WNFR Round 5: Team ropers tie at the top
LAS VEGAS – Team ropers Derrick Begay and Clay O’Brien Cooper are officially on fire, and on top of the world. Standings, that is.
The duo won their third round in five tries when they split the Round 5 win with Coleman Proctor and Jake Long with a 4.0-second run.
Both Begay and Cooper have earned a total of $75,942 in five nights, and tonight they took the world standings lead from two-time defending world champs Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill. It’s the first time a team other than Tryan and Corkill have led the world standings since February.
Cooper has seven world titles (all won with fellow ProRodeo Hall of Famer Jake Barnes), with the last coming in 1994. The way he and Begay are roping right now, No. 8 may not be far away.
“Is this a dream?” Cooper said. “Can I hit the snooze button and just keep sleeping? I don’t think I want to wake up. This is my 29th time here, and this is the best start I’ve ever had. Derrick threw it a mile tonight, and made a heck of a shot. We’ve got to keep grinding it out and doing our jobs. We just need to keep our heads down and keep making runs. The rodeo’s only half over, and there’s a long way to go.”
Begay and Cooper lead Tryan and Corkill by about $10,000. Begay has never finished better than sixth in the world standings. Roping with his idol is already reason enough to smile, but now with a gold buckle in his sights, it keeps getting better.
“Winning never gets old,” he said. “We’re just going to keep on keeping on and see what happens. This is fun. I look over at Clay every night about three teams before we ride in the box. It puts things in perspective for me, and gives me a good feeling. Clay’s the greatest heeler and this is the biggest stage. Clay puts me in my comfort zone. I look over at him, and I know it’s time to go to work.”
Boyhood buddies Proctor and Long were once again successful on Tough Enough To Wear Pink Night – the annual night at the WNFR to raise awareness for breast cancer.
“I’ve been here five times and this is the third time I’ve won (Tough Enough to Wear) Pink Night,” Long said. “Maybe I should start wearing pink all the time. Coleman and I have roped off and on together all our lives, and we’ve been best friends all our lives. It’s been a heck of a journey, and it’s an honor for me to get to rope with him.”
On a night where there were several huge rides and fast runs, Kaycee Feild made a statement in the bareback riding. Feild was up last – clinging to the world standings lead by about $6,000. He posted one of the best rides in WNFR history, a 91-point trip on Calgary Stampede’s Reckless Margie.
“Sometimes when you spur a horse like that, they quit at about six seconds, but she kept getting stronger and throwing more moves at me,” Feild said.
It was a big-time ride at the most opportune time for the four-time defending world champion. The Spanish Fork, Utah, cowboy has posted some huge rides in his WNFR career, but says this one means the most. It was his career-best ride at the WNFR, as he had 90.5-point trips in both 2008 and 2011.
“This is No. 1,” Feild said thoughtfully. “There are a lot of things happening right now in my life; I’m a father of two – which is still weird to say – and then with my dad (five-time World Champion Cowboy and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Lewis Feild) being sick (with pancreatic cancer), this ride is pretty special. He’s been watching on TV every night, and I think he’s about worn his recliner out by now.”
It was just the sixth bareback ride in WNFR history of 91 or more points, and was a half-point off the WNFR record.
“I had a really good horse tonight, and I’ve been feeling the pressure from Steven (Peebles) and knew I had to go out and ride tough and do my job,” said Feild, who now leads the world standings by more than $19,000. “I knew I had an opportunity to go out and have a big ride, and having pressure on me and riding in Vegas is something I thrive on.”
CoBurn Bradshaw, who’s making his first trip to the WNFR and is chasing a PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year award, as well as a gold buckle, had the standout performance of the saddle bronc riding competition tonight.
The 21-year-old brother-in-law of fellow WNFR bronc riders Spencer and Jake Wright was second out, and put up a 90-point ride on Beutler & Sons’ Wound Up.
“Rusty (Wright), Spencer (Wright) and Jake (Wright) and me were all talking in the locker room about tying with 90 points,” Bradshaw said. “We knew a lot of people had a chance to go 90. It was nerve-wracking waiting to see if I would win. I don’t want to root against anybody; I want to see them all do well. I’d like to see them all go 89-and-a-half.”
The ride was enough to top Jacobs Crawley’s 88.5, giving Bradshaw his second go-round win of the WNFR.
Bradshaw moved to third in the WNFR average and fifth in the world standings with the ride – one he admitted to being a bit nervous about beforehand.
“I’d never been on her, but I knew if she was in this pen, she was going to be a bucker,” he said. “I was nervous to have her, and hoped I could ride as good as she bucked. When horses buck that hard, you’ve got to be with them from the start or you’re toast. You can’t stub your toe on them.”
Steer wrestler K.C. Jones had a tough night on Sunday during Round 4 of the WNFR. His steer got away from him and he took a no-time, which essentially bumped him out of the WNFR average race. Jones went to the Exceptional Rodeo Monday morning at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena at the Convention Center, where about 30 special-needs children from Clark County schools reminded him about perspective.
“There’s nothing better than helping put smiles on the faces of those children,” the 44-year-old bulldogger said.
With the bad thoughts from his Sunday night run out of his head, Jones tied the fastest time of the first five nights of the WNFR with a 3.3-second run tonight.
“I went out of the average last night, so now I’m just backing in there to see how much money I can make,” he said. “In the end, you never know what’s going to happen. But right now my sole focus is trying to win as much money as I can.”
Jones moved from seventh to third in the world standings, keeping himself in the conversation for the world title. Ty Erickson split fourth place, allowing him to expand his world standings lead over Hunter Cure to more than $20,000.
Bull rider Wesley Silcox didn’t have a great start to this Finals, and took a pretty hard fall in Round 4. So his 86-point ride on Bar T Rodeo’s Broken Arrow to win Round 5 felt good.
“That (fall) dazed me pretty good,” he said of Round 4. “The last four nights gave me a lot of determination. Plus, I haven’t been here in three years, so this feels really good.”
Silcox started a family in the last three years and missed out on the WNFR. In 2015, the extra money lured him back to Vegas.
“This year I had it in my mind to try to go more and ride every bull I could,” he said. “The Finals money here is record-breaking and I wanted to be a part of it. To get some of it is really nice. It only takes one (ride) to get on a roll.”
Tie-down roper Cory Solomon won the second go-round buckle of his WNFR career tonight. After qualifying for the WNFR in 2011-12, he finished 16th in the world in 2013-14. It was a sweet victory in Round 5, when he clocked a 7.4-second run.
“I just kept believing in myself, and it took awhile to get back, but I refocused this year,” Solomon said of returning to the WNFR winner’s circle for the first time since Round 3 in 2011. “I will go at them every night, and I’m glad to turn things around in Round 5. I just didn’t back off too much. There was no need to try and be 6.8 tonight, and I was able to make a good run.”
While Solomon moved three spots in the world standings from 13th to 10th, there was a change at the top of the tie-down roping world standings. Hunter Herrin’s second-place check tonight moved him past defending World Champion Tuf Cooper by a mere $663.
Through the first four nights of the WNFR, barrel racer Nancy Hunter hadn’t had much success, as she earned just one check. Hunter entered the WNFR ranked sixth in the world standings, but began to slip. She rebounded with the fastest time of the first five rounds tonight, winning Round 5 with a 13.62-second run. She got some advice from her husband, Fred, before her run.
“Fred told me tonight to hug the left wall down the alley and not to hustle him (her horse, Fuzz) so hard,” Hunter said. “He said, ‘It’s better to not push him and get a good first barrel,’ and it worked very well.”
Hunter came to the WNFR with a platform to bring awareness for childhood cancer research, and says she’s been successful in the cause.
“The support has been outstanding,” she said. “My son is a cancer survivor and I wanted to take the opportunity to let people know that there is such a great need for the money to do research to find a cure. I’m hoping people will check out my NFR Glitter Like Gold Facebook page and help me get the word out.”