American Semi-Finals rodeo to pay $500K
The preliminary leg of the world’s richest one-day rodeo kicks off a three-day run on Friday, Feb. 20, in the historic Fort Worth (Texas) Stockyards.
The American Semi-Finals has virtually doubled in contestant numbers and prize money in its second year, as athletes from around the country enter for a chance to advance to RFD-TV’s $2 million rodeo in AT&T Stadium on March 1. The American, presented by Polaris Ranger is the only lucrative professional rodeo with no entry limitations, whereby anyone can qualify to potentially earn $1 million by out-riding the best athletes in the world. Last year, college junior Richmond Champion advanced from the Semi-Finals in bareback riding before earning $1.1 million at The American.
Over the past 12 months, nearly 4,000 entries were fielded at 70 qualifying events for the Semi-Finals, which is up from 35 qualifying events last year and just over 2,000 entries. This year, Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum will host 631 entries vying for 38 byes into The American and shares of a $498,750 purse.
“To see interest double like this in just a year is exciting,” said Randy Bernard, CEO of RFD-TV Events. “For the Semi-Finals to pay out a half-million dollars makes it one of the top-10 richest rodeos in America all on its own. Our goal has always been to give the cowboys more exposure, which leads to them making the kind of money they would make in any other professional sport.”
The field includes contestants from 36 states, four Canadian provinces, Australia and Brazil. In the mix are nearly 70 individual NFR qualifiers who own more than a dozen PRCA world championships among them, as well as invited champions from the National High School Finals Rodeo, College National Finals Rodeo, Indian National Finals Rodeo, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, Canadian Finals Rodeo, and Professional Rough Stock World Championships.
“There’s never been anything like a chance to make it to The American,” said Tee Woolman, a Hall-of-Fame team roper who’s earned nearly $3 million over his 30-year career. “We all watched Richmond Champion come from the Semi-Finals and win that million dollars last year. This is a game-changer. Making it to this rodeo is what little kids are going to think about now.”
Woolman of Llano, Texas, and his partner, Daniel Braman of Refugio, Texas, will be one of 109 teams at the Semi-Finals shooting for the $40,000 first-place paycheck and advancement into The American. The Semi-Finals will send to The American just five athletes each in team roping, bareback riding and saddle bronc riding; six each in steer wrestling and tie down roping; one in bull riding and 10 in barrel racing.
The preliminary rounds for the 100-plus contestants in each timed event will be held during slack competitions at the Fort Worth Stockyards on Feb. 18-19. The top 20 to 30 will then advance to the performances, Feb. 20-21 at 7 p.m. nightly in the Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth. The final 12 competitors in each roughstock event and final 10 in each timed event will ride in the short round on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m.
The early rounds of the Semi-Finals will be televised on RFD-TV on Feb. 20 at 8:30 p.m. (Central) and Sunday, Feb. 22, at noon (Central) prior to RFD-TV’s live broadcast of the final round Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets for the American Semi-Finals are available for $40 per single day or a three-performance package of $100, not including taxes. They can be purchased at the Cowtown Coliseum box office, at stockyardsrodeo.com, or americanrodeo.com or ticketmaster.com.
The following weekend, AT&T Stadium will host one of the richest weekends in western sports history, starting with the PBR’s Iron Cowboy VI on Feb. 28, followed by RFD-TV’s The American, presented by Polaris Ranger, on March 1. Purchase combination or individual tickets at the AT&T Stadium Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations or at americanrodeo.com. Prices for each event range from $20 to $150, not including taxes.