It’s been a magical four days for barrel racer Mary Burger, who’s become the Calgary Stampede ‘sweetheart’. The 67-year-old grandmother and her amazing buckskin horse have struck a chord with fans in an amazing way. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
As the grandstand roared Monday afternoon, Mary and Mo did their thing once again, so effortlessly, and so effectively. In fact, when the clock stopped on her final run in Pool A, it was the fastest time of the week at 17.33 seconds.
“I knew the crowd was up for it,” smiled the Oklahoma cowgirl. “I just wanted to do well for me and my horse, and the crowd.”
“I’ve never been in such an enthusiastic crowd as this. I mean, they really are into it. It kind of geared me just a little bit more, like ‘oh boy, let’s go’. I just wanted to get in there and do it.”
“It worked out great, he worked like normal, and I’m just so tickled.”
It just so happens Mo’s ‘normal’ is outstanding in the Stampede arena. Burger swept first in all four performances on her way through to Sunday’s Showdown, building a $22,000 jackpot.
“The money is just so awesome that I haven’t even had time to think about it. Once in a while, I’ll think of something I’d like to have, and it kind of gives me drive, but I’m just so grateful for it, that I’m just speechless.”
The line-up of enthusiastic fans to get Burger’s autograph after the rodeo stretches long. She takes time with each one, savoring this special time in the spotlight.
“It’s unreal. It’s just top of the world!”
Also advancing in the barrel racing from Pool A are a pair of Colorado cowgirls, Ivy Conrado ($13,000) and Kelley Schnaufer ($10,500), plus Texan Taylor Jacob ($8000).
It was last chance Monday for Pool A contestants to secure a guaranteed place in the weekend’s richest afternoon in rodeo. Several contestants channeled that kind of pressure to get the job done.
Heading into the afternoon bareback riding round, Bobby Mote had won just $2500 at the Calgary Stampede. So he knew he had to do something, and it was going to have to happen on a horse called Buckskin Sally nobody seemed to know.
That didn’t seem to bother the rodeo veteran.
“It’s a horse that’s been around a little bit, but kind of under the radar,” said the four-time World Champion. “It wasn’t supposed to buck that hard either! I wasn’t looking for a day off, but I was glad the horse bucked like he did, because that’s what put me over the top.”
The 86.5 point score was best of the round, giving Mote the $5500, and bumping his Pool A earnings to $8000, which was fourth best of the Pool and shoots him directly to Sunday’s action.
“Relief,” is how Mote described his feeling after the ride. “The Wildcard round is great, but it’s hard to make it out of twelve guys and be in the top two. Everything’s got to go right. So to win today and bypass the Wildcard round, I’m happy about that.”
Caleb Bennett continued his regular march to the Stampede bank, placing for the fourth day, to finish first in Pool A with $16,500. Just behind him is RC Landingham of California ($11,000) and Jake Vold ($9000). But with Vold’s injury preventing him from advancing, Dusty LaValley gets the nod ($5500).
It was Canadian day in the steer wrestling, with Curtis Cassidy of Donalda fast man of the Monday round, with a 3.7 second run. The $5500 made his total $6250, which was just a little shy of the top four, so Cassidy will be back for Wildcard Saturday.
Fellow Albertan Tanner Milan was right on Cassidy’s heels, getting his steer over in 3.8 seconds, and that second place $4500 cheque was crucial.
“I was really needing to get a good start on that steer,” said the Cochrane cowboy. “I knew he was good on the ground. I got a heckuva start today. That set up my whole run. It was quick today, and I knew everyone was going to be going at it. So I couldn’t back off. It all just worked out good.”
“I knew I could win no less than second today, and it’s exactly what I needed to do. It’s a lot of weight off the shoulders, just knowing that you’re there on Sunday, and don’t have to worry about Wildcard.”
Milan’s $7000 total equaled K.C. Jones, and they both move on from Pool A. Seth Brockman finished with the highest income, at $15,500. Also advancing is Tyler Waguespack ($12,500).
It’s been quite a debut Stampede for saddle bronc rider Jake Watson. He placed in three of the four Pool A rounds. The B.C. cowboy saved his best for last, spurring out an 84 point ride on a horse called Dark Side for best of the day, and $5500.
“It felt good,” said Watson. “I got a good spur out and went as hard as I could go for eight seconds, and jumped off, and knew it was good.”
The 23-year-old has been turning heads in the rodeo world, since winning the San Antonio championship this winter, which garnered the invitation to Calgary.
“I got the call (to come) in early April, and it was a pretty exciting day, for sure!”
Watson had competed at the Stampede as a novice three times, and always longed to be back in the open division.
“This has been my favorite rodeo since the first time I rode here, and it definitely is still!”
Now he finds himself on the rundown for Sunday.
“It’s going to be exciting. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I didn’t know it was going to go quite this good. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Cort Scheer emerged the high bronc rider in Pool A to move on to Sunday ($15,500), followed by Watson and Rusty Wright (both at $11,500), then Chuck Schmidt ($7000).
Dakota Buttar became the only man to cover all four of his bulls, walking away with his third Stampede bronze of the week, this time for an 88 point ride on Neon Magic. That gives him $16,000. Joining him Showdown Sunday from Pool A will be Chandler Bownds and Ryan Dirteater ($11,500 each) along with Nathan Schaper ($10,500).
In tie-down roping, Ryle Smith of California finally found his stride and won the round in 8.2 seconds, for the $5500, his first cash at the Stampede. The four Pool A qualifiers from the event are Shane Hanchey ($12,500), Rhen Richard ($10,500), Marcos Costa ($9000), and in a tiebreaker, Clint Robinson ($8500).
Any contestants who didn’t make the top four in Pool A get one more shot to be among the two best in their event on Wildcard Saturday. Pool B competitors begin their journey Tuesday.
Photos by Mike Copeman