by Dianne Finstad
The 40th Canadian Finals Rodeo hit the halfway point Friday night in Edmonton, and several contestants stepped up to put themselves back in the hunt for a Canadian title.
Saddle bronc rider Rylan Geiger had the high mark of the performance and the CFR so far, when he spurred to an 88 on the Calgary Stampede horse Timely Delivery. Geiger, who grew up in Bracken, Saskatchewan, had the Midas touch at the start of the 2013 season, winning virtually every rodeo they let him enter. But he hadn’t been able to find that golden way at Rexall Place for quite some time.
“I never won a round last year, so I went all of last year without getting a go-round buckle, and it took until round three this time, so it’s about time,” admitted the 24-year-old, who is at his fourth CFR in the open bronc riding.
The pen was full of superstar horses, but Geiger knew his match up was a good fit for his style, and size.
“It felt strong. He’s just a big, powerful stud horse. When he ran into the front of the chute he had me a little worried. I didn’t want to get behind him right off the bat. But I managed to get a good markout and things went great from there.”
“It was fun, but I sure didn’t want to stub a toe because every time he lit, you felt him. He was heavy and strong.”
Geiger was obviously thrilled with the ride and the mark, but the Stampede’s Keith Marrington was equally enthusiastic in congratulating Geiger.
“Yea, we were both pretty excited,” acknowledged Geiger. “But I think I was maybe a little more excited. It’s been a couple years coming. It sure boosts your confidence when you can come out and win a round.”
Geiger came to Edmonton in seventh spot in the standings, but the $14,114 he’s picked up here has boosted him to third behind leaders Cort Scheer and Chet Johnson. Geiger has ridden all three of his horses, while Scheer was bucked off Friday, so the average will be a factor as the days go on, in what’s sure to be a close race for the title.
Matt Lait is beginning to open up a big lead in the bareback riding, after he came up with an 87 point winning ride for the second straight night. This time it came on the great Kesler horse Street Dance. Lait has already earned more this week than he did all season long, chalking up $25,582, compared to his incoming total of $23,163.
“I’ve been on that horse quite a few times now,” said Lait, competing at his 7th CFR. “He’s an amazing horse, he’s an amazing athlete, and I mean, it doesn’t get much better than him. You do things right, and he’s going to let you win first. I’ve never seen him have a bad day.”
Lait now has a ten thousand dollar cushion over second place Kyle Bowers, and he leads the average as well.
It was an outstanding night of bull riding, this time topped by an 87.25 point ride from Tyler Thomson of Black Diamond on the 2013 Bull of the Year in Canada, Red Stag, owned by Outlaw Buckers.
It was the first qualified ride of the week for the former Canadian champion, and the $11,467 put him back up on the leader board in third place.
“I got a slow start,” admitted Thomson. “I can’t remember the last time I bucked off in the spinner pen like I did last night. That kind of lit a fire. I was pretty upset with myself. My wife was wondering what was wrong with me all day today. I was just looking for a little redemption, I guess.”
“I couldn’t have drawn a better bull, the bucking bull of the year. You’re supposed to ride him, and win first when you do.”
“I need to win a lot of rounds now, but this will help a lot. That jumps me back in there. I’ve got three more rounds to try and win first, so I’ll just go at ‘em.”
While Thomson is closing in, both the bull riders in front of him placed in the round. Scott Schiffner is on top overall with $40,013, while Big Valley’s Devon Mezei sits second, but only he and Tanner Byrne have ridden all three of their bulls.
They speeded up the clock in all the timed events Friday night. Al Bouchard of Scandia claimed the biggest cheque in the tie-down roping with a 7.4 second run, fastest of the CFR to date. Timber Moore of Texas is still in front overall, but a missed calf this time around will impact his average standings. Fellow Texan Hunter Cure matched the fast time in steer wrestling with his own 3.3 second run, to push his CFR earnings to $20,583, and give him the lead for the Canadian race, as well as the average.
And despite now measuring the barrel racing times to the thousandth of a second, there was a tie, and a new fast time, when Lisa Lockhart and Nikki Steffes each posted 14.570 second runs. Both competitors are from South Dakota. Lockhart is sitting in good shape to defend her Canadian title, as she is first overall, and in the average.
It was a tough night for Lacombe’s Tyrel Flewelling and his partner Kolten Schmidt in the team roping, when they missed their steer. Americans Jesse Sheffield and Rhen Richard had the best time in a less than shiny round with their six second run. Clint Buhler and Brett McCarroll are the frontrunners, but it’s still a wide open race.
Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston is trying to close the door in the novice bronc riding, posting his third straight victory, but Rocky’s Kale McKenzie is trying to keep pace, taking his third straight second place finish.
He’s $550 behind Thurston. Kody Lamb and Philippe Harvey split the novice bareback riding Friday, keeping Harvey within $1400 of Lamb’s lead. Barrhead’s Kagen Schmidt recorded his second straight victory in steer riding, to close the gap on leader Dawson Hay.
Saturday is often called ‘moving day’ at the CFR, with two performances at 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm, so there’s double the cash on the line. The CFR wraps up Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.