There’s nothing like a little moisture and mud to test cowboy determination, for rodeo contestants and even the visiting Prime Minister! Friday provided those conditions at the Calgary Stampede, just when Pool B contestants needed to bear down and secure their spot for Showdown Sunday.
But the rain stopped as the rodeo began and fans loved the mud, especially in the steer wrestling, where there was no choice but to get dirty.
It was money rather than mud that was on the mind of Cody Cassidy, and he needed a lot of it in order to avoid Wildcard Saturday.
The Donalda guide and outfitter improved his chances when he won the round in 3.9 seconds. But the $5500 still left him $500 short of a top four position.
“I actually made it through last year, last day when I won the round and bumped Hunter Cure out by $500, so it can go either way,” said Cassidy. “I’m just glad to win some money. That’s everybody’s focus when they come here.”
It’s been a while since Cassidy has had to qualify for Sunday through Wildcard Saturday.
“I think I’ve made it through to Sunday the last six years in a row.”
“I’ve got one option tomorrow, and that’s to finish first or second. So that’s the plan!”
The four steer wrestlers who will advance right through to Sunday are Dakota Eldridge ($13,500), Hunter Cure ($10,500), Ty Erickson ($10,500) and Casey Martin ($10,000).
It was just the birthday present Zeke Thurston wanted. Although he had $7000 in his Pool B account, Thurston wanted some insurance to get a day off before defending his title. After his first horse didn’t like bucking in the mud, the Big Valley was offered a re-ride. This time, he teamed up with Major Cover, and the result was an 84 score, good enough to tie Jake Wright for first and sew up a spot for Sunday, on the day he turned 22.
Jake Wright was high man of the pool with his $14,500, followed by Thurston ($12,000), Wade Sundell ($9500) and CoBurn Bradshaw ($9000).
They’ve been pushing the numbers higher every day in the bull riding, and Friday hit a new level, when Australian Josh Birks blew out a 90 point performance on a bull called Bomb Shell.
“I didn’t have a real good track record with him,” said Birks. “He’d bucked me off before. But most of the bulls I’ve got on this week have bucked me off before and I’ve rode ‘em now. The only one that bucked me off was the one that I’ve always rode. Hopefully I keep drawing ones that I’ve bucked off before.”
Birks is loving every minute of his very first Stampede, riding three of his four bulls and earning $14,500.
“Words can’t describe it. It’s a dream come true,” he said with a grin. “I’ve grown up watching this every year, and always said I’d be here. I never really believed it, actually, but now I’m here, I’ve got to believe it!”
Birks has been coming to Canada and doing bull business for some five years now, but being at the Stampede is the icing on the cake.
“This tops it up. If I got to win this, I’d nearly feel like retiring because I’d feel like I completed my life.”
The Calgary Stampede is watched around the globe, as far away as New South Wales, and Birks knows that well after his Stampede success.
“Yesterday I had like, a hundred messages on my phone, so they’re all watching back home. There’s a little bit of pressure there. I think that’s what’s keeping me hanging on.”
J.B. Mauney is the only one who’s ridden all four of his bulls, and he was the top money earner in Pool B with his $17,000, followed by Birks, then Sage Kimzey ($11,500) and Brazilian Fabiana Vieira ($8500)
Ryan Jarrett knew what he needed to do, mud or not. The Oklahoma tie-down roper was the first of the day to test the waters, and he scooped up and tied his calf in 7.2 seconds. The $5500 helped him nab the last of the four spots from his Pool. Finishing first was the ageless Fred Whitfield with his $12,500 total, followed by Cory Solomon ($11,000), Jarrett, and Marty Yates, who both earned $8500.
Orin Larsen doesn’t like to miss an appointment. And when he told reporters Thursday afternoon ‘See you Tomorrow’, he meant it. He kept his part of the deal riding for the third straight day to the top of the bareback standings, this time doing so with an 86.5 on Calgary’s Rum Flavored horse.
The Manitoba cowboy amassed $19,000 at the front of Pool B, followed by Richie Champion ($12,500), Steven Peebles ($11,500) and Tanner Aus of Minnesota ($11,000).
Lisa Lockhart proved she can handle all kinds of conditions and she tied for first on her final Pool B run with Cayla Melby of Oklahoma. Both made 18.18 second runs. Lockhart collected a whopping $20,000 for her week, but she’ll be joined on Sunday by Nancy Csabay ($13,000), Michele McLeod ($8500) and Jackie Ganter ($8000)
There’s another pot of money available on Wildcard Saturday for the rest of the contestants to take a run at, but only the two best scores or times from each event will get a chance to join the Pool A and B finalists for the Sunday’s richest afternoon in rodeo, at the Calgary Stampede.
Call it a vacation with a plan. Mason Spain and his family journeyed all the way from their home in Forney, TX to take in the Calgary Stampede, complete with stops at Yellowstone and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. They’re headed home with a very special souvenir. The 14-year-old claimed the Tier One Junior Steer Riding Championship, with a pair of rides totaling 151 points.
“They tested me pretty good,” said Spain, about his draws. “The one today turned back real nice, and then she jumped out. That’s really hard when they jump out. It’s one of the hardest moves to make in bull riding.”
Spain enjoyed his moment on the Stampede stage.
“That was very cool, standing in front of all those people. A little bit nerve wracking, but really fun. I told them when I get a little older I can come back and win the hundred thousand!”