The odds are long and the stakes are high when it comes to Wild Card Saturday at the Calgary Stampede. To those who rise to the challenge go the spoils, a coveted berth in Championship Sunday.
The crowd roared when a perennial Stampede favorite finally found his groove in the steer wrestling, just in the nick of time. Curtis Cassidy had been shut out all week, and recorded a couple of nasty spills in his quest to make a run for Sunday’s glory.
But Saturday everything came together and as last man out, he was chasing a 3.9 posted by Will Lummus. He nodded and it was classic Cassidy, a solid 4.0 second toss, to earn his Wild Card Saturday qualification.
“Big sigh of relief,” admitted Cassidy, a two-time Canadian champion, who collected $5000 for second place. “Now I’ve got to start getting pressured up for tomorrow. Anxiety all weekend!”
That’s no joke, despite the Donalda cowboy’s family rodeo legacy and his own decades of experience in the game.
“That’s what Shannon told me this morning. She’s like ‘you’ve been here 23 times. You don’t have to be nervous. You know what you’re doing!’ But when you back in there at this place, if you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong with you,” he laughed.
“Even though I’m three hours from here, it’s like a hometown crowd. Dad competed here, and of course, my Grandpa way back in the day. I would say, as Canadians, we put more pressure on ourselves because it means so much to us to win here in Calgary.”
Lummus was equally excited to emerge from Saturday’s action, getting a $6000 bonus to boot.
“It’s awesome,” said Mississippi cowboy. “I had some tough luck in Pool A, won a little bit, but it didn’t really go like I wanted my first Calgary to go, so this turns it around.”
The high man in the bareback riding was an Alberta cowboy who grew up in Calgary, so Jacob Stemo was extra pumped to find out he’d get a chance to ride Championship Sunday in his first appearance in the open competition.
Even better – he made it there on an old friend of bareback riders everywhere, a horse called Gold Dust.
“That horse they were joking, but I know they were serious at the same time, she’s older than I am,” said Stemo, who’s from Bashaw now. “She had a big fancy halter on today, and I heard a rumor they might retire her this year, so I was just ecstatic to get on that horse. She’s been Horse of the Year. I was talking to some old boys from back in the day, some of my mentors growing up, and they’d even been on her.
Ann 88 point result gave him the number one spot of the day and $6000.
“She felt great, like I could get my timing. She’s not very big, but she’s really powerful. I was just lucky enough today to match her.”
“I was focused. My (Stampede) goal was to get into the top four, and today I had to go and execute my job perfectly to get in there. I expected to win today, honestly. I’m just happy and it’s been a great week at Calgary. I can’t believe it.”
“The rodeo’s special but for me the family aspect, the friends aspect, people I grew up with, that’s what makes it even better.”
Mason Clement’s momentum stayed in high gear, and the go-round win Friday enabled his 87 mark Saturday on Witless Margie, equaled by both Ky Marshall and Colin Adams, to be enough for the second qualifying bareback spot. All three riders got $4000 each.
“Wild Card isn’t an easy round. I know that, and that horse darn sure brought it,” said the Utah cowboy. “I know I wanted to match him jump for jump and have a strong markout and a strong finish, so I could finish in the top two, and it played out just right.”
Talk about sisterhood support! An amazing story played out in the barrel racing, where Callahan Crossley bested the field in 17.37 seconds, followed closely by Amberleigh Moore with a 17.50, both Oregon cowgirls.
“That was Amber’s horse, Ducky,” explained Crossley. “It says a lot about a person when they will let you on their backup horse, a backup they know can beat their own horse, when you don’t have something to ride.”
“I can’t even say enough nice things about her now,” she added.
Crossley came to Calgary with Ranger, who started the week well, but she wasn’t able to run him after the third round, so was borrowing horsepower. Moore made the generous offer, and then both ended up advancing to Sunday.
“He got his chance to shine on the big stage, and I’m as proud of her as I am for me,” smiled Moore. “I’m a proud ‘mom’ to get to see him go out and do that.”
“It’s the first time today she’s ever stepped on him. She moved him through in practice, watched some of my videos and I said ‘just send him, I know he can do it’.”
Moore had made the decision to stick with her great horse Paige, and it paid off too, as she earned $5000, compared to Crossley’s $6000.
“Last year I was here without Paige,” said Moore. “She was hurt for four months, so I jump-rode like Callahan – four different horses up here. So, me being in that position, not having a horse, I was quite willing to let her jump on my backup, because it’s not fun to come up here and lose your horse.”
Cody DeMoss likes coming to Calgary and it shows. The veteran saddle bronc rider strapped on a stylish spur ride aboard Little Muffin to chalk up a whopping 90.5 score, which proved untouchable Wild Card Saturday, worth $6000 for the Louisiana man.
“She come right out and got it going, and had a big ol’ twist in the middle,” grinned DeMoss. “She jumped up under herself and really let me set my feet and turn my toes out. Turned out it was the perfect one for me.”
“It felt good today. I felt like a bronc rider again.”
DeMoss, who’s 38 now, took home the Stampede championship in 2007, and he’d really like to do it again.
“I’ve been here dang near every year, been close a couple more times. So I’m just glad to be able to come back. This is a great rodeo.”
Also advancing from the Wild Card in saddle bronc riding is Sterling Crawley, who marked 88 on Ultimate Cash, edging his brother Jacobs out of the second spot by half a point.
“I’d be lying if I said he hadn’t done for me half a dozen times in the other way around,” chuckled the Texan. “This rodeo’s been good to me in the past and I’d sure like to getting to play until that last four round.”
Garrett Green made his debut appearance at the Calgary Stampede a good one when he rode a bull called Son of Odin to 88 points, which was best of the bunch Saturday, and worth $6000.
“I was very happy with that bull,” said the cowboy from Meeting Creek. “I’d seen him a bit this spring. They hadn’t been riding him much. I knew he was a little bit of a handful but every time I’d seen him, he was just like today – kicking hard, around to the left just right there. I got around that corner and everything was feeling pretty good and I just kept on going at him and it all worked out.”
“I’ve been on the bubble for getting to the Stampede the last few years now, and just haven’t got the call. I’m really happy they give the guys another chance to come in through the Wild Card round.”
“To come in and get a round win sure feels good and give you some confidence coming in Sunday.”
Defending Stampede bull riding champion Marcos Gloria, the Brazilian living in Edmonton, gave himself a chance to make it two in a row when he nabbed the other Wild Card spot with an 86.5 on Speak Easy, for $5000.
For the second year in a row, the two ropers to secure Wild Card spots in the tie-down event were Timber Moore and Matt Shiozawa, both past Stampede champions. They had identical times of seven seconds flat on their runs, earning $5500 each.
“I think Timber and I have an advantage maybe because we’re veterans and know how to stop the clock,” said Shiozawa.
“I sure hate to leave this city early. The Stampede, a guy needs to stay here until Sunday, for sure.”
“Whether you’re first or last you’ve got to go as fast as you can, especially when they’re only taking two out of 12 back to Sunday,” said Moore. “You just make the best run you can and just hope it was good enough for that day.”
“Luckily today it all worked out for me.”