Friday, December 08, 2006

It ain't over till the last bull bucks...

LAS VEGAS -- But some of the drama of this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is already over.

There's still one more go-round to go, but some of the world champion buckle winners have already been decided.

Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, will win his fourth world all-around title. He just has too much of a lead on Joe Beaver of Huntsville, Texas, for Beaver to catch him.

Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas, will win his first world title in the bareback riding. The 23-year old may also win the NFR average title, as he is the leading cowboy in the event going into Saturday's final round. Lowe scored 78.5 points tonight to place fifth in the ninth round and maintain his lead in the average over Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore.

Cimmaron Gerke of Brighton, Colo., 2005's co-world champion in the event, won the ninth round with an 83.5-point ride on the horse Moulon Rouge from Growney Brothers.

In the calf roping, or as it's called now the tie-down roping, Cody Ohl of Hico, Texas, has cemented his second world title in that event. But that doesn't mean the drama is over in the calf roping or for Ohl. Ohl is leading the average in the event and has a chance to set a new average record in the event. The current NFR average record of 10 calves roped in 84.0 seconds is held be Fred Whitfield and was set in 1997. Ohl has roped nine calves in 76.8 seconds. He placed second in tonight's round with a time of 7.4 seconds.

If Ohl can rope a calf in 7.1 seconds or faster during Saturday's final round, he will set a new average record. Ohl owns the arena record with a time of 6.5 seconds set in 2003. But to set the average record he will have to rope faster than he has so far in this year's NFR, where his fastest time was a round-winning 7.2-second run in round two. Ohl has won money in every round of this year's NFR except the first round.

The round winner tonight was Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, Utah, with a time of 7.3 seconds. Robinson spit first place money in round eight as well on Thursday night.

There isn't much drama left in the bull riding for Saturday's final round. B.J. Shumacher of Hillsboro, Wisc., has locked up the world title and the average title. Although he did not have a qualified ride tonight, he's the only bull rider to have scored rides on seven bulls. The next closest competitors for the average title have only covered five.

Tonight's round featured the eliminator pen of bulls and they lived up to their reputation. Only one cowboy had a qualified ride tonight. Bobby Welsh of Gillette, Wyo., scored 85 points on Multi-Chem Western Hauler of the Cervi & Guidry stock contractors. It was a big payday for Welsh, who takes all of the day money for all six places, meaning he will pocket nearly $51,700. Not a bad jackpot for Welsh.

In the steer wrestling, Shawn Greenfield of Lakeview, Ore., is keeping the pressure on Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., for the title in that event. Greenfield placed first in tonight's round with a 3.4 second run to pocket $16,000. Greenfield is third in the world standings behind Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., and Gorsuch. Branquinho and Gorsuch both had runs in the 5-second range tonight to finish out of the money, tightening up the world standings. However, Gorsuch has an ace in the hole. He is leading the average, and the average pays $41,000 for first, $33,300 for seconds and $26,360 for third. Branquinho is sixth in the average, which pays $10,000. Greenfield is eight in the average, which pays about $3,900.

It would take a better mathematician than me to figure out all of the scenarios, but if Gorsuch has a qualified time Saturday, he is likely to leapfrog over Branquinho with the average paycheck to earn his first world title.

I'm not even going to try to sort out the team roping race, which is tight and could will come down to the final round. After Thursday's round, which announcer Boyd Polhamus called a "train wreck" with six no-time runs out of 15, there was only one no-time tonight. Joe Beaver and Cole Bigbee tied with David Key and Kory Koontz for first in the round with 4.4-second runs. The leaders in the world standings, Matt Sherwood and Walt Woodard were right behind them to finish third with a 4.5-second run.

After Thursday's train wreck, it's still a horse race for the world title in team roping.

There were lots of wrecks Friday in the saddle bronc event, which also featured an eliminator pin of horses. And Chad Ferley of Oelrichs, S.D., who was second in the world standings going into tonight's round, tied for first in the round with an 84-point ride on the Growney Brother's paint horse Painted Feathers to clinch a world title for himself.

Bradley Harter of Weatherford, Texas, also had an 84-point ride on his draw, Sun Dance from Flying Five Rodeo.

Ferley's ride moves him ahead of Cody DeMoss of Heflin, La., in the world standings and he also moves to second in the average. DeMoss won't be able to regain his top spot. DeMoss is hurt. He chipped three vertebrae in his back in a nasty buckoff Thursday night and barely got out of the gate tonight before hitting the turf again. DeMoss was again helped from the arena and got a standing ovation from the crowd.

J.J. Elshere of Quinn, S.D., remains in first in the average race, but he got bucked off for the first time in the 2006 NFR tonight courtesy of the Growney Bros. horse, Sock Dancer.

The barrel racing continues to thrill the crowd at the Thomas & Mack. That arena record I told you about on Wednesday was eclipsed Thursday by Brandie Halls of Carpenter, Wyo., with a 13.52-second run.

There was no new record tonight, but the top five times were all less than 14 seconds. In fact the difference between first and fifth place was 4/100ths of a second. First place went to Denise Adams of Lufkin, Texas, with a run of 13.86 seconds.

Kelly Maben of Spur, Texas, the leader in the world standings going into the night, knocked down a barrel on her run for the second straight night. That opens a door for Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Okla., and Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas. Burger placed fifth in tonight's round to earn a check to move her ahead of Maben in the standings. Burger also moves up to third in the average. But Pozzi is leading the average. So the world champion in barrel racing remains close and will be decided on the final day of the NFR.


The livestock have been taking a toll on the cowboys in this year's NFR, but during round nine a couple of the animal contestants were also injured.

The horse Faded Star from Andrews Rodeo Inc., stumbled in the arena after bucking off Jesse Bail of Camp Crook, S.D., in the saddle bronc event. During the ride Faded Star jumped high into the air several times before dismounting Bail and both fell to the arena turf. The horse got back up but was obviously hurt. The 17,000 people in the arena emitted an audible gasp out of concern for the limping horse, which left the arena under its own power, but was escorted by the two pickup men on horseback to prevent the animal from thrashing about and injuring itself further.

I hope to hear more about the animals condition and report back. But if anyone things rodeo fans don't care about the animals, they should have heard the murmur tonight in the arena for that amazing bucking horse.

Update: The horse, Faded Star suffered what veterinarian Garth Lamb called a "distal radial fracture of the left front limb" in the incident, according to ESPN. Lamb reportedly called the injury a non-repairable fracture and was euthanized.

Fans also expressed concern when a calf was injured in the calf roping event. A calf roped by Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla., was injured during the run and a stretcher was brought in to carry the animal out of the arena to be checked out by the veterinary staff as well.

Update: PRCA officials also reported that the calf that was injured suffered a fatal neck injury.

See more news, and analysis from ESPN's website.

That's all for now. I hope to be back Saturday night with highlights from the final round.

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