Officially, it’s known as Wildcard Saturday. Cowboys call it a dogfight.
With twelve contenders and only two spots to advance, the pressure is intense.
Logan Bird tie-down roping
Logan Bird came out and tied his calf in 7.9 seconds. But then he had an agonizingly long wait to see if that would be fast enough. As he watched, Cade Swor bumped him back with a 7.8 second run.
“Watching the last nine guys go, the best in the world, is not an easy thing,” admitted Bird, who’s from Nanton.
In the end, no one could beat him, and those two earned the available spots for Sunday. Swor gets an extra $6000 for first in the round, while Bird added a tidy $5000 to his bank account.
“There seems to be so many chances to win money here,” said Bird. “That’s the great part. Wildcard Saturday gives you another chance when things didn’t go right during the week. I was disappointed yesterday. I thought I had a good chance of making it back the last day, and messed up. I knew going into the last day I had two chances to make a good run to make it back. Most rodeos you don’t have those chances.”
“Roping for a hundred grand is…” the 23-year-old is nearly speechless. “It’s awesome. Every day at Calgary’s been awesome for me. I’m just going to try and do the same thing – go make the best run that I can.”
Logan shared that his father Manerd, who supplies the calves for the rodeo, offered some good, steadying advice.
“He just said ‘go have fun’. No matter what happens you’re at the Calgary Stampede, and he said there’s lots of people that would dream of getting to miss one here, so being able to go and actually win here, it’s awesome.”
Curtis Cassidy steer wrestling
The Canadian flags were flying in the steer wrestling as well, when Curtis Cassidy put everything together in a fast round, and managed to emerge number one with a 3.4 second run, for a $6000 cash boost.
“Obviously that’s why you come here to Calgary is to have a chance at a hundred on Sunday,” said the second generation cowboy from Donalda. “I haven’t been there the last few years. I haven’t had my ducks in a row like I should. Last couple years I was half crippled too, but the body’s feeling pretty good again.”
Cassidy has struggled with a fracture on the back of his hip socket that won’t seem to heal, and spreads pain. But visits with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Sports Medicine therapists help, although he admits to not being as diligent on his treatments as he should be.
Cassidy has participated in the Stampede 21 times, and since the tournament format was introduced, estimates he’s probably been to the Sunday round about half those times.
“Anytime you can back in here on Sunday, it’s wicked. It’s a lot of pressure but at the same time, that’s why you practice and do what you do, and you live for days like this.”
World Champion Tyler Waguespack was one of two steer wrestlers to be 3.5 seconds, but he gets the nod to carry on his Stampede.
“I had to tie with my traveling partner Ty Erickson,” he explained. “Fortunately, I won the tiebreaker, but kind of unfortunate now that he doesn’t get to go. But at least one of us made it there.”
“We laughed last night, because we knew how good the steers were going to be. We said you’d better show up with your knife for this knife fight we’re fixin’ to be in,” he joked. “It was fun though. You put a good pen of steers with this caliber of guys, you’re going to see tons of fast times.”
Topping Saturday’s round of bareback riding was Steven Peebles but he had to work overtime to get it, which isn’t good news for a cowboy with as many body issues has Peebles has. The Oregon cowboy was awarded a re-ride and came back on a horse called You See Me, for 90 points. It was worth it for the chance to defend his title on Sunday, but Peebles headed right to Sports Medicine to get worked on, so he’s fit enough to ride again the Sunday.
Joining him from this round on a tiebreaker was J.R. Vezain of Wyoming, who turned in one of a trio of 86’s. Because he’d won a round outright and the others hadn’t, Vezain makes it through for his third career attempt at the $100,000.
“Just another day, another day of rodeoin’. I love big stages, against big buckers and against big names,” smiled Vezain.
Cort Scheer saddle bronc ride
Cort Scheer was breathing a sigh of relief, after making an outstanding 88 point ride on Calgary’s horse Yesterdays Delivery, to earn $6000.
“I’m pretty sure the year I won it I came through the wildcard round too, so I’m hoping that kind of replays itself,” smiled the Nebraska cowboy, who won the Stampede in 2013.
“It’s probably the most exciting perf, besides the Finals, for the simple fact that you’ve got 12 guys, and only two guys that come out of there. That’s your last chance. Before, when you have four rounds you’ve got four horses to get though. Here, you’ve got 12 guys that hold nothing back, and just go at ‘em. You might as well buck off or be 90, cuz you ain’t gonna make it back at 75.”
Utah’s Ryder Wright will represent the first family of bronc riding on Sunday after he snatched the second spot, for an 85.5 point ride, and $5000.
For the bull riders, it was a pair of Texans hitting the Wildcard jackpot. Cody Teel got the biggest payday ($6000) for an 89.5 point ride on Double Down, while to the delight of fans in the grandstand, Mike Lee made his customary run around the arena after an 86 point ride on All About You ($5000). Both will be part of Showdown Sunday.
The speedster Saturday in the barrel racing was Amberleigh Moore of Oregon, clocking a time of 17.09 seconds for her $6000 boost, with the second place payout of $5000 going to Texan Jackie Ganter for a time of 17.12 seconds. They’re the two who will get a chance to run again Sunday.
Novice winners Dawson Hay and Connor Hamilton with their bronzes
The Calgary Stampede is a big supporter of the youth events in rodeo, and was proud to present trophy bronzes to the two novice champions, after their competitions wrapped up Saturday.
Connor Hamilton played junior hockey for the Calgary Mustangs, before deciding rodeo was more up his alley. He won the novice bareback aggregate with 217 points, after finishing with a 74 score in Saturday’s Finals. Like pro cowboy Mason Clements, Hamilton grew up in the city and was able to pursue his western ambitions, settling on bareback riding. He first won the novice title at Calgary in 2015, which really launched his career. So Hamilton says this second championship is even more special.
“Definitely the first one was a huge shock for me,” admitted Hamilton. “This is the biggest event I’d ever been to before. This one means a lot more for sure, now that I’ve been going hard and grinding and being in the gym and eating right, doing everything I can to be the best.”
Dawson Hay, who just turned 19 a few days ago, had been to the Stampede stage before as a youngster. He and his brother joined his father, the legendary bronc rider Rod Hay, when he won the Stampede saddle bronc riding title several times. But this time Dawson earned his own trip there, with a shiny 80.5 point ride Saturday, for a 226.5 point tally to win the novice saddle bronc bronze.
“I don’t like doing interviews too much, so I was definitely pretty nervous up there. I’d get on another bucking horse before I’d go and talk in front of thousands of people,” he confessed. “It was exciting hearing everyone scream for you.”
There’s a million dollars to be given out on Showdown Sunday, as the ten competitors in each event will first ride to be among the four best, who then move on to get the shot at the big cheque for $100,000.