It’s round-up time in the rodeo corral! Lots has been going on the last few weeks, and with the Cowboy Classic Finals Rodeo beginning tonight in Red Deer, it’s time to get caught up.
The 2014 season has wrapped up on the pro rodeo calendar on both sides of the border. When the dust cleared, there were three Canadians among the world’s top 15 who will make their way to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo in December.
Ponoka bareback rider Jake Vold finished in 1th spot in the world standings, and he’ll be making his first NFR appearance. He’s been in the hunt before but injuries took him out of the race. His focused, yet relaxed approach this year seemed to pay off, and he stayed healthy and rode his way to $40,000 in earnings in Canada as well, finishing way out in front for season leader honors, and the edge in the Canadian championship race.
Curtis Cassidy wrestled his way to a fifth trip to Las Vegas in steer wrestling, adding a little extra insurance money from a placing in the year’s last rodeo in Hanna, to also finish in the No. 11 spot in the world race. The Donalda cowboy then went on to place at last weekend’s inaugural Grassroots Finals Rodeo in Calgary to claim the season leader honours for Canada in that event. He’ll be at the CFR in both the bulldogging and tie-down roping events.
The biggest dust-up was in the saddle bronc riding, where Pincher Creek hand Dustin Flundra was in a battle to scrape into the 15th and final NFR qualifying spot. He did so by riding a horse called Red Tide to the Hanna title, giving him enough to bump back Troy Crowser to 16th, by a mere $160. It will be a third trip to Las Vegas for the three-time Canadian champion. It also marks the first time in several years the Canadian count at the NFR has been this high.
The Grassroots Finals were a welcome addition to the Canadian rodeo calendar for those contestants who did the bulk of their winning at the smaller shows on the circuit. There were four competitors who were especially glad, since they earned enough at the Calgary event to secure a spot for Edmonton in November. Rookie bull rider Billy West of Cadogan won the second night with a 90-point ride on a bull called Trendon, for a total cheque of $3,000, which vaulted him from outside the qualifying 12 to 10th spot. It also helped him sew up the rookie of the year title, just like his father Kevin had done back in 1986.
Again there was drama in the saddle bronc riding. It was 2008 Canadian champion Dusty Hausauer who was more than $2,000 behind the top 12 before Grassroots started. But the North Dakota cowboy swept both rounds and the average, and the $4,000 win bumped him all the way up to 11th. Penhold’s Todd Herzog was left in the crying hold, by just $456.
In the tie down roping, Chad Johnson had some work to do to move up the standings among the five Americans allowed to Edmonton. He roped up some magic, winning one round and finishing second the next night. He climbed all the way to fourth in the standings, and can book his return trip to Rexall Place.
Taber barrel racer Nancy Csabay got a slower start on her season, because she was off battling breast cancer. She won that fight and also collected enough at the Grassroots Finals to bump her up the list to qualify for her fifth CFR.
As well, the season awards and CFR personnel have been announced. Among the winners was Rimbey’s Dean Edge, whose great horse Sid was named tie-down rope horse of the Year for an incredible sixth time. Ponoka Stampede received the nod for committee of the year. Sylvan Lake’s Brett Gardiner was named announcer of the year for the fourth straight year. He’ll also be announcing at the Canadian Finals this year.
Now the attention turns to the Foothills Cowboys Association which kicks off its Cowboy Classic Finals Rodeo tonight at Westerner Park.
There are four performances where the season’s top 10 get a chance to claim the championship titles in a sudden-death format. The lineup includes perennial local favorites such as Bentley’s Troy Pollitt and his friend/rival Rudy Nieborg of Rimbey.
Calgary’s Keenan Reinhardt had the best regular season in the bronc riding again this year. He also won the novice event at the Calgary Stampede, and would love to add an FCA buckle to his collection. But Red Deer’s Kelsey Koenning will be giving him a run for his money on that. Rocky’s Branden Dillman is in the bareback pen, while Delburne’s Shane Peters is in the bull riding.
Tonight’s Cowboy Classic opening performance is at 7 p.m., followed by 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. performance Saturday and then wrapping up at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Stockmens Pavilion.