You could say everything is going just ‘Jim Dandy’ for Jake Vold in his debut appearance at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The Ponoka raised bareback rider was matched up with a horse by that very name Sunday night at the Thomas and Mack arena, and for the fourth straight night, he cashed in at the $6.3 million slot machine. With the ten day season playoffs not even at the halfway point, Vold has already earned nearly $22,000. Just as significant is the fact his placing in every round puts him tied for third in the rich average race.
Fresh off claiming his first Canadian bareback title in November in Edmonton, Vold was excited about finally being able to try his skills on the world stage. He’d been in the hunt for an NFR appearance before in his four year pro career, but always had his plans derailed by injury. This season, he dominated his event in Canada, and was inside the top ten of the world standings pretty much all year long.
“I’m tickled pink,” confirmed Vold, about his results so far in Las Vegas. “I was telling everyone that I came here to have a good time and some fun, and just try to win lots of money.”
While everyone comes to the NFR with a gold buckle that says World Champion in sight, in the bareback riding it’s a tall task to catch Utah’s Kaycee Feild. He’s won the championship the last three years running, and had a $45,000 cushion over the rest of the crew coming in. Then he won the opening round. But Vold admits that takes some pressure off for his own performance. Just going for the cash every round was a philosophy that worked for the 27-year-old all year, and there was no point in changing it now.
For a newbie at the NFR, Vold has been riding like a veteran, and that’s an advantage his experience at the game brings. Although, he does admit nothing can quite prepare you for that very first night.
“I knew it would be something different, and it was pretty wild,” he chuckled. “Just the opening ceremonies and the atmosphere. But after that, I kind of settled in.”
With the fast pace of the rodeo performance, Vold doesn’t get to join his fellow Canadians Dustin Flundra and Curtis Cassidy in the traditional horseback contestant ride into the arena that kicks off each evening because he’s already preparing to get on his bucking horse.
Getting his Finals off to the right start was a big help too, thanks to a horse named Miss Dunny.
“I knew that horse and it was one I’d been wanting to get on. I figured I could get along with her. To get a good (opening) ride under my belt felt fantastic, and really got my week rolling.”
The score of 81.5 on that ride stood up for fifth place, and a $4900 opening deposit in his NFR account. In the second round, he split second with an 83 on Empty Pockets, for a healthy $11,442. In the ‘eliminator’ pen Saturday night, Vold got by Momentum Shifter with a 78 mark, splitting fifth place for another $3984. Then Sunday’s ride on Jim Dandy resulted in a share of sixth spot, for $1532.
“I don’t know many of these horses. Coming in, I’d probably only seen about a third of them. But that’s been part of my ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. Sometimes you can get caught up with who has the better horses, and who doesn’t. I’ve just been trying to win first every time. I’ve been calm and cool, and having fun.”
There’s no doubt Las Vegas is a place where ‘fun’ can be found in abundance, and there are plenty of distractions during NFR week. So it’s been key for Vold to keep that in balance too, because he is still ‘at work’.
“I’ve been going to the sauna in the morning, and then coming back for lunch, having a nap and then it’s pretty much go time. I’ve been sticking to that schedule. Later in the week, we’ll probably try to take in some shows.”
Vold is surrounded by plenty of family and friends this week, and that support is important to him, along with the many Ponoka and Canadian fans he sees at the various rodeo related events around town. He came to town with an open mind, no set numbers in mind about what he wanted to ride out with in his saddle bags.
“I didn’t think about that at all. When things are meant to be, they are. I’ve been around the game long enough to know it’s a roller coaster. So when you’re hot, you’re hot, and just let it keep on rolling. If you come with an open ended hand, sometimes it can be surprising what you can get out of it.”
“It’s awesome. Every night I roll in here and get excited. It makes just appreciate what you do, and l love doing it.”
Vold’s fellow Canucks have both earned money at the NFR. Cassidy, who’s competing in the steer wrestling, finished in fourth place with a time of four seconds flat in Saturday night’s action. That gave the Donalda cowboy $7969. Flundra, of Pincher Creek, won third in the second round, with an 81 on Special Time, for $11,340.
Notes: Texan Trevor Brazile has been adding to his legendary status. He’s already won enough to make his quest for a record 12th All Around title untouchable, giving him his 21st gold buckle. He’s also still very much in the hunt for a potential triple crown, with a chance at the tie-down roping and team roping buckles yet.
Barrel racer Fallon Taylor, known for her very colorful style of dress, has not disappointed in that department. But she also turned heads when she substituted a riding helmet for her cowboy hat in the third performance, to show young barrel racers that safety can be ‘cool’. The Texas cowgirl is having a stellar NFR, and is now number one in the world race.
Bareback rider Steven Peebles of Oregon, who was second in the world coming in, had his NFR end prematurely. He suffered a compression fracture in his spine Saturday night, when his horse reared back into the chute gate.
The National Finals Rodeo wraps up Saturday night.