chest puffed up proud, and he's fast," said Thurston. "He's strong, hits the ground hard and follows it up with a huge amount of kick. He's just one of the ones where it has to go right for you to ride him, but when it does, you're going to win big."
Wednesday's go-round win by Thurston was the third consecutive victory by a Canadian saddle bronc rider, after Jake Watson and Dawson Hay collected first-place checks in Rounds 5 and 6, respectively.
“Jake, Dawson and I traveled together this year, and we had a blast,” Thurston said in a PRCA release. “We had a lot of fun rodeoing, all had good years, won lots and made the Finals, which was really special. It’s Jake’s second time and Dawson’s first, and for us three to come here and do well just makes it all the better. Rodeo is a huge family, and having guys like that you get to be around all the time is pretty cool.”
Updated world saddle bronc standings, which include Deer Lodge cowboy Chase Brooks, can be found below.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Zeke Thurston, 92.5 points on Northcott Macza's Get Smart, $26,231; 2. Ryder Wright, 88.5, $20,731; 3. Jake Watson, 87.5, $15,654; 4. Brody Cress, 86, $11,000; 5. Chase Brooks, 84.5, $6,769; 6. Spencer Wright, 78, $4,231; 7. Rusty Wright, 76; 8. Jesse Wright, 74.5; 9. Sterling Crawley, 73.5; 10. Jacobs Crawley, 67.5; 11. Mitch Pollock, Dawson Hay, Colt Gordon and J.J. Elshere, NS; 15. Bradley Harter, INJ.
Average standings: 1. Brody Cress, 592.5 points on seven head; 2. Rusty Wright, 584.5; 3. Spencer Wright, 508 on six; 4. Zeke Thurston, 435.5 on five; 5. Jacobs Crawley, 402; 6. Jake Watson, 348 on four; 7. Chase Brooks, 345.5; 8. Jesse Wright, 334; 9. Colt Gordon, 329; 10. (tie) Ryder Wright and Dawson Hay, 260 on three: 12. Sterling Crawley, 239.5; 13. J.J. Elshere, 168 on two; 14. Bradley Harter, 86.5 on one; 15. Mitch Pollock, 84.
World standings: 1. Zeke Thurston, $277,953; 2. Ryder Wright, $261,988; 3. Rusty Wright, $195,884; 4. Brody Cress, $185,539; 5. Spencer Wright, $183,553; 6. Chase Brooks, $173,950; 7. Jacobs Crawley, $169,089; 8. Jake Watson, $166,175; 9. Dawson Hay, $152,196; 10. Sterling Crawley, $149,389; 11. Jesse Wright, $132,736; 12. Bradley Harter, $127,543; 13. J.J. Elshere, $119,004; 14. Colt Gordon, $110,519; 15. Mitch Pollock, $109,542.