Christmas for a trio of Canadian cowboys will be a little easier, thanks to ten days spent in Las Vegas. Not many people can leave that city with cash in hand, but Dustin Flundra, Curtis Cassidy and Jake Vold managed to earn some bonus bucks, as they put the finishing touches on their 2014 pro rodeo season.
Canadian bareback riding champion Vold finds himself almost $75,000 to the good after his work at the National Finals Rodeo. The Ponoka-raised contestant wrapped things up on a high note, by placing in a tie for third place Saturday night, with an aggressive 85 point ride on a horse by the name of Good Time Charlie. That gave him another $8071 for the final go-round, and it was also enough to bump him up in the rich paying average. His total of 812.5 points on the ten rides was fourth best overall, which was worth an additional $22,987. Vold came into Las Vegas in 11th spot in the world standings, and finished in sixth. He doubled his season earnings, and marked down $142,774 as the year-end tally.
“I had a blast here,” remarked the 27-year-old, as he was asked to review his first NFR.
“My highlight of the week? After this tenth round, just going home with a big cheque, I guess,” he chuckled. “I just made sure I kept such a positive attitude, and had a lot of fun. I sure enjoyed Vegas.”
“Some guys said it can be a long ten days, or it can be an awesome ten days. I was bound and determined that no matter what happened, I was going to have an awesome ten days. It definitely worked out.”
As disappointing as it was for Vold to miss out on the NFR experience in the past due to injuries, it now appears the ‘seasoning’ he gained on the rodeo trail leading up to his Vegas debut was worthwhile. Vold was not dazzled by all the lights and pressure, but instead came ready to do his job.
“I’m a little older, so probably don’t party as much as I used to,” he admitted. “You just slow down a bit, and I guess I kind of know how to slow down a bit on some horses too. But I’ve still got that all or nothing attitude most times. Yea, definitely having experience coming here sure has helped me.”
“I can’t believe it’s over. My body’s ready for it to be done, I can tell you that. But it flew by, for sure.”
“It’s one of the years I’ve been waiting to have money-wise. It’s sure nice. I’m looking forward to quite a few more,” grinned Vold.
Steer wrestler Curtis Cassidy had an up and down week in his fifth NFR appearance. He got to experience the victory lap and collect a go-round buckle twice, although one of those times he split the honor with another bulldogger. With just three placings, Cassidy picked up $43,981 in Las Vegas, which in any other place, at any other time of the year, would be cause for dancing in the streets. But given what ‘could’ve been’, and the fact he broke out and missed his last steer Saturday, the Donalda cowboy had some mixed emotions when the event was all over.
“I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t win more and it didn’t go better,” admitted Cassidy, Canada’s reigning High Point Champion. “But I rode a new horse I’d never rode here before, or not even much up to this point. He was a little hit and miss for me, but there were a couple of nights where it worked out really good. The horse has got a lot of speed, it’s just a matter of him needing a little more experience. I need a little more experience on him, just to get on the same page. But he’s got a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to next year, because I think he’s going to be pretty darn good.”
When the dust cleared, Cassidy had moved up one notch, from 11th to 10th in the world standings, to cap off a $101,430 season. Four-time Canadian saddle bronc champion Dustin Flundra made his third trip to Las Vegas, riding away with $28,810 after placing in four rounds, and finishing 8th in the average. But he was flagged for missing his horse out and given no score Saturday, which wasn’t the way he wanted to wrap up his 2014 season.
“Things didn’t work out, and I’m disappointed in myself a bit right now,” confessed Flundra. “I had a horse that was probably a chance in the round and unfortunately for me, I had a little bauble at the start. You can’t afford to make mistakes like that. Mistakes like that cost you a lot of money. I’m not making excuses. I should’ve spurred him out, but that’ll be my motivation for next year. I’ll go home and work a little harder, and start again next year.”
Flundra made a late season charge to even earn the right to be in Las Vegas, qualifying with a cheque in won on his last horse in Hanna. He did manage to move himself up from that 15th spot in the world standings to 12th, and was still grateful for the chance to ride for the past ten days.
“The whole NFR experience is pretty awesome. The rodeo’s like nothing else in the world. Every experience, you come, you learn, you grow from it. I’m just ready to start over, and get back here again next year.”
Flundra’s season also included the $100,000 bonus from the Calgary Stampede, and he and his trick-riding wife Niki are expecting their second child in less than two weeks, so it will go down as a memorable year for the family.
There were plenty of repeat World Champions on the roster this year. Kaycee Feild of Utah won his fourth straight bareback title, as well as the average, while Texan Tuf Cooper claimed his third buckle in the tie-down roping event. Californian Luke Branquinho notched his fifth world championship in the steer wrestling, with repeat winners Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill in the team roping. The amazing Trevor Brazile moved his record gold buckle collection to 21, as he earned his 12th all-around honor, finishing the year with $494,369.
For the first time, the barrel racing title went to the always colorful Fallon Taylor of Texas, but four-time Canadian barrel racing titlist Lisa Lockhart of South Dakota won the average. The youth factor was also evident as Spencer, the youngest of the four saddle bronc riding Wright brothers of Utah, won his first world buckle in that event. And 20-year-old Sage Kimzey became just the second bull rider ever to win the world in his rookie year. The Oklahoma cowboy also took the average, and the truck as the Ram Top Gun winner for the highest money earner of any event at the NFR. A record attendance of 177,565 fans took in the action at the Thomas and Mack Arena this year.