French rolling early

Kyle French is on a roll in the bull riding, and loving every second of it.

Bobby Mote of Culver

Kyle French is on a roll in the bull riding, and loving every second of it.

The Red Deer cowboy was the only one to turn in a qualified ride during the first performance of the Daines Ranch Rodeo opening night. But he didn’t just make the whistle. French was 86.5 points on a Calgary Stampede bull called River Rat.

Last weekend, at the Rocky Pro Rodeo, French scored 86 points, and that was just a half point out of first there.

“The last few weekends, I’ve been doing pretty good at these pro rodeos,” French grinned. “I’m pretty excited.”

In fact, French is well inside the top five bull riders in Canada, already picking up $6,275 on the season.

That’s pretty impressive for a second year pro, but French credits part of his success this year to the company he keeps.

“I’m gonna be honest here. I climbed in with some new travelling partners. Travelling with these guys, they’re making me step up my game, and I think I’m really bringing it now.”

So who are the good influences on French’s riding habits? None other than the current Canadian champion, Ty Thomson; last year’s season leader, Ty Elliott; and CFR contender Max Fortmuller.

“It’s a really good deal that I jumped in with these guys. The momentum is going really good now, so it’s only better to come.”

French looked comfortable in the middle of the veteran bull in Thursday evening’s ride.

“He has different trips every time. He came around to the right, and picked me up, and was kicking good. It was going my way the whole time, so it felt really good.”

At a rodeo the size of Innisfail, it’s hard to know whether 86.5 will be enough to claim the buckle at the end. But being the only rider Thursday to cover his bull means he’ll get the whole pot of bull rider’s day money. And he’s happy to have set the bar for the rest of the weekend.

“Being up on the first day, I kind of set a high score for all the other guys to chase. I’m glad I got that set up.”

A couple of other cowboys got that set up in their events too. In the saddle bronc riding, Dustin Flundra chalked up 86.5 on Calgary’s Liqueur Whiskey to take the lead. The Pincher Creek cowboy was pleased to have that horse at the Daines Ranch.

“You can’t ask for a nicer horse from a bronc rider’s standpoint,” Flundra stated. “He gives you every opportunity to go out there and show off.”

“I love this rodeo. I think just about every year I’ve been here, I’ve won money. I won the novice, and once in the open, and second, third, fourth. I don’t think there’s been a year I’ve come here when I haven’t placed. I like this rodeo. I like coming here,” he said.

And in the bareback riding, world champion Bobby Mote is another cowboy who regularly cashes in at the Daines Ranch. He marked an 87 on Calgary’s Hurricane Terry for the lead there.

Cochrane cowboy Baillie Milan has been cold in the steer wrestling this season, so was relieved to come out on the great Cassidy horse Willy, and throw down his steer in 3.7 seconds to set the pace in that event. Logan Hofer of Magrath has the fast tie-down roping time, at 7.3 seconds. It’s Ponoka’s Dee Butterfield on top in the barrel racing with her 16.72 second run in the earlier slack. Montanans Cleve Fuller and John Robertson had the best team roping time at 5.5 seconds. Cawl Braithwaite of Bluffton leads steer riding with a 77. Manitoba’s Colin Adams is on top in novice bareback with 73, while Gavin Chisholm of Claresholm leads novice saddle bronc with a 71.

There’s another performance of the Innisfail Pro Rodeo tonight at 6:45 p.m.

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