It’s not every day you can make a slip and still come out a winner.
But Cory Solomon is on a roll at the Calgary Stampede, and not even a slight bobble slowed him down. The 2012 Stampede tie-down roping champion came out Thursday afternoon like a shot, and was making his tie before you could even blink. He was poised to be as fast, or faster, than his speedy 6.7 second run Wednesday, which topped the round.
“I think I was probably going to be 6.6, or 6.7,” estimated the cowboy, who turns 26 later this month. “But you’ve got to finish, no matter what goes on – if the leg’s muddy or whatever.”
Overnight rainfall did make the infield a bit sticky, which gave all the ropers a few challenges. Solomon’s hand slipped off his hooey, so he had to redo the tie, but he still managed to finish up in 7.2 seconds, which was best the best of the round for the second day in a row.
“It’s mental. We’re supposed to be the top athletes in this game. It’s not supposed to happen, but everybody makes mistakes.”
“I try not to make excuses. That was on me, and I’m just thankful I was still able to get the win.”
There’s just something about the Calgary Stampede that clicks with Solomon, making it consistently a place of success for him.
“My horse (Spook) fits this set-up really good. It’s kind of like back home, with a short score, small calves. I grew up learning on these kinds of calves.”
Solomon was raised in Prairie View, Texas where roping is the go-to sport, like hockey is on the prairies. Everyone does it, and Solomon found himself competing against roping legends like Fred Whitfield from the age of 13.
“It’s a true statement if you can win (at roping) in south Texas, you can win anywhere. There’s amazing talent there. I’m just thankful I grew up down there. I didn’t have adjust to speeding up when I hit the road. My biggest deal was I had to adjust to turning down. Some runs, if you slow down, you’re faster.”
Perhaps that would have made the difference in Solomon’s Thursday run at the Stampede, but in the end, the mistake didn’t matter.
“I guess I’m thankful everybody else messed up also. When things are rolling, they’re rolling. I’m thankful, because it makes up for times when you couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t rolling.”
“You can plan it all you want, but sometimes you don’t know what happened, it just works.”
Solomon’s Pool B earnings sit at $11,000, bettered only by his friend Fred Whitfield. The popular Stampede veteran has $12,500 to his credit.
It took an extra effort, but Sage Kimzey managed to collect his first Stampede bronze of 2016. The two-time World Champion lasted the eight seconds on his first bull, Dirty Steve, and got a 79.5 point score. When given the option of a re-ride, Kimzey jumped at the chance to strap his bull-rope on again.
“It’s definitely a business decision for me,” related the Oklahoma bull rider. “In this pool of guys, there’s so many good bull riders, you can’t be happy with a 79.5, being the third guy out. It’s just not going to hold with the stiff competition here. So I really didn’t have a choice whether to take it or not, in my mind.”
“Then when you do take it, it’s about ‘how bad do you want it?’ It’s all about your heart and determination to get him rode.”
That’s exactly what he did on a bull called Chip Shot, earning an 87.5, one more point than Josh Birks of Australia, giving him the $5500 payday.
Kimzey was moving a little tenderly, and sporting a war wound on his face.
“That’s July for you, for sure. Our rodeo schedule has been crazy here the month, and I’m a little banged up but my heart’s not broke, so it’s all good,” he grinned.
“There’s very few places that we get to go to throughout the year (like Calgary) that you walk in, and you’re just in awe of everything about the Stampede. You put me in a place like that, with a lot of money up for grabs and those bulls to get on, it’s pretty hard to beat me.”
Kimzey is in second place for Pool B bull riders, with J.B. Mauney still the leader at $13,500, after adding in fourth place cash from Thursday.
“I told you I’d see you tomorrow,” joked Orin Larsen to the group of reporters, following his award winning bareback ride which gave him back to back go-round victories. Thursday, he was 84.5 points on a horse called Bittersweet.
“I’m happy with how everything is going so far,” said the Manitoba cowboy. “Just hopefully, I can keep drawing (horses) the way I have and be here Sunday.”
Larsen is making his home base during the Stampede with his grandparents, at their place west of Airdrie, who he calls his ‘biggest fans’.
“They’re probably jumping up and down and all excited. I’ve got my whole family here.”
The win gives Larsen $13,500, which now moves him ahead of Texan Richie Champion, with his $12,500 total after Thursday.
They had to come up with an extra trophy bronze in the saddle bronc riding, when CoBurn Bradshaw and Jacobs Crawley both spurred to an 84 score, giving them $5000 apiece.
“I’ve been kind of scratching on ‘em the last two days, and it hadn’t come together,” admitted Crawley. “I was really happy to have a nice horse and get to enjoy some of that Calgary Stampede money. And win a bronze. I’ve never won a bronze. I’ve won the Wildcard, but they don’t give a bronze for that round. I’m excited to take one of those home. It’s pretty special, and I’ve got a spot for it at the house. I’m excited.”
It’s a tight race in the Pool B standings, with Jake Wright and Wade Sundell sharing top honors, with $9500 each. Bradsahw isn’t far behind with $9000.
Chalk up another barrel racing win for South Dakota’s Lisa Lockhart. She and Louie handled the muddier track conditions, and were the only ones under 18 seconds, at 17.95. She’s got $15,000 and sits as the Pool B leader.
Steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge of Nevada added to his personal Stampede bronze collection, and bank account, when he got his steer tipped over in 4.1 seconds, for another $5500 injection. He’s the highest income earner in Pool B at $13,500.
Friday marks the final opportunity for Pool B contestants to sew up a place in the top four of their event, and guarantee a place on Sunday. Wildcard Saturday will feature all the rest of the contestants from both Pools, who will need to be among the two best on the day to advance.