Zeke Thurston, of Big Valley, Alta., rides Lunatic Party during saddle bronc rodeo semi-final action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Zeke Thurston claims world saddle bronc title at National Finals Rodeo

LAS VEGAS — Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., captured his second career world championship in saddle bronc at the National Finals rodeo Saturday.

The 25-year-old capped the 10-day NFR atop the world standings with a record $347,056 in season earnings.

The previous high was $284,938 set by Ryder Wright in 2017.

Thurston also took the title in 2016.

“Honestly, I don’t know what to say,” Thurston told nfrexperience.com.

“I wanted this second one worse than I wanted the first one. I came close last year, but it was a roller coaster out here. Lots of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

He is a three-time winner at the Calgary Stampede.

Thurston opened the NFR ranked second just over $47,000 behind Wright of Milford, Utah.

The Albertan began gaining on Wright on opening day with a top score of 88 points aboard Sue City Sue.

Thurston also won the seventh and ninth rounds with a 92.5 ride on Get Smart a half a point short of the arena record and 91 points with Sun Glow respectively.

Wright didn’t record a score in six of 10 rounds and dropped to third.

Jake Watson of Hope, B.C., placed sixth in saddle bronc with season earnings of $236,406 after wins in the fifth and eighth round at the NFR.

Dawson Hay of Wildwood, Alta., was seventh in his NFR debut with $197,747 and picked up a win in the sixth round.

Bull rider Jordan Hansen of Ponoka, Alta., placed fifth at $214,792. He won Saturday’s final round with an 88.5 ride on Hell Hound.

Bareback rider Clint Laye of Cadogan, Alta., was ninth and steer wrestler Scott Guenther of Provost, Alta., finished 12th.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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