LAS VEGAS Even with his second consecutive all-around world championship secure, Trevor Brazile wasn't about to lose sight of why he came to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the first place.
"I'm just still here to make some money," the 27-year-old from Decatur, Texas said at Saturday's ninth go-round in front of a Wrangler NFR record 18,104 fans at Thomas & Mack Center.
Brazile will have plenty of time to savor the gold buckle.
By the time all the numbers are added up Sunday, Brazile stands to become the first cowboy in the history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to win more than $300,000 in a season.
Through nine rounds, Brazile has earned $277,497 and sits second in the average in tie-down roping. If he maintains his position in the average, it will pay $29,827. He and partner Wayne Folmer (El Paso, Texas) are also eighth in the average in team roping, which pays $3,468. If Brazile keeps his spot in the average, he will finish with around $310,000. He can also earn money in the 10th go-round, which would put his total even higher.
He leads second-place Jesse Bail (Camp Crook, S.D.) by about $93,000 with one round to go. The numbers have to be officially confirmed, but the title "unofficially" belongs to Brazile.
His fellow competitors say it's well-deserved.
"He's had an awesome year," said veteran cowboy Joe Beaver, whose eight world championships include three all-around titles. "He definitely has earned it."
Brazile is the ninth cowboy in PRCA history to win back-to-back titles in the all-around and the first since Beaver did it in 1995-96.
Beaver said Brazile has all the tools to keep winning titles for years to come.
"He's going to keep on winning them for as long as he wants because of three things," Beaver said. "He's totally dedicated and practices in all events; he's not afraid to go out and buy the best horses … you have to spend money to make money; and he's young and sound.
"I just don't see him losing any time soon. He's poisonous in all events."
Brazile said though his season looks dominant on paper, it wasn't always easy, especially when his regular calf-roping horse, Tweeter, the AQHA horse of the year in 2002, went down with an injury early in the season. His top back-up horse also was injured.
"I didn't get to ride Tweeter this year," Brazile said. "I had to buy a new calf horse because my two had went down. We came out of that really good. Rock went on to be reserve champion [tie-down] horse of the year."
Brazile also battled through injuries of his own.
"There was a time there in the spring where I was definitely downhill because I had two sprained ankles," he said. "Both my ankles were sprained at the same time. For six weeks that was a problem. But we overcame it."
While Brazile has the all-around title well in hand, there are exceptionally tight races in three events and a couple of others still too close to call.
In tie-down roping, both world leader Fred Whitfield (Hockley, Texas) and Cody Ohl (Stephenville, Texas) finished out of the money Saturday night and finished with identical times of 9.0 seconds, maintaining their places in the average. Whitfield has an $11,000 lead, but Ohl is tied for third in the average, while Whitfield is sixth. Third pays about $23,000 and sixth pays about $6,000 so this race could come down to a few hundred dollars.
Brady Brock (Springtown, Texas) won the go-round in tie-down and collected $14,335.
Steer wrestling is equally tight with three cowboys well within range of the title, including 2001 world champion Rope Myers (Van, Texas), who won Saturday's go-round with a 3.5-second run. He is fifth in the average and trails both Teddy Johnson (Checotah, Okla.) and Birch Negaard (Buffalo, S.D.) in the average and world standings.
Of the three, Johnson is in the best position, but still needs a solid run on Sunday to clinch the title.
The race in saddle bronc became even tighter as Dan Mortensen (Billings, Mont.) moved to within $3,000 of defending world champion Glen O'Neill (Didsbury, Alberta) in the world standings after sharing the go-round victory with Billy Etbauer (Ree Heights, S.D.). They each collected $12,832, while O'Neill finished out of the money.
Mortensen is third in the average while O'Neill is fifth, a difference in payouts of about $10,000.
"I have battled back within a shot," Mortensen said. "That's all I can ask for is coming into the 10th round and at least have a shot at the world title."
The race in team roping remains too close to call as veterans Jake Barnes (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Allen Bach (Weatherford, Texas) kept the pressure on six-time defending world champions Speed Williams (Amarillo, Texas) and Rich Skelton (Llano, Texas) by winning the ninth go-round with a time of 4.2 seconds.
Williams has a $43,000 lead over Barnes and Skelton has a $38,000 lead over Bach, but Barnes and Bach are a spot ahead of Williams and Skelton in the average, so this race, too, could change on the final day.
Two other races were virtually decided Saturday night.
Terry Don West (Henryetta, Okla.) finished tied for second in the go-round in bull riding and now has a $50,000 lead over second-place B.J. Schumacher (Hillsboro, Wis.) in the world standings. West is also second in the average, while Schumacher is fifth.
In barrel racing, Janae Ward (Addington, Okla.), a student at Oklahoma State, virtually clinched her first world championship after winning the go-round with a blazing time of 13.85 seconds.
She still trails Kelly Kaminski (Bellville, Texas) by $8,000 in the world standings, but sits first in the average, while Kaminski is out of the average race.
In bareback, youngster Royce Ford (Kersey, Colo.) won the go-round and moved to the lead in the average with an 88-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Smokeless Vanderbilt. He finished three points ahead of Cody Jessee (Prineville, Ore.) and leads Jessee in the average by a half point. Jessee leads Ford by about $1,000 for second place in the world standings.
Will Lowe (Canyon, Texas) has already clinched the world championship, but the average winner stands to win more than $36,000, so there will be much riding on Sunday's finals between Ford and Jessee.
Guy Clifton covers rodeo for the Reno Gazette-Journal. He can be reached at 775.788.6337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.