Top form: Bareback rider Jake Vold, formerly from Ponoka, started strong at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Thursday. (Black Press File Photo)

Central Albertans Vold, Thurston start strong at National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas

Ponoka’s Jake Vold rode his way to the top of the bareback rider leaderboard on the first day of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

His score of 87.5 on Kesler Rodeo’s Oakridge, netted him a first place cheque of $26,230 Thursday evening.

The 10-day event in Las Vegas features the top 15 contestants from across North America in the standard rodeo events — bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

The sizable payday for Vold vaulted him into third place in the world standings at $138,391, now $87,000 back of the season leader and defending champion Tim O’Connell.

“It’s a good confidence building,” said Vold. “There are a lot of horses here and going at that kind of money, I find quite quite exciting. It keeps your blood flowing. I need to win a lot of money to have a chance at the world title. To get the win right off the bat is definitely key. Hopefully a guy can keep it rolling and see what happens after 10 days.”

Vold finished second in Las Vegas a year ago, winning three rounds and earning $165,000.

In the saddle bronc category, Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston, gained some ground on season leader Jacobs Crawley. Crawley finished out of the money, while Thurston scored 85 points and now trails the leader by $9,000.

The event continues until Dec. 16.

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