WNFR: Brazile sets first-round record
LAS VEGAS – The 2015 edition of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER got off to a historical start.
Trevor Brazile, the 22-time world champion, won the tie-down roping with a 6.8-second run – the fastest Round 1 time in WNFR history.
“That’s sweet, I had no idea,” Brazile said of setting the record.
Matt Shiozawa posted a 6.9-second time tonight, which tied the previous Round 1 record set by Cody Ohl in 2004. Brazile wasted little time taking the record for himself.
“I’m going to stay aggressive,” Brazile said. “Some people will be wondering about me taking a risk by only taking one wrap (instead of two) so early in the week. You just have to go with your gut. I’ve been to a few National Finals, and when I feel like the risk is necessary I will try it. I’ve had it go both ways. I’ve reaped the benefits and suffered the consequences.”
Brazile set the record with a little help from his No. 1 sorrel horse, Deputy. “He’s the reason I’m still competitive at 39,” said Brazile, who’s now won a record 60 National Finals go-rounds in tie-down roping, team roping and steer roping.
While Brazile made a statement at the timed-event end, bull rider Parker Breding did the same on the roughstock side.
The 23-year-old from Edgar, Mont., rode for 86.5 points on Smith, Harper and Morgan’s Magic Bullet – but it came with a price.
Breding took a horn under his protective vest to his ribs and needed attention at the Justin Sportsmedicine room after the rodeo.
“I’ve had cracked ribs before, but I’ve never had a bull’s horn get up in my vest like that,” he said. “It’s a scary deal, because people have been killed that way before. I was dang sure blessed tonight, that the bull didn’t stay with me too long.”
Sage Kimzey, the defending world champion and world standings leader, was bucked off, allowing Breding – who entered Las Vegas second – to gain $26,231 on Kimzey in the world standings. Breding now trails Kimzey by less than one round win. However, his competing status for the rest of the WNFR is in doubt.
“He’s OK right now; we’re keeping an eye on him,” said Dr. Tandy Freeman of the Justin Sportsmedicine team. “He’s got some abdominal tenderness, but not anything to suggest he’s got a major injury. He’s probably got a couple of fractured ribs. He’ll probably end up getting some X-rays, and we’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow.”
Bareback rider Tim O’Connell knows about injuries at the WNFR. After suffering several of them during the 10 nights of the 2014 WNFR, he started his second Las Vegas trip in a much better way tonight. O’Connell rode for 84.5 points on D&H Cattle’s Dilly Bar to earn $26,231. It was his second round win, but first outright – he split the Round 4 victory with four-time World Champion Bobby Mote in 2014.
However, O’Connell, the 24-year-old from Zwingle, Iowa, isn’t satisfied with one big check and one victory lap.
“I have Kaycee Feild and five other guys ahead of me and I’m here to win a world title,” O’Connell said. “I’m going to press every night and ride all of them like it’s for the world title. I wrote down my goals when I left this arena last year, and I went and evaluated what I did wrong and what I could do better. My goal is to be the 2015 world champion, and I’m planning on riding like it.”
It was a big night for the team roping duo of Aaron Tsinigine and Ryan Motes. Their 4.1-second time was good enough for the victory. The 4.1 tied for the second-fastest Round 1 time ever at the WNFR.
This was the fourth times Motes has won or split a round win in Las Vegas in 21 runs, which is a success rate of 19 percent – not too shabby. He said the competition was stiff, making the round win all the more satisfying.
“It’s got to be the toughest first round we’ve ever had,” Motes said. “Right from the beginning it was fast. Normally, there are several misses in the first round – a lot of legs and stuff. Tonight, people were on point and sharp. It’s a lot easier to get going when it is semi-tough. You know people are taking chances and being aggressive.”
For Tsinigine, it was more of the same at the WNFR – cashing a check. Going back to Round 6 of the 2014 WNFR, the 29-year-old from Tuba City, Ariz., has been in the money in six straight rounds – including two victory laps.
Getting to compete with Motes for the first time in the Thomas & Mack Center was something Tsinigine was thrilled about.
“Last year, I was kind of bummed out Ryan didn’t get to come with me (after they roped together during the regular season),” Tsinigine said. “Being here with him this year means everything to me. We are best friends and we get along real good.”
A man familiar with the Thomas & Mack Center, steer wrestler K.C. Jones, found immediate success. Jones began his ninth appearance in Las Vegas by picking up the fourth WNFR round win of his career, and the first in Round 1.
The 44-year-old from Decatur, Texas, posted a 3.4-second time to edge Kyle Irwin’s 3.5 and collect $26,231. The time tied for the third best time ever in Round 1, and it’s one of only seven times that’s been under 3.5 in the round.
“That was a red steer that I didn’t think we would be that fast on, but that little black mare I rode (Smoker, owned by Jud Little), is just so fast, and it worked out,” Jones said.
The big payday was something the 20-year veteran was fired up about.
“It’s so exciting this year with $10 million dollars,” he said. “There are a lot of people who worked hard to get that purse up there for the contestants and we’re really thankful to them. It makes it really exciting when you win $26,000 in (just under) 3.5 seconds.”
Saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell continued his tradition of getting off to a fast start in Las Vegas. Sundell rode for 86.5 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Fire Lane to win, and it was the sixth time in seven first rounds that Sundell has earned a check.
“They normally win a round on that horse every year here,” Sundell said of Fire Lane. “I knew I had a good chance. That horse is really snappy and I had to keep my chin down. I just let it all hang out.”
It was a tough night for the saddle bronc riders, as it was the first time since 1985 – the first year the WNFR was held in Las Vegas – that fewer than 11 riders recorded a score.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first,” Sundell said of the first three riders being bucked off. “Nobody was making the whistle. This is a good pen of horses.”
This was the tenth time Sundell has at least split a round win at the WNFR. Sundell has drawn Frontier Rodeo’s Tip Off for Round 2 on Friday night.
“I’ll come gassin’ and I’m due to ride him,” Sundell said of his strategy. “I’ve been on him three times for a total of about eight seconds.”
The 57th annual Wrangler NFR continues Friday with the second round at the Thomas & Mack Center. The action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 7-10 p.m. PT.
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