HERMISTON World champion cowboys current and former were competing hard for a share of the near $200,000 up for grabs at the 25th Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Wednesdays first performance, but the star of the show just may have been the aptly named four-legged athlete Victory.
The 12-year-old brown gelding owned by Hermistons Blair Burk was part of the two quickest times in tie-down roping and helped Decatur, Texas, cowboy Tuf Cooper take the lead through one round with 18.3 seconds on two head.
This is the second year Ive got him in the pros,?said Burk. He came from a good buddy of ours and hes done a lot of different things. Hes done some heeling in team roping as a professional ... (My friend) told me about him and boy hes been great.
Reigning world champion Cooper, 22, couldnt agree more.
Me and Blair have been travelling together all year and hes letting me ride that horse,?he said. Me and that horse have a good track record.
Burk, who moved from Oklahoma to Hermiston to be near his wifes family, posted the quickest time of the night with an 8.3 while Cooper had a 9.0.
Burks winning check from the performance will be all hell get in Hermiston to help him secure his spot in the National Finals Rodeo. He is ranked No. 13 in the PRCA?but had some trouble in his slack run on Wednesday and posted a 27.3.
Cooper is looking good for a possible win, though he wont get any more rides in Hermiston as each contestant moves on after their day of competition and a new crop of riders comes in looking to beat their times.
Although he came to Hermiston ranked No. 3 in the world, he said its not were he wants to be. As one of 10 silver stops on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, a win at Farm-City would certainly help him get there.
I chose to enter this rodeo other than some others that were close to the house this week because I?love Hermiston and I?always do good here,?he said. And its such a great rodeo. Its good to be back in the northwest for the remainder of the season.
Were jamming along, theres been a few good wins in the bag this year thats kept us up close to the top. Im super excited about the rest of the season.
One cowboy that began his season in the northwest and also is no stranger to Farm-City Arena is bareback rookie Austin Foss.
Foss won a regional championship and placed fifth in the nation this season while competing in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association for Blue Mountain Community College, and hes second in the PRCA?rookie bareback standings.
He teamed with Kessler Rodeos Alley Trail for 85 points on Wednesday, which put him second behind Caine Riddle who rode Kesslers Starburst for 87.
Its been going by fast but its been a rush every time. Its been fun,?Foss, from Terrebonne, said of his season. Ive been getting on here (in Hermiston) since I was a junior in high school and its fun to get out here and throw up 85. Its the first time Ive ever been in the 80s here so it feels real good.
Except for Justin McDaniel, whose draw didnt feel like bucking and stood staring at the south grandstand for most of his eight seconds, the bareback riders were able to show up the field in saddle bronc, which featured four top 15 riders after PRCA?No. 1 Wade Sundell was a scratch.
Bareback produced five 80-point rides in eight attempts while saddle bronc had the same number in 14 tries.
One saddle bronc rider that is rarely second billing is Taos Muncy of Corona, N.M., who won the round with an 84 on Calgary Stampedes Redon Acres.
Muncy took a share of the Hermiston title last year and finished his season with a world championship, his second in a seven-year career.
Im having a little bit slower year so I was really looking forward to coming out here,?said Muncy, who is ranked No. 10 in the PRCA. I really love the northwest and going to rodeos up here. Im winning right now but I?know theres a lot of great broncs and bronc riders to come.
Im just holding my breath and hoping to get some money out of it. But thats why this rodeo is so great is the stock, horses that anyone would want to get on.
Also getting a boost to his already strong season in Hermiston was steer wrestler Jake Rinehart, who turned his steer in 4.8 seconds Wednesday night to give him the two-head lead at 9.8.
Stanfields Travis Carnine is second in the average at 10.4.
The team roping, barrel racing and bull riding were not completed in time for inclusion in todays edition.
Ty Blasingame and Rich Skelton held the lead in team roping after Wednesdays slack but their 10.1 time left plenty of room for another team to slide into the lead.
Barrel racings early leader was Nikki Steffes and her seven-year-old palomino mare Dash Ta Vanila or Nilla.
The Vale, S.D., rider enjoyed some success on the pro cicuit last season, with a win in Pendleton as the highlight, but is doing even better this year at No. 6 in the WPRA?standings.
She and Nilla posted a 17.13 on their first ride.
A second round of slack was run after the rodeo on Wednesday and there will be another round of slack today at 2 p.m. so the leaderboard is bound to take on a different look by the time Farm-City Arena puts on its main show tonight.
Check Fridays edition for highlights from those rounds.
Contact Matt Entrup at email@example.com or 541-966-0838.