LAS VEGAS, Nev. Popular thought said it was only a matter of time before four-time and reigning World Champion All-Around Cowboy Trevor Brazile eclipsed his own single-season PRCA earnings record since he was competing in this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in two events, and that's exactly what happened.
Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, and team roping partner Patrick Smith won their second consecutive round in the team roping and with it checks worth $16,394 and the talented cowboy raised the PRCA's money earnings bar a bit higher in the process.
Brazile, who also is competing in the tie-down roping, rushed past his previous record total of $329,924 from a year ago with the team roping win, finishing the night with $342,263 on the season with five rounds to go. Brazile and Smith, the 2005 World Champion Heeler, won Round 5 in front of a crowd of 17,235 at the Thomas & Mack Center with a 4.6-second run.
They finished one-tenth of a second ahead of the team of Colter Todd and Cesar de la Cruz, who also finished second the previous night, and have now pocketed $45,745 in Las Vegas through five rounds.
Brazile's confidence is growing with each passing round.
"We work at it together as a team," Brazile said. "This is the first time I've had a partner that I enjoy roping with this much, and we've been putting the time in practicing. We got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but I knew with the preparation we've done to make this a great National Finals for us, it would all work out in the end."
Smith is excited about his and Brazile's third-place standing in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings.
"I'm not going to lie and say it's not in the back of my mind," Smith, of Midland, Texas, said of winning a gold buckle. "But you can really get caught up in that and start watching guys you're competing against for that world championship and try to make things happen instead of sticking to your plan. I'm just going to try to win the most I can on each steer and let them do the math at the end."
Brazile's all-around money total is more than double that of second-place Josh Peek ($170,598), but Peek still has a small mathematical chance to overtake Brazile in the all-around race. Peek, of Pueblo, Colo., would need to win every remaining round in the steer wrestling and tie-down roping and a considerable amount in the average payouts as well to achieve that feat.
His $56,851 earned so far at this year's Wrangler NFR is impressive, especially considering that Brazile is not 100 percent physically.
"I've got a herniated disk in my back bulging against my nerves there, and it's pretty painful," Brazile said. "It doesn't affect me much in the team roping, just once I get off my horse in the tie-down roping I'm not as good as I should be."
In the bareback riding, three-time and reigning World Champion Will Lowe broke through into the winner's circle with an 89.5-point ride on Burch Rodeo Company's Pinball Wizard. The horse had previously taken Lowe's traveling buddy Tom McFarland to the top of the heap at the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo and helped the Canyon, Texas, cowboy pick up yet another round victory in Las Vegas.
"I felt good with that horse turning back to the right and then kicking through everything like he did," said Lowe, who moved to third in the average race with 420 points. "With a Burch horse, you can't ever expect it to be patterned, and they usually have a lot of moves to them, are electric and wild like that. The time when I had seen him, he turned back right there and turned out of it after that first round and was just right across the front of the bucking chutes. He maybe had a few moves back and forth across there, so when he started to make his second round, I didn't know what to think."
Justin McDaniel, who set a Wrangler NFR record in Round 3, finished second to Lowe with an 89-pointer on Mosbrucker Rodeo's Magic Wars on a re-ride and earned another $12,957. He trails Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Bobby Mote by $33,025 at the halfway point of this year's Wrangler NFR.
The steer wrestling champion was a familiar name, 2005 World Champion Lee Graves. Graves, of Calgary, Alberta, won a share of first place with Shawn Greenfield the night before and repeated as round champion in the fifth performance with a 3.4-second run. Jake Rinehart and Casey McMillen tied for second place just one-tenth of a second back in what was an immensely quick round that featured nine times under 4.0 seconds.
Graves' $16,394 first-place check in Round 5 made him the fourth bulldogger to lead the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings since the Wrangler NFR began, joining 2004 World Champion Luke Branquinho, Wade Sumpter and Greenfield. Graves is riding the 2007 AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year, Jesse, and is beginning to hit his stride along with hazer Blaine Pederson.
"You've got to have a game plan," said Graves, who leads Greenfield in the standings by less than $6,000. "The start is so fast here, that the guy who wins the most money is the guy who gets the best starts, so it's really important that we are on the same page as our hazers. Blaine and I go way back, and he's my mentor. It's been really cool because I've gotten to win lots of titles with him hazing for me."
Wrangler NFR rookie Taos Muncy, who won Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo earlier this year, claimed his first career round victory at the Wrangler NFR. He spurred MJM Rodeo's No Ballou for 83 points to win the saddle bronc riding by a single point ahead of Rusty Allen on a night when 10 of the 14 saddle bronc riders who nodded their heads were bucked off before the eight-second whistle.
His $16,394 first-place check moved Muncy to third in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings and left a big smile on his face.
"I can't believe it," said Muncy, of Corona, N.M. "I didn't know anything about him (No Ballou), but a lot of my buddies told me about the horse, and he was just as good as they said. He was awesome. There are three of us (Heith DeMoss, Isaac Diaz and Muncy) here that are young, and it's our first time. Whenever they ride, I get pumped up and vice-versa. For me to watch them do well, it really fires me up and makes me think I can do it too."
Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Cody Wright was bucked off his horse during the fifth performance, and his lead over Cody DeMoss shrunk to less than $2,000. They will both likely have to contend with Canadian Rod Hay, who not only is the only saddle bronc rider who has covered all five of his horses, but who has placed in all five rounds. Hay, of Wildwood, Alberta, has earned more money $51,562 at this year's Wrangler NFR than any other single-event contestant, holds a big lead in the average standings and became just the 12th cowboy in PRCA history to cross the $2 million mark in career earnings. He accomplished that feat with his victory in Round 2.
Roping in his 13th career Wrangler NFR, Blair Burk found his way to the No. 1 spot in Round 5 with a 7.2-second run, finishing one-tenth of a second ahead of reigning World Champion Tie-Down Roper Cody Ohl. It was Burk's first paycheck of this year's event, and he was more than pleased to get off the "schnide."
"It's been a long four days getting started," said Burk, of Durant, Okla. "It feels good, that's for sure, and you want to try to get a check as quickly as you can. I just got the calf caught and tried not to screw up."
Barrel racer Lindsay Sears rode her 7-year-old mare Martha through the cloverleaf pattern in 13.93 seconds to win her second round of the 2007 Wrangler NFR. Sears, of Nanton, Alberta, also won the second round and is in pursuit of Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Brittany Pozzi-Pharr for the gold buckle. Pozzi-Pharr, of Victoria, Texas, did not earn a check in the fifth performance, but continues to lead the all-important average standings heading into the second half of the Wrangler NFR.
Sears feels that she and Martha are beginning to click at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"Every day is a little bit different," Sears said. "She might have a different attitude from one day to the next. I try to go through the same routine every night. I've done the same thing all year, and it's worked out pretty well. I always picture a perfect run in my head before I go in the arena. After that, I just try to relax and not think about it too much."
Jill Moody, who won the first round, finished second to Sears in Round 5 with a 13.99-second run. Sears ($45,745) and Moody ($42,308) are 1-2 in Wrangler NFR earnings among barrel racers through five rounds.
If there's one thing Clint Craig is not, it's a quitter. Now, because of that fact, he's a Wrangler NFR round winner. The Mena, Ark., cowboy, who is riding in his second career Wrangler NFR, not only won his first round in Las Vegas, but also recorded his first qualified ride in 16 tries at the Thomas & Mack Center. Thanks to an 89.5-point effort on Sammy Catalena Rodeo's South Point, Craig, the 2007 Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days champion, pocketed $16,394 and a great deal of confidence.
"It feels amazing," Craig said of his long-awaited victory. "You can't get discouraged in this game. You can't let down times get you down, or you'll stay down. He (South Point) was the mystery bull. No one knew anything about him, really. I felt really confident coming into tonight because the bull's name was South Point. I thought that, since the (round buckle) awards are at the South Point (Hotel, Casino and Spa) this has got to work out."
Dave Samsel, a 36-year-old Wrangler NFR rookie, finished second to Craig with an 86-point ride on Western Rodeos' Carmel Corn. The bulls won the majority of the battles again in Round 5, bucking off nine of 15 riders prior to the eight-second whistle.
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