LAS VEGAS — Since the day in 1998 when Dan Mortensen (Billings, Mont.) won his fifth world saddle bronc riding title, he has heard all the talk about being just one more crown away from tying the legendary Casey Tibbs for the most all time.
He has been close — twice — losing leads on the final day of the 1999 and 2002 seasons. Mortensen put himself in position for No. 6 on Monday by winning the fourth round at the 45th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in front of 17,208 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Mortensen, who earlier won Round 2 on Saturday, scored 89.5 points on Beutler Brothers & Cervi's Justin Brown Bomber to pull within $8,716 of reigning world champion Glen O'Neill.
"That horse was hard to ride," said Mortensen, who was one of just seven of the 15 cowboys to last the required eight seconds. "She's thrown a lot of guys off at this rodeo the past few years. I was looking forward to giving her a shot."
Mortensen earlier this year became the PRCA's first roughstock cowboy to surpass the $2 million mark in career earnings.
The world's top cowboys and cowgirls have assembled at the Wrangler NFR, where world champions are crowned every year.
Mortensen was one of four world champions to take a victory lap on Monday.
Reigning world all-around champion Trevor Brazile, who qualified for the Wrangler NFR in two events, claimed the round title in tie-down roping — his signature event. Brazile (Decatur, Texas) roped and tied his calf in 7.2 seconds. He continues to hold a dominating lead in the all-around race with an $80,000 bulge over Jesse Bail, the event's only other two-event cowboy.
Reigning world bareback riding champion Bobby Mote shared the Round 4 win with Jason Jeter (Mansfield, Texas), the 2002 Wrangler NFR aggregate champion. Mote scored 88.5 points on Bar T Rodeo's Calamity Jane, while Jeter rode Powder River Rodeo's Spotted Bird for the same score.
Mickey Gee, who came from nowhere to snatch the 1999 world steer wrestling title, took top honors in his event with a 4.0-second run in Round 4. It was his first round victory since his dramatic 10th-round victory that gave him the gold buckle.
Team ropers Shain Sproul (Arlee, Mont.) and Boogie Ray (Mabank, Texas) won for the second time in four days. The new combination stopped the clock in 4.0 seconds on Monday, while six-time and reigning champions Speed Williams (Amarillo, Texas) and Rich Skelton (Llano, Texas) finished second and further extended their leads in the heading and heeling standings, respectively, to more than $50,000.
Bull riders Mike Moore (Kankakee, Ill.) and B.J. Schumacher (Hillsboro, Wis.) shared the round victory with 90.5-point rides. Moore, currently second in the world standings, closed the gap to $24,000 on leader Terry Don West (Henryetta, Okla.).
Moore posted his score on Cervi Championship Rodeo's Johnny Walker Red, while Schumacher took his ride on Burns Rodeo's Blender Head Snuff.
Barrel racer Kelly Kaminski (Bellville, Texas) extended her lead atop the Jack Daniel's World Standings with a Round 4 victory Monday. She completed the cloverleaf patter in 13.91 seconds — good for $14,335. She has a $26,000 lead over Brittany Pozzi (Victoria, Texas) with five rounds remaining.