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Frank finds way into Ponoka finals

Bull riding may be hailed as rodeo’s toughest event, but at the Ponoka Stampede, steer wrestling deserves equal billing. As Canada’s biggest rodeo neared the half way point, only six bulldoggers had been able to catch both their steers. That meant Thursday’s crew only had to get their steers thrown down to put themselves on the top twelve qualifying list for the Finals.

Bull riding may be hailed as rodeo’s toughest event, but at the Ponoka Stampede, steer wrestling deserves equal billing. As Canada’s biggest rodeo neared the half way point, only six bulldoggers had been able to catch both their steers. That meant Thursday’s crew only had to get their steers thrown down to put themselves on the top twelve qualifying list for the Finals.

But Dallas Frank did a little more than that. The Stony Plain cowboy has had the Midas touch the past month, and he tapped it again at Ponoka. Frank’s best run came in the morning, but he still got the job done in the afternoon performance. The 9.6 second time combined with his earlier 5.2 gives him second place overall with a 14.8 second total, behind the 13.2 seconds from leader Harley Cole.

Frank had a tough day on the wardrobe, though, and it wasn’t just from the muddy infield.

“It’s funny. On my first run the steer pawed me in the back, ripped my shirt and sawed my belt in half. Then, I ripped another shirt here,” complained Frank, who was on his way to the local western wear store.

“Jones Boys is gonna like me. They should probably sponsor me,” he joked.

While Frank wasn’t particularly happy with his performance on the second steer, the end result was still effective.

“There’s a lot of luck that goes on here. The fans look at the scoreboard and think it should be quicker, because they watch Calgary (Stampede) on TV. But this is a totally different ball game. There’s a lot of variables here with the fresh steers, and the chaser, and the hazer. It’s hard to get two lined out.”

Add to that a few rain showers, which threw some sticky ground into the mix.

“My feet stuck, and I ended up messing around and ripping my shirt. But I got him down, so that’s the main thing.”

Despite the extra challenges of the long score run in Ponoka, Frank swears it’s the kind of run that’s right up his alley.

“I’d go to forty of these if they had ‘em. It just gets your blood pumping. One guy said earlier ‘if this doesn’t light your fire, your wood’s wet,” he laughed.

Frank has had a profitable few weeks, winning Innisfail ($2305) and High River ($2032). He’s sitting fifth in Canada now, and adding in a big cheque from Ponoka could pave the way to his ‘hometown’ rodeo, the Canadian Finals, in Edmonton.

The 37-year-old has been around rodeo long enough to know there’s no such thing as a sure thing, so he still wants to focus on the task in front of him at Ponoka.

“If I can just hold my spot and come back for the top four here, that’d be great. I haven’t been there for a long time.”

They did manage to get a few more bulls ridden at the 80th Stampede on Thursday afternoon, and the count is now up to seven qualified rides. Best of the bunch came from defending Ponoka champion Dakota Buttar. He won the knife fight with a renegade called Compton Bound, for 87.25 points to set the new lead in the event. After all, he did have a score to settle.

“I got on him last year in Cochrane and I slapped him (disqualified) to be a bunch of points. I was pretty happy when I drew him here,” said the two-time Canadian champion, who calls Kindersley, SK home.

But Buttar wasn’t in prime shape, since dislocating his shoulder in Saturday’s PBR Canada event in Ponoka.

“It’s pretty sore. But (Canadian Pro Rodeo) Sports Medicine has got it feeling pretty good. The last few days they’ve massaged it for quite a while and then do chiropractic work on it for a bit. During the ride I don’t really notice it, but right after I do,” winced Buttar.

Buttar looked in total control of the ride, even managing to spur the bull a few times. But as soon as the whistle went, he came off in a dangerous spot, with the bull right above him. They call that ‘the well’.

“He started sucking me down a bit. Then I pulled my wrap, and my hand popped out of my rope, and I just fell in. I didn’t mean to do that,” he confessed. “That was bad on my part. The sand is deep in there, though, and he just kept pushing me in the sand, so it didn’t hurt.”

Buttar is also leading the Airdrie pro rodeo this weekend with an 87.5 point score.

The best bareback ride of the day came from Bowden’s Ky Marshall, as he spurred to an 83.5 on Calgary’s Xpensive Margie. That puts him in sixth spot, and should bring him back among the top twelve for Sunday. Caleb Bennett of Utah remains first with his 87.75. Wyoming’s Chet Johnson tapped out 84.25 points in the saddle bronc riding Thursday, to sit in a tie for fourth place behind the 85.75 points of leader Clay Elliott of Nanton. Tie-down roper Dean Edge of Rimbey was fast man in his event, putting together a pair of runs in 20.8 seconds. But he’s in the precarious eleventh spot in the standings, so two faster ropers over the next two days and he could be out of the Finals round. Jake Hannum of Utah is still the front man with 17.0 seconds. Riley Wilson of Cardston and Kyle Smith of Brant managed to snag a spot on the team roping leaderboard with their 13.5 second total. They’re sitting sixth, with the 10.5 seconds from Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler still leading.

The third cowgirl to break the eighteen second barrier in barrel racing at Ponoka did so dramatically. Carman Pozzobon of Savona, BC, came around the pattern and stopped the clock in 17.601 seconds, three tenths faster than previous leader Kirsty White of Big Valley.

“I just started back about four weeks ago,” said Pozzobon, who ran first for the day on her six-year-old horse Rippin’ Lady. “I broke my collarbone, so I’ve been trying to play catch up.”

“I was surprised at what I clocked at, but she felt really good. She was tight on that first barrel and as soon as I got that first, I knew she was going to clock good. I didn’t expect that.”

There’s a new leader in novice bareback riding, and he’s from Sylvan Lake. Tanner Young takes the top spot with a 77, with Dawson Dahm still in front for novice saddle bronc. Brandon Tetz of Cremona is now first in steer riding with his score of 75.5.

Even after a tornado warning and on and off rains all afternoon at the Ponoka Stampede, by the time the wagons rolled, night 3 still produced some good running times and exciting chuckwagon races in front of a nearly full capacity crowd. When times were tabulated for the night, it was rookie driver Cody Fraser who emerged as the day money winner after posting a 1:14.77 from barrel number 3 in the opening heat.

Fraser’s time was 6 one-hundredths of a second faster than former Ponoka Champion Jason Glass who placed second in the third performance. Kirk Sutherland and Jess Willard followed in third and fourth place respectively, with John Walters completing out the top five on the night.

There are rodeo performances both today and tomorrow at 1:00 pm, before Sunday’s Finals. The chuckwagons race nightly at 6:30 pm.

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