HERMISTON — Some of the biggest names and best cowboys in rodeo descended on Eastern Oregon on Friday night to make a star-studded third performance at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo.
From world champion ropers such as Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile, to bronc riders such as Jake Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, bulldogger Dakota Eldridge, and bareback riders like Richmond Champion and Austin Foss, Friday’s performance was perhaps the most competitive of the week so far. The bareback competition Friday was by far the best of the week, as all five competitors turned in qualified rides with four registering 80-point scores or better.
And the man that came out on top was Oregon cowboy Austin Foss, who rode Calgary Stampede’s Special Delivery for 89 points which shot him to the top of the overall leaderboard with a three-and-a-half point cushion. When Foss heard his score announced to the crowd by arena announcer Randy Corley, Foss let out a loud cheer and gave a hard fist pump in celebration.
“It feels really good, especially being this close to home and on our own circuit,” said Foss, a Terrebone native. “It feels great to come home and hopefully get a win now.”
It was another warm night when the bareback riders started, with temperatures still in the low 90s, but after being in the humid weather in Oklahoma earlier in the week Foss said he felt comfortable and had a bit of a home advantage on Friday.
“I know in my mind that my body is meant for this area,” said Foss, who lives in Terrebone and attended Blue Mountain Community College in 2011-12. “It’s hot here, but it’s the hot I’m used to.”
Foss also had a bit of an advantage when it came to his horse, as he had matched up with Special Delivery three times prior in his career. But Friday’s ride was his best by far, he said. The advantage came in handy as Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba set the bar high with an 86 point ride, and Richmond Champion rode for 84.5 points, though the horse didn’t do what Foss was planning for.
“He’d never veered a route like that with me, which was pretty cool,” Foss said. “To come here and get a horse like that and get that type of ride, it’s something else.”
Saddle bronc riding on Friday also brought the best ride of the week, as Milford, Utah’s Jake Wright took on Calgary Stampede’s Weekend Departure and rode off with 88.5 points to tie the arena record. The bronc took Wright straight toward the south stands before veering to the west, getting great extension on its kicks to help Wright jump to the overall leaderboard.
“I’ve been looking forward to that horse all week,” said Wright, currently No. 7 in the world standings. “I’ve seen him a bunch and that’s a great horse. As soon as I got off I knew it was good, because anytime you get one that jumps in the air like that you step back and make it look good. Everything felt really nice, just like bronc riding should be.”
In tie-down roping the two men that shined the brightest have a combined 26 world championships between them, and that would be the Texas cowboys Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile. It was the 23-time champion Brazile that took home the $100 bonus for scoring the night’s best time, an 8.2 second run that put him in a tie for first in the second go.
But Cooper’s impressive 8.6 second time was enough to shoot him into the lead in the average with a time of 17.5 on two. Cooper, who currently sits No. 1 in both the all-around and tie-down roping world standings, won the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in 2008 and said he’s felt comfortable in Hermiston ever since.
“My first year here I was 18-years-old, my first time in the Northwest to compete and I won it and I’ve had positive vibes everytime I come back. “Today they had fresh cattle and I had two of the better ones, and my horse was good and it made my job a lot easier.”
Cooper didn’t compete in the PRCA last season due to ties with the Elite Rodeo Athletes, and he said that the time off from the daily grind of rodeo has helped his resurgence this season.
“The time off was one of the best things for myself,” he said. “Now we have six weeks to go of the regular season and it’s still not easy, but there’s not as much pressure on myself and I can show up and have fun. It’s a great lifestyle and I’m very fortunate and blessed to be able to live it.”
In steer wrestling, it was Ferndale, California’s Bill Bugenig that took home the nightly $100 bonus after he dropped his steer in 3.4 seconds which shot him to the lead of the second go. In team roping, world No. 1s Kaleb Driggers of Albany, Georgia and Junior Nogueira of Brazil took the top time of 4.2 seconds.
King Hill, Idaho barrel racer Darby Fox rode her horse named Fancy to the top time of the night, circling all three barrels in 17.33 seconds. Barrel racing was also the event that took home the Darrell Sallee Grey Ribbon award of the night, which came with the $500 bonus.
And in bull riding, it was once again the stock that got the better of the cowboys on Friday night, with no qualified rides from any of the seven competitors, including Hermiston’s Cody Ford and Pendleton’s Cain Smith.
The rodeo concludes on Saturday night with the fourth performance at 7:45 p.m.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.