LAS VEGAS This might be Royce Ford's first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as a competitor, but the Kersey, Colo., bareback rider is a seasoned veteran at the event.
"I think I've been coming here since about 1982," the 21-year-old Ford said after winning the sixth go-round Wednesday night in front of 17,124 at the Thomas & Mack Center with a 90-point ride Cervi Championship Rodeo's bronc Ernie's Pet. "Every year my dad was here, I was here."
His dad happens to be Hall of Famer and five-time world bareback champion Bruce Ford, who qualified for the Wrangler NFR a record 19 times in his career.
"I sure had a good teacher, that's for sure," Royce Ford said. "He just said come in here and bare down and do the best you can every night and it will work out. That's what I'm doing."
Ford won $14,335 in the go-round and has won $38,844 through six rounds to jump from 15th to fourth in the world standings. He's also leading the average with 509.5 points on six horses. His dad won the average at the NFR four times the most of any bareback rider in history. The younger Ford said he isn't paying attention to the average.
"Everybody is here trying their guts out to win first every night and I'm doing the same thing," he said. "I'm not too worried about the average. I'm worried about the horse in the next round tomorrow and I'm just going to go out and do the best I can again."
Meanwhile, Will Lowe (Canyon, Texas) stretched his lead in the world bareback standings to about $58,000 over second-place Jason Jeter (Mansfield, Texas) with a second-place finish. Lowe rode Classic Pro Rodeo's Dippin Wise Guy for 89.5 points and has quietly moved up to second in the average seven points behind Ford.
Teddy Johnson (Checotah, Okla.) had the fast time of the night in steer wrestling, dropping his steer in 3.3 seconds. The $14,335 paycheck moved him to third place in the world standings behind Birch Negaard (Buffalo, S.D.) and Shawn Greenfield (Lakeview, Ore.). He's about $6,000 behind Negaard in the world standings and leads both men in the average.
"This year I am sitting right where I need to be," Johnson said. "I feel great. I want [a world championship] pretty bad."
In team roping, veterans Jake Barnes (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Allen Bach (Weatherford, Texas) won the go-round with a time of 3.9 seconds. They also are sitting second in the average behind leader Matt Myler (Dennis, Texas) and Patrick Smith (Midland, Texas) and just ahead of six-time defending world champions Speed Williams (Amarillo, Texas) and Rich Skelton (Llano, Texas).
Barnes and Bach have also both moved into second place in the world standings behind Williams and Skelton.
In tie-down roping, three-time world champion Cody Ohl (Stephenville, Texas) won his second go-round of the rodeo, stopping the clock at 7.1 seconds to win $14,335. He's also in second place in the world standings behind five-time champion Fred Whitfield (Hockley, Texas). Whitfield finished out of the money Wednesday night, but is sitting second in the average, while Ohl is fifth.
Ohl knew he had to be aggressive.
"Fred was getting farther and farther away from me and it was time to go for the smash," he said. "I couldn't gain any ground on him, so it was time to speed things up a little bit and things worked out."
Two-time world champion Sherry Cervi (Marana, Ariz.) won her second consecutive go-round in barrel racing with a time of 13.96 seconds. Kelly Kaminiski (Bellville, Texas) continued her consistent run by finishing second in 14.02 seconds.
Kaminski is the only competitor in the Wrangler NFR to have won money in every go-round. The $11,329 she won Wednesday night brought her total for the week to $52,023. She leads the world standings by about $33,000 over Cervi and is first in the average.
Mike Outhier (Utopia, Texas) had the high score of the night in saddle bronc, riding Korkow Rodeo's Dirty Girl for 87.5 points.
The world title race in saddle bronc tightened up significantly after Dan Mortensen (Billings, Mont.) took a no score when he failed to mark his horse out. Mortensen and defending world champion Glen O'Neill (Didsbury, Alberta) are locked in a tight battle with O'Neill holding a lead of about $16,000 over Mortensen. Mortensen is sitting fifth in the average and O'Neill sixth two points behind.
In bull riding, B.J. Schumacher (Hillsboro, Wis.) won the go-round with an 87.5-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos' Dirty White Bull. He edged Cory Melton (Keithville, La.), who scored 87 points on Big Bend Rodeo Company's Mr. Hyde.
World standings leader Terry Don West (Henryetta, Okla.) finished third with an 86-point ride on Jim Kenney's Snuff Drop. It was only the second successful ride in six rounds for West, but the $8,554 paycheck helped him stretch his lead in the world standings to $33,000 over second-place Mike Moore (Kankakee, Ill.). Moore bucked off his bull Wednesday night.
Guy Clifton covers rodeo for the Reno Gazette-Journal. He can be reached at 775.788.6337 or email@example.com.