SALINAS, Calif. – The lead for the 2012 team roping world championship was on the line in the final performance at the California Rodeo on July 22.
A win the night before at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho, had left 2009 PRCA Rookie of the Year Kaleb Driggers and his partner, Jade Corkill, in the driver’s seat, holding slim leads over 2010 world champions Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith.
At Salinas, the two pairs went head to head, with Brazile/Smith leading the average and Driggers/Corkill in second place after the first four rounds.
When Driggers and Corkill took a 10-second penalty for breaking the barrier in the final round, the door was flung wide open for Brazile and Smith to seal the deal. Their 9.3-second run in the final round gave them a total of 46.4 seconds on five steers, 3.3 seconds faster than second-place finishers Clay Tryan and Travis Graves at this Wrangler Million Dollar Gold Tour rodeo, presented by Justin Boots.
The $8,543 total each half of the team won was enough to push both Brazile and Smith back into the top spots with totals of $69,448 each. The win was especially gratifying for the 16-time world champion cowboy, who added a coveted Salinas buckle to his extensive collection.
“This is one of my most satisfying regular-season wins,” Brazile said. “I’d won almost all of the major rodeos at one time or another except this one. I haven’t had great success here in the past. Some years I didn’t come out to it because there are so many other rodeos going on at the same time, and you have to be here every day to team rope.
“I love the rodeo, there’s just something about it. They let the steers have that long head-start, and you have to run five steers in those conditions to win it. My good head horse, Sic ’em, is healthy again, and that made a big difference. He’s the last horse I trained to rope on from scratch. I’ve always said the difference between the good ones and the great ones is the trust factor, and that’s especially important here in these conditions.”
Smith’s No. 1 horse, Amigo, also recently returned to action after having knee surgery last fall.
“My other horse works great, but getting Amigo back is like putting on an old tennis shoe … comfortable,” said Smith, who won his first Salinas buckle in 2005 with Clay Tryan. “This is the third rodeo for him this year. I could have started riding him sooner, but we wanted to be sure he wouldn’t suffer any setbacks.
“This is my favorite rodeo of the year. It’s nice to get away from the heat and come here, and this rodeo is more about traditional team roping than some others. I had a chance to win it another year with Clay, but I had just about broken my thumb the night before playing softball, and I lost my rope on the last steer. (One of the many traditions in Salinas is a Saturday night softball game.) I chose to skip the softball game this year.”
The other champions at this $384,902 rodeo were bareback riders Brian Bain, Tilden Hooper and Joe Gunderson (168 points on two head each), steer wrestler Tom Lewis (22.1 seconds on three head), saddle bronc rider Spencer Wright (167 points on two head), tie-down roper Hunter Herrin (30.4 seconds on three head), bull rider Shane Proctor (172 points on two head) and barrel racer Brittany Pozzi (64.62 seconds on four runs).
Whitfield breaks single-event earnings record
It might be time to get somebody busy on a rewrite of Fred Whitfield’s ProRodeo Hall of Fame plaque.
Since being inducted in 2004 – the last year active cowboys were eligible – Whitfield has added an eighth world title, five Wrangler NFR qualifications and a series of earnings records that shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.
By winning two rounds and finishing second in the tie-down roping average at California Rodeo Salinas on July 22, Whitfield broke the ProRodeo record for most money won in a single event held by freshly-minted Hall of Famer Billy Etbauer.
With the $9,569 he banked at Salinas and a fifth-place result at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho, Whitfield’s career earnings stand at $3,015,284 – $1,242 more than Etbauer’s total in saddle bronc riding.
“That’s crazy,” Whitfield said. “I’ve been rodeoing too long, is what that means. I’ve done more than I set out to accomplish with a rope and I have no regrets. The brightest part of what this weekend means to me is it gets me closer to qualifying for my 20th (Wrangler) NFR.
“If I can get to another one, I’ll try to win just as much money as I can there and maybe ride off into the sunset. It may be just about time.”
Along with Trevor Brazile, Whitfield and Etbauer are the only PRCA cowboys with career earnings of more than $3 million; Whitfield and Etbauer are the only men to also have surpassed $3 million in a single event.
• Bareback rider Tom McFarland of Bowie, Texas, doubled his season win total in a single weekend, capturing Kansas’ Largest Night Rodeo in Pretty Prairie, Kan., with an 88-point ride on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Hollywood Hills, and sharing the win with Caine Riddle at the Woodward (Okla.) Elks Rodeo. He is hoping to use the momentum to push him toward a fifth Wrangler NFR qualification (and his first since 2007).
• Even with Shane Proctor moving up to 15th in the bull riding world standings after winning at Salinas, there are still four reigning world champions who would not be in the Wrangler NFR if the season ended today. Saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy and steer wrestler Luke Branquinho are both right on the bubble at 16th and team ropers Turtle Powell and Jhett Johnson, now roping with other partners, are 21st (Powell) and 36th (Johnson). Apart from Trevor Brazile in the all-around and steer roping, the cowboys with the best shot at a repeat win are tie-down roper Tuf Cooper (third place $27,000 behind leader Justin Maass) and bareback rider Kaycee Feild (fourth place, $29,000 back of leader Steven Dent)
• Brazile watch: In addition to his big team roping win at Salinas, Calif., with Partrick Smith, Trevor Brazile won the three-head average in steer roping at the Woodward (Okla.) Elks Rodeo, earning a total of $3,832. It puts Brazile first in the all-around, steer roping and team roping (heading) world standings as he bids for his third Triple Crown in six years. Only Jim Shoulders (1956-58) has won three Triple Crowns.
• For full results of the weekend’s 18 PRCA rodeos, plus in-progress results from Ogden, Utah; Spanish Fork, Utah; Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, Wyo., visit www.prorodeo.com.