LAS VEGAS – Bull rider Chase Dougherty is enjoying his first trip to the Wrangler NFR. The competition is as stiff as he’ll see at any rodeo.
But it isn’t the bull riding or the competing that has been his favorite part.
It’s been the opening ceremonies, although notching his first go-round Finals victory Wednesday isn’t bad either.
Dougherty rode Frontier Rodeo’s Lookin Up for 87.5 points and the win before 16,770 during Round 7 of the 60th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Military Night in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Dec. 12.
“It means a lot,” said Dougherty, 20. “I’ve always wanted to make the NFR, and to get a round win out of it is going to put the icing on the cake.”
Dougherty, who won $27,077 including ground money, has climbed to third in the average after seven rounds, with 344.5 points on four head. Only one bull rider – Jeff Askey – has covered five head. Dougherty has won $90,103 at the Finals, upping his season total to $199,452, third most in the world standings.
He’s not planning on doing much different.
“Same as usual, just stay loose and cool and treat it like the practice pen, since it’s the practice pen of the best of the best,” said the Canby, Ore., cowboy.
Dougherty expected his bull to be good, but he wasn’t sure what Lookin Up would do, and that’s how he likes it.
“I knew he was red and would buck pretty good,” Dougherty said. “I guess (Dustin) Boquet rode him good this week, too. But, I don’t study my bulls too much since you have to get on them one way or another, so I’d rather not know.”
Like so many other competitors at the Finals, Dougherty is wearing down but trying to keep at it.
“Honestly, I’m sore but good,” he said. “It’s a good kind of sore. I definitely do not want to do a lot of partying and just get some sleep tonight, but I’m excited for the next round.”
As for his favorite part of the 10-day rodeo. That’s easy.
“The grand entry and getting to carry the flag for Oregon,” he said. “I wish we could go a heck of a lot faster and it was a bigger arena, so it would last longer, but it’s awesome.”
Sage Kimzey continues to lead the bull riding world standings with $358,853. Parker Breding is second with $225,232.
Durfey rides to first round win since 2016
Riding on a horse who had ridden in only 14 rodeos before the Wrangler NFR, former tie-down roping world champion Tyson Durfey wasn’t sure what would happen.
Durfey also hadn’t won a Finals round since winning his world championship in 2016.
But Wednesday night, Durfey’s horse Mitch looked like a veteran and Durfey took care of the rest, as the duo stopped the clock in 7.2 seconds to win Round 7.
“This feels absolutely amazing,” said Durfey, of Weatherford, Texas. “I went from not placing in any go-round on my young horse Mitch to winning this round. Before we came here, he had been to 14 rodeos in his life. He’s 14, but he was a working cow horse before he was a calf horse. I haven’t roped on him very much, and I’m thankful to get a win on him.”
Durfey’s horse Nikko, whom Durfey won the world title on, died Nov. 23. Winning aboard Mitch brought back some memories to Durfey, who cashed in for $26,231.
“When you win a round, you jump off your horse and they rush you to a TV interview,” Durfey said. “It is surreal to get the go-round win because there were a lot of times I got to take that victory lap on Nikko. He was my rock for so many years. I don’t know if there are any more tears to cry. When I think of the moment I won the world and all the things he’s given me, it’s hard not to get emotional.”
Tuf Cooper took over the lead in the tie-down roping world standings after placing third in the round. Cooper is up to $173,749. Marty Yates is second with $166,502.
Kinsel continues torrid run, notches third round win
Hailey Kinsel is dominating the Wrangler NFR the way she dominated the regular season.
Kinsel wrapped up her third round win of the 2018 Finals – and second in a row – by stopping the clock in 13.61 seconds Wednesday.
“No, it doesn’t,” she said when asked if winning a round ever gets old. “You see new faces every time too, and I always get to look up to where my family is sitting and wave at them, so it’s fun.”
The victory gives her $120,212 won at the Finals alone. She continues to lead the barrel racing world standings with $313,046. Her next closest competitor (Amberleigh Moore) has yet to break the $200,000 barrier.
Kinsel entered the Finals with a lead of $46,0008.
“It’s nice (having a big lead in the standings),” Kinsel said. “I mean, it's good to have a shot at it. I think that everybody who comes here has a shot at it because of the money here, so it’s great. You have to have a good NFR. I’m glad it's been going good so far. We have three more rounds, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Kinsel was again riding DM Sissy Hayday, “Sister,” the 2018 PRCA | AQHA Horse of the Year for barrel racing.
“The run felt really good,” Kinsel said. “She (Sister) was honest and nice tonight.”
Larsen pushes pain aside to win bareback riding round
Orin Larsen underwent knee surgery in late November, putting his fourth consecutive Wrangler National Finals Rodeo appearance in doubt.
But Larsen opted to ride, and in Round 7 he showed he could handle the pain.
Larsen won Round 7 with an 89-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Tip Off, notching his first Finals go-round win since Round 8 of 2016.
“Man, I’ve been wanting to do that for quite a while,” said Larsen, of Inglis, Manitoba. “It’s beyond words – I get to go to the media room and do all the South Point stuff. I’m pretty grateful.”
With the win, Larsen, 27, is fifth in the world standings with $191,847. After failing to cash a check in either of the first two rounds, Larsen placed second in the third round, sixth in the fourth round and sixth in the sixth round.
He’s dealing with the pain and trying to ignore it every time he climbs aboard.
“I guess so,” he said when asked if it feels like he’s getting stronger as the rounds have gone along. “Justin Sportsmedicine has kept me gathered up pretty well, and that’s been really helping, as has drawing the right horses at the right time. It’s hard to win when you’re healthy, let alone when you’re hurt. There are a lot of great horses and the best athletes in the world here.”
Larsen had never been on Tip Off, but he knew what to expect.
“Clayton Biglow got along with it really well the last time out, and he said it was going to be up and down and really strong and really turn it on at the end,” Larsen said. “That’s exactly what it did. I just tried to do my part and executed it as well as I could.”
The bareback riding got a new leader in the world standings. Caleb Bennett’s 88-point ride on Rafter G Rodeo’s Ankle Biter put him in second place in the round. That earned him $20,731 and bumped him up from second to first in the world standings, supplanting two-time defending world champion Tim O’Connell with three rounds left in the 10-day rodeo. They are separated by $13,243.
Cure, Pearson tie in steer wrestling
A pair of world champion steer wrestlers split first in Round 7 with 3.6-second runs.
Defending champion Tyler Pearson and two-time champion Hunter Cure shared the round-winning honors, each cashing in for $23,481.
Pearson is trying to defend his title. He won Round 2, which moved him into first place in the world standings. But he failed to record a time on his next four steers until Wednesday night.
“This is really cool,” said Pearson, who is riding Scooter, the two-time PRCA | AQHA Horse of the Year in steer wrestling. “I missed four steers in a row. It was nice to finally get a time and get back in the groove of things. I also won some money which was great. If you back off at all here, it is going to cost you more. I’ve been trying to go for first, and it paid off tonight.”
Cure’s horse is starting to get comfortable in the arena, and it’s paying off for the 2013 and 2015 champion.
“I’m riding a 9-year-old horse I trained named Zooming Up Front,” said Cure, of Holliday, Texas. “This is his first time to the NFR, and he’s the youngest horse in the field. I really feel like this horse is just now starting to show me the potential he has. We were maybe a little bit slower going early in the week, but I feel like we have some momentum headed our way.”
Canadian Curtis Cassidy continues to lead the steer wrestling world standings with $184,125. Will Lummus, who leads the average in steer wrestling, is second to Cassidy by $14,327.
Two sets of team ropers post 3.9-second runs
Luke Brown and Jake Long made their first victory lap of the 2018 Wrangler NFR.
Derrick Begay and Cory Petska took their second.
Both sets of team ropers stopped the clock in 3.9 seconds to split the round, as all four ropers walked away with $23,481.
Team roping heeler Long liked his effort throughout the Finals, until Tuesday night. He got over that feeling quickly Wednesday.
“I felt really good until last night,” Long said. “I was pretty frustrated all day. It never feels good to drop the ball. It feels good to bounce back tonight, come through and finish the round.”
Team roping header Brown said he made an adjustment to help the team.
“My horse is a little bit too quick,” he said. “So, I asked Jake to haze him a little bit. That gets you off on the left fence and you lose momentum sometimes. But it’s a safer bet on making the steer heel, so we went with that and it worked out.”
Begay and Petska got to enjoy their second win. The two have won $71,135 each through seven days of the rodeo.
“We had an amazing steer and my partner did an amazing job tonight,” said heeler Petska. “I’m just excited to have this opportunity again.”
Header Begay is trying to make sure he and Petska continue to do what’s working.
“I’ve been roping my whole life, so you just have to trust what you do every day, not really think about it too much, and go through the motions,” Begay said. “It’s about muscle memory and using your brain.”
Clay Smith and Paul Eaves continue to lead the tie-down roping world standings with $197,127.
Sundell, Brooks tie in saddle bronc riding
At 24 years of age, Chase Brooks is in his first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
At 33, Wade Sundell is enjoying his eighth.
On Wednesday, the two split the Round 7 win with a pair of 90-point rides.
Brooks rode Corey and Lange Rodeo’s Diamond Fever to notch his 90 and get his first go-round win. Sundell did it aboard Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo’s Total Equines Angel Fire. They tied the round record set by Billy Etbauer in 2009.
Brooks knew what to expect from Diamond Fever.
“I had won St. Paul, Ore., (with an 87.5-point ride) this summer on mine,” said the Belgrade, Mont., cowboy. “I knew when she got out she would buck, and she felt awesome today.”
Sundell had never ridden Angel Fire, but he had a feeling what the bronc might do.
“I’d seen her before and knew she would have some moves, and there were a few more than I thought,” he said. “She lived up to every bit of it.”
Sundell also won Round 5. He’s up to fifth in the world standings with $194,329. Brooks is at $145,161, putting him in eighth place.
Brooks is trying to soak up his first trip.
“Everything here is awesome,” he said. “I’d never been to the Thomas & Mack before, and practicing for the grand entry was just surreal. It’s everything I hoped for and more.”
Sundell loves qualifying for the Finals in Vegas.
“Just being here is the coolest thing you ever get to do,” he said. “Every day is like the first time. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, I’m just glad to be here.”
Reigning, defending world champion Ryder Wright continues to lead the saddle bronc riding world standings with $243,194. Ryder’s brother Rusty has made it a family affair by climbing into second place in the standings after winning $15,654 Wednesday. Ryder Wright leads by $33,856.
Brazile still ahead in All-Around
Trevor Brazile continues to lead in the hunt for the All-Around cowboy race.
But both second-place Tuf Cooper and first-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Rhen Richard, who sits in third, cut into the lead a bit.
Brazile, who holds a PRCA-record 23 world titles, is first in the all-around with $298,026. Second is Cooper, Brazile’s brother-in-law, with $278,838. Richard is third with $199,416.
Cooper won $15,654 in tie-down roping Wednesday. Richard won $34,327 combined in tie-down roping and team roping. Richard is also fourth in the aggregate in team roping and second in the aggregate for tie-down roping.
Kinsel grabs RAM Top Gun Award lead
After notching her third round win of the 2018 Wrangler NFR, Hailey Kinsel climbed into the lead for the RAM Top Gun Award, given to the Finals competitor who wins the most money over the 10 days in one event.
Kinsel has won $120,212. Amberleigh Moore is second to Kinsel in the Top Gun race (she’s also second to Kinsel in the barrel racing world standings) with $104,346.
Saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer is third with $96,942.
This release is courtesy of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).