LAS VEGAS, Nev.
Trevor Brazile's pursuit of the Triple Crown could be in jeopardy. The Decatur, Texas, cowboy discovered earlier in the week that he is going to have to finish this year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with a herniated disk in his back, and after Round 6, he's no longer the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader in tie-down roping.
Brazile, who won the steer roping world title in November and has a nearly insurmountable all-around lead, needs either to win the team roping or tie-down roping gold buckle to become the first PRCA cowboy since Roy Cooper in 1983 to win three gold buckles in the same year. That pursuit took a hit in front of 17,154 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Round 6 when Houston Hutto won a share of first place and a check worth $14,675.
Hutto, of Del Rio, Texas, tied his calf in 7.4 seconds to share the round victory with Josh Peek and take over the world standings lead from Brazile heading into the seventh performance. Hutto has $147,830 to Brazile's $146,290 and is third in the average race, while Brazile ranks seventh in those standings. Hutto was excited to win a share of the round title, which came in front of some people close to him.
"It's real special, and I have my family and friends here," Hutto said. "It will be exciting tonight at the South Point (for the round buckle presentations)."
Brazile finished sixth in the round and earned $2,644 to keep the tie-down roping race a close one with four rounds remaining. Peek, of Pueblo, Colo., left the arena riding high after claiming the first round win of his first Wrangler NFR.
"This win was everything," Peek said. "I have waited a long time to get to the National Finals Rodeo. I struggled in the first few rounds and have made some mistakes, but I still have been placing along the way. I have wanted that go-round buckle pretty bad. I thought that I would be nervous here, but I have actually been real comfortable. I feel like I have been here 10 years, it's kind of crazy. I've kept fighting, and I have placed a few times. This is a big confidence boost for me."
In the bareback riding, Tom McFarland became the third member of the "Wolfpack" to win a round at this year's Wrangler NFR. Following in the footsteps of Royce Ford (Round 1) and reigning World Champion Will Lowe (Round 5), McFarland spurred Classic Pro Rodeo's Scarlet's Web for 88.5 points and the round win to finish one point ahead of Jessy Davis.
McFarland, of Wickenburg, Ariz., had never ridden the horse before, but the two got along famously.
"That horse had just as much timing and everything that you want, just enough power to where she really sends your feet flying and enough timing to where you can beat her back down," McFarland said. "I've heard a lot about her, and everybody told me she was the one to have. Royce (Ford) told me she was the one he really wanted, and Steven Anding was 90 million on her somewhere earlier this year and deserved to be every bit of it. So, I was really happy to have her. She was just a really, really fun horse to ride."
Two rounds after claming a share of first place, steer wrestler Sean Mulligan decided it was time for him to stand on the first-place stage all by himself. Mulligan, of Coleman, Okla., posted the fastest steer wrestling run of the 49th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to win Round 6 and pocket a check worth $16,394.
Mulligan turfed his steer in 3.2 seconds, just two-tenths of a second off the Wrangler NFR record of 3.0 set by Steve Duhon in 1986 and tied by Bryan Fields in 2001. The 6-1, 220-pound bulldogger, who had Curtis Cassidy hazing for him, has now placed in three consecutive rounds and moved to second in the average race with a total time of 26.4 seconds on six head.
"I maybe didn't want to get quite as good of a start as I did, I was a little bit scared," Mulligan said. "That steer just kind of stepped away from me right in the catch, and I just got over him. Willy (Cassidy's horse that Mulligan rides), he can give you such a good go, and it seems like he puts you in the right spot."
Mulligan switched to Cassidy's horse from his horse which he rode while winning a share of Round 4 earlier in the week prior to Round 5 and stuck with him in Round 6.
"Right before the steer wrestling last night, my horse got caught up in the astroturf, causing him to lose a shoe. I have to glue his shoes on, and there was no way I was going to get that done before the steer wrestling. I've ridden Willy before, and Curtis said I could get on him, and he gave me such a good go last night that I felt like I wanted to stay on Willy. He's just an awesome horse."
Todd Suhn finished second in 3.4 seconds, with 2004 World Champion Luke Branquinho in third place in 3.8 seconds. Matt Reeves, who won Round 2, suffered a concussion after taking a horn to the face in Round 6 and was transported to University Medical Center to undergo an MRI of his face and neck. He is listed as questionable for Round 7.
The team of Colter Todd and Cesar de la Cruz had won a share of second place in two straight rounds, and they improved their place one better in the sixth round. Todd, of Marana, Ariz., and de la Cruz, of Tucson, Ariz., stopped the clock in 4.4 seconds to win a pair of $16,394 checks. They finished four-tenths of a second ahead of the team of Clay Tryan and Wald Woodard for the round win and will be riding considerable momentum heading into Round 7 after beginning the Wrangler NFR slowly.
"We just kept at it," Todd said of his team's perseverance. "I've got two mentors, George Aros and Rube Woolsey, and they kept calling me saying, 'Don't change anything. You're as close as you can get without winning.'"
De la Cruz was equally as excited to pick up a round victory a few days after switching horses.
"I started out on my good little bay horse," de la Cruz said. "During practice, I actually roped better on my second horse, and he's equally as talented. I just decided to ride him in the second round, and he feels excellent, so I haven't gotten off him."
Alphabetically, Rusty Allen is the No. 1 contestant at this year's Wrangler NFR, and during Round 6 of the saddle bronc riding, he was tops in his event. Allen, of Lehi, Utah, followed a second-place finish from Round 5 with a winning 86.5-point ride on Bar T Rodeo's Round Robin to claim a $16,394 first-place check. Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Cody Wright was second with an 83.5-point ride on Cervi Championship Rodeo's High Life Gal. Allen, riding in his fourth straight Wrangler NFR, won a round at the Las Vegas event for the fourth time in his career.
"It's a big relief," Allen said. "I felt like I made quite a few mistakes early on in the week. I lifted on it (the rein) basically instead of setted it down. For the first couple of rounds, I marked those horses out and just dropped my rein down instead of staying up under it. I watched it on video, and Roddy (fellow saddle bronc rider Rod Hay) mentioned it. Hopefully, I got those mistakes fixed, and I'm gaining momentum instead of losing it."
Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Cody Wright was second with an 83.5-point ride on Korkow Rodeos' Queenie on a re-ride. His first horse, High Life Gal of Cervi Championship Rodeo, was transported from the arena following the ride, but Wrangler NFR veterinarian Dr. Garth Lamb reported that the horse was allowed to regain her feet and showed no immediate signs of injury. She will continue to be observed by Lamb and his staff, but did not appear to have sustained any injuries.
When Jill Moody has placed at this year's Wrangler NFR, she's made it count. The Letcher, S.D., cowgirl won the first round and finished second in the second and fifth rounds, then won the sixth round thanks to a 13.64-second run through the cloverleaf pattern. Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla., finished second with a run of 13.84 seconds.
Aboard her mare named Dolly, Moody has won an event-best $58,702 at this year's Wrangler NFR to move to third place in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings.
"Dolly's been really strong down the alley, and the first few nights I kind of let her rock," Moody said. "Then, I tried to not let her go so hard and kind of hold her back, and she got a little stiff on me, but she still works really nicely. But then tonight, I just stayed real soft. The first and second barrels were amazing, and then I guess on the third I was trying so hard to keep the barrel up that I picked her up a little bit too much to move her out, and she stepped out where I told her to go, so she pulled out of it a little bit."
Ted Bert may not look like the average bull rider walking by, but then again, he isn't just average. The 6-1, 185-pound Modesto, Calif., cowboy is literally one of the bigger bull riders in the sport and ended up as the biggest one of all in Round 6. Bert, a Wrangler NFR rookie, rode Four Star Rodeo's Shake Down for 87 points to win the round and move to second in the average race with 334.5 points on four head.
Bert earned $16,394 for the win, which came by just one-half point ahead of Jarrod Craig's 86.5-point effort on Beutler & Son Rodeo's Deputy Sheriff.
"I wasn't planning on winning any rounds" Bert said. "That bull (Shake Down) was here at the Finals last year, and he was outstanding with me. I'm a big guy, and I don't make the bulls look pretty, but I get the job done. It worked out well tonight."
For more information on the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo visit prorodeo.org