It’s something on every pro cowboy’s wish list – win the Ponoka Stampede. Shane Hanchey has been coming all the way from Sulphur, Louisiana for half a dozen years in pursuit of that goal. Sunday night at the 80th annual event, he finally made it happen, and it only took 7.5 seconds.
With a hot rope, his favorite horse and the right calf, Hanchey scooped up the big prize for the tie-down roping in the Showdown round, wrapping up a total payout from Ponoka of $14,354.
“I’ve been to the Showdown a few times, and it somehow eluded me,” said the 2013 World Champion. “Just today felt like one of those days that was going to be good.”
“Curtis Cassidy had that calf on Friday and broke the barrier on him. Curtis, luckily, was here, and I talked to him about it. He told me it was one you want, and it’s one that will work for you and your horse for sure. It worked out.”
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to go that fast. It just kind of happened. It felt like everything was in slow motion, and that’s what happens when we practice and prepare so much, and it comes second nature to us.”
Hanchey finished second in the average, after catching a calf in 8.7 seconds in the afternoon Finals behind leader Chad Johnson. Johnson looked fast in the Showdown at 8.7 second but he broke the barrier and got the ten second penalty. Eckville’s Clayton Smith made the Showdown round, and ended up third for a $6572 injection into his pro season.
Caleb Bennett also picked up his first Ponoka Stampede bareback championship. The Utah cowboy was matched with the C5 horse Virgil in a star studded Showdown pen of horses. That’s the same horse that bucked him off at last year’s Ponoka Finals. This time he wound up with 89 points on the grey outlaw, claiming the buckle, the jacket, and a whopping $16,079.
“It’s been a huge goal for me,” grinned Bennett. “I’ve been coming here for the last four years, and ever since I set foot in this arena, it’s been on the bucket list to win. What a better way to do it than a rematch with Virgil. He bucked, a little bit stronger than I was expecting. When he came around there, he about got me in the dirt again, but I was bound and determined to make it work.”
In the Sunday afternoon bareback Finals at Ponoka, Jake Vold had the highest mark with 90.75 points on the same horse that cost him the Ponoka title last year, Calgary’s Special Delivery. But the horse got his revenge on the Ponoka-raised cowboy, who injured his ribs on the ride and wasn’t able to get on in the Showdown round.
The Showdown round of saddle bronc riding was marred by a premature presentation. Initially the awards were given to Nanton’s Clay Elliot for an 84.75 point ride on the Outlaw Buckers horse Lunatic Party. But a double check of the judge’s cards showed Texan Jacobs Crawley actually had the same mark on Timely Delivery, so they loaded the chutes with two more horses for a ride-off. There, Crawley was 87 points on Black Hills, while Elliott was just 84 on Xpress Delivery. So Crawley wound up with the second Ponoka championship of his career, plus $9831. He also took home the buckle and the jacket, but Elliott split the Showdown bonus money with him and earned $13,452 altogether.
In a challenging week of steer wrestling, it seemed only fitting that the Showdown Round didn’t quite go as expected, including a missed steer, an ornery one that wouldn’t cooperate, and two missed barriers. Stephen Culling of Fort St. John, BC managed to win the title with his time of 13.9 seconds, which included the barrier penalty.
“It went a little different than I was planning, but it worked out in the end,” said the 22-year-old. “I just got going a little too fast. With the four guys we had here tonight, no one would’ve thought that not one would’ve worked out. Crazy things happen at Ponoka, especially on Sunday.”
Culling took home $12,127 for his Ponoka efforts.
Rene Leclercq of Holden could hardly contain her excitement when she and her horse Flit raced to the Ponoka barrel racing title, after making a clean run in 17.796 seconds, worth $12,978. For the second year in a row, Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead took the team roping title. Only this time his partner was Shay Carroll of Texas, and they earned $7639 apiece for tying up their steer in 5.3 seconds in the Showdown round.
The bulls outmuscled the cowboys at Ponoka, with only Cody Teel of Texas making the whistle in the afternoon Finals. Then in the Showdown round, even he was bucked off the bull Red Mile. It was his first buckoff at Ponoka, so while it wasn’t the way he wanted to end his Stampede, he’ll take the $7212 to add to his race to another world title.
The All-Around honors this year at Ponoka went to Ky Marshall. That would soothe the disappointment for the Bowden bareback rider, who wasn’t able to take his horse in the Finals, after getting injured competing in tie-down roping at Williams Lake. Morgan Grant of Didsbury, who steer wrestles and ropes calves, was the High Point Champion.
Claiming the steer riding title at Ponoka this year was Dylan Connors of Bluffton, who made a 78.5 point ride. Another central Alberta cowboy, Tanner Young of Sylvan Lake was the novice bareback winner, with Dawson Dahm of Duffield take the novice saddle bronc riding honors.
In a highly anticipated $50,000.00 Tommy Dorchester Championship final heat at the Ponoka Stampede, Codey McCurrach, Colt Cosgrave, Cody Fraser and Rae Croteau Jr. survived the semi-final round to run for the championship at one of chuckwagon racing’s most prestigious events on the WPCA Pro Tour – the Ponoka Stampede. Colt Cosgrave – driving the High River Autoplex & RV outfit, and along with outriders Chance Flad and Chad Cosgrave collected the first place winner’s cheque, a new GMC Pickup Truck, and the 2016 Ponoka Stampede Championship.
In the championship final heat, Cosgrave captured his first career Ponoka Stampede crown with a penalty free run of 1:15.23 from barrel position number 2. Codey McCurrach placed second in the heat from barrel position number 3, 31 one-hundredths of a second behind champion Colt Cosgrave, followed by Rae Croteau Jr. from barrel position 4, while rookie driver Cody Fraser, who crossed the finish line first, but knocked over a barrel and had to settle for fourth place from barrel position 1.
In the All Pro Canadian Pony Chuckwagon Championship heat, it was Dale Young of Olds driving the Calgary Flames Ambassadors tarp who took the $10,000 Dash for Cash while Lee Adamson of Camrose was the Aggregate Champion.
Dianne Finstad is a local freelance writer and covers rodeo for the Advocate.