The struggles were real Friday at the Calgary Stampede, as Pool B contestants battled it out for a spot among the top four money winners to advance directly to Showdown Sunday.
Current, and five-time world champion Sage Kimzey was on the bull riding bubble Friday, but the Oklahoma man rose to the challenge, strapping a 91-point ride on Nickle Package, for first place and a $5500 boost.
“We’ve seen him around for a long time. He’s one that gives a lot of guys fits but he always bucks hard, and he’s always going to give you a chance to win,” commented Kimzey. “Those are the kind that us bull riders (need), especially in kind of a sudden death deal like today was. There was a few of us that had to stay on to have a chance to make it forward, me being one of them.”
In fact, in what’s a rare occasion at Calgary, every single one of the bull riders made the whistle Friday afternoon, with an abundance of high scores. In fact, an 84.5 didn’t even catch a sniff of cash.
“Especially with the caliber of bulls that were here today, for everybody to stay on, it’s a feat all in itself,” acknowledged Kimzey. “Bull riding’s just in a great place right now. It’s turning into such a professional sport, with guys who have dedicated their entire lives to this sport. Everybody in the stands gets to see that.”
Kimzey is glad to have Wild Card Saturday off, and he and girlfriend Alexis Bloomer and her family plan to head to the mountains before Sunday’s big test.
“I’ll take the day for me tomorrow and just go relax and get my mind right for Sunday.”
Also sitting out Wild Card Saturday from Pool B bull riders are Jose Vitor Leme, who tied with Kimzey at the top with $12,500 each; Ryan Dirteater ($10,500); and Cody Teel ($8500).
Shane Hanchey had calculated what he needed to do, as one of four tie-down ropers sitting with $7000 in their Stampede accounts coming into Day 8.
“I had to win something, no doubt,” stated the current Canadian champion. “I had the calf that I thought fit my style and my horse. Cory (Solomon) was seven flat on him yesterday. He leaves and runs. I knew if I got the start down, that I could tie him as fast as I want.”
And it was speedy, matching the fastest time of the week at 6.8 seconds.
“I’ve never flirted with the arena record here before, but if I could’ve got my hooey up, I would liked to have seen how fast I could’ve been. I’ve tied a lot of calves in six (seconds) on Bam, but 6.8 is the fastest I’ve ever been on him, even at the NFR. That’s a number I’ll take at any rodeo,” said Hanchey.
More importantly, the run netted him an all-important $5500, sending him straight through to Sunday as one the highest money winners of Pool B with $12,500. That left the rest of the crew scrambling in behind, and when the dust settled, joining Hanchey in a day off Saturday are Cory Solomon ($12,500); Tuf Cooper ($11,500); and Ryan Jarrett ($8500).
Kody Dollery took a little while to get rolling at his very first Calgary Stampede. But the Texas cowboy is just as at home in Donalda or Cochrane, because it was the Cassidy’s and the Milan’s who convinced him Canada was where it’s at in the steer wrestling world. That led to his first Canadian Finals appearance in November, which got him to this first Stampede. Then Friday, he cashed in for his first Calgary money, making it a good payday of $5500 for a 3.6 second run.
“I backed in there and I just knew I had to really get a good start to win the round today,” said Dollery. “I haven’t had much luck all week. Really got a good start, pulled just enough, did my job on the ground and it worked out real nice.”
Dollery knows he was flirting with danger, being right in synch with the barrier releasing.
“You have to, to win against these ones. I’m up against nine guys who’ve been at the NFR. A pen of wolves, and you’ve got to go at them just like they are.”
“I wish this was the first day, but I’m glad I got ‘er done on Day 4 of my pool. We’ll just have to go at ‘em again tomorrow, and then hopefully on Sunday.”
Dollery is grateful to have some all-important momentum heading into the skirmish that is Wild Card Saturday.
“Oh yea, winning the last day to go into the next day where you have to do good, it definitely builds you up.”
Kyle Irwin, of Alabama, managed to catch last hole Friday, so he dominated Pool B with $17,000; followed by two Louisiana men Tyler Waguespack ($11,500); Jacob Talley ($10,000); and Montana’s Ty Erickson ($8500).
When it comes to Pool B saddle bronc qualifiers, make it three Wrights and a Hay. The roll continues for the young Wildwood hand, and Dawson Hay looked on top of the world when he was first man out and posted an 88 on the scoreboard for his eight seconds aboard Chin Lee. But on this day, Ryder Wright nodded his head for Xemplary Bubbles and managed to eke out one more point, collecting his first day bronze of this Stampede with an 89 mark.
“That horse got real heavy on me,” explained the youngest member of the famous Utah bronc riding clan in Pool B. “He started circling around there, trying to jerk my (saddle) swells from me. I just squeezed real tight and kept my feet rolling, and it worked out.”
“It’s always good when they get those big scores out in front of you. It gets your fire going, makes you want to ride better,” commented Wright, about following Hay’s strong performance.
“It’s good to be back,” grinned the defending Stampede champion.
Hay was the number one money winner of Pool B, placing first or second in every go-round, amassing $20,000. Ryder Wright came in next ($12,000), brother Rusty followed ($775) and ‘uncle’ Spencer rounded out the Finalists ($7000).
It was a case of ‘a lot, but too late’ in the bareback riding, where Mason Clements emerged the high man of Day 8. He made a pretty 88-point ride on a horse called Blue Bananas, one he knew nothing about before getting on, other than the ‘funny name’.
“Now, after getting on him, what an awesome horse,” bubbled the Utah man, after the winning ride. “What a great start he has and a great finish, and continues it all the way through. It’s what you dream about getting on, just a fun, awesome horse that jumps right underneath your hips every time.”
The $5500 for first bumped Clements to $8000 for Pool B but he wound up in the ‘crying hole’, just outside the top four. But he still has plenty to take away from the successful ride.
“This is just perfect to capitalize on my form, to make sure that I ride correct tomorrow, and do my job so that I can go to Sunday.”
Those who can avoid the stress of Wild Card Saturday in the bareback riding are Tanner Aus ($15,000); Caleb Bennett ($12,500); Wyatt Denny ($10,500) and Clayton Bigelow ($10,500).
Make it a clean sweep in the barrel racing for Hailey Kinsel and Sister, who dominated for the fourth consecutive day, rounding the pattern in 17.03 seconds. Their Calgary account sits at $22,000, high atop Pool B.
“Heck, I was happy with my horse,” said Kinsel, the defending Stampede champion. “She was really honest for day four and worked really well everywhere. Got a little bit by the first barrel but otherwise she worked really awesome for four in a row.”
Also coming directly to Showdown Sunday from Pool B are Jennifer Sharp ($11,500); Emily Miller ($8750) and in a tie-breaker, Lisa Lockhart ($7500). Her second place finish Friday gave her the edge over Amberleigh Moore, who also had $7500.
When no one in the Tier 1 Junior Steer riding made the whistle in Friday’s finals, the Stampede championship was shared by two cowboys. Both Landen Horsley of Slave Lake and Dusty Golden of Mayerthorpe had marks of 74.5 on their first ride, giving them the honors.