Three rounds remain at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and it’s been one heck of a seven days here in Las Vegas.
The last week has been a frenzied blur, and it’s taken me a bit to organize the highlights into something resembling order. Here’s a look at the week that was and the major events of the first week of the world’s richest rodeo.
Injured Wright out for at least two rounds
Two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright will miss at least the eighth and ninth performances after suffering a severe left shoulder separation in Round 7. He suffered the injury after riding Sutton Rodeos’ Camp Fire for 65 points and was transported to a Las Vegas hospital to have the shoulder treated. Not only is it a shame because Wright is such a nice and well-liked guy, but he was fourth in the world standings and third in the average before having to doctor release for the next two rounds.
“It makes me sick, it really does,” Wright told me over the phone on Thursday afternoon. “I hate to turn out in the middle of the year, let alone coming here and doing it. But like I told these boys of mine, I could get on and ride, but I’m here riding the best horses in the world against the best cowboys in the world.
“Can I get on and be competitive? No, I don’t think I can. I could get on and tough it out and hopefully not hurt myself, but I’m more likely to hurt myself worse and be out more next year.”
Wright said doctors sedated him before popping the shoulder back into place, and he will follow up with an MRI as soon as he can in order to discover if there is structural damage to the shoulder. He said he could potentially ride in Round 10, but had not yet made a decision.
“I’m just going to play it by ear and see how it feels,” Wright said. “I’ve felt worse (pain), but it was pretty bad. I’m not planning on this little upset being the end of my career.”
Kimzey, Yates lead round winners
Bull rider Sage Kimzey and tie-down roper Marty Yates – both Wrangler NFR rookies this year – lead all contestants in round victories with three. Kimzey, the bull riding world standings leader, won the third and fourth rounds and split Round 7 with Elliot Jacoby, while Yates took Rounds 1 and 4 and split the sixth round with Matt Shiozawa. Fourteen contestants, including six-time World Champion Cody Ohl and barrel racing world standings leader Fallon Taylor, have two round wins apiece heading into Round 8.
Some contestants to pull for
Everyone has their favorite cowboys or barrel racers, but there are six Wrangler NFR contestants I think all ProRodeo fans should pull for in the final three rounds. They are the only ones of 119 contestants who still have not won a check in Las Vegas, and I hate to see anyone go home empty-handed. So, cheer for bareback rider J.R. Vezain, tie-down roper Reese Riemer, barrel racers Christine Laughlin and Samantha Lyne and bull riders Reid Barker and Josh Koschel to make it to the pay window down the stretch so they can enjoy a happier holiday season with their families.
Ohl ties Etbauer
With his split of first place in Round 7, Ohl tied ProRodeo Hall of Famer Billy Etbauer for most Wrangler NFR round victories in an individual event with 51. Ohl also has three go-round buckles from the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping for a grand total of 54, three shy of Trevor Brazile, who holds the overall record with 57 round wins.
Superlatives for scores, times so far
Justin McDaniel’s 89-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Ship in Round 3 is the highest-scored bareback ride of the rodeo so far, while Kyle Irwin’s 3.2-second run in that round was the fastest steer wrestling run of this year’s Finals. Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn had the quickest team roping run of the rodeo in Round 4, and the highest saddle bronc ride of the Finals, 87, is shared by Cort Scheer from Round 1 and Wade Sundell from the third and fifth go-rounds. No tie-down roper has been faster than Ohl, who won the third round with a 6.6-second run. Michelle McLeod’s 13.66-second run to win Round 5 is the fastest barrel racing run so far, and Aaron Pass’ 89.5-point mark on Rafter H Rodeo’s Seeing Red to win Round 2 is the highest-scored bull ride of this year’s Finals.