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Bareback rider Clayton Biglow eyes first NFR title

In the first event on the first night of this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, bareback rider Clayton Biglow started off with a big high. He scored 90.5 points, putting him atop the scoreboard once all 15 competitors completed their rides.

However, Richmond Champion was awarded a reride opportunity and knocked out 91.5 points to snare the first-place check. Still, it was a sign of things to come over these 10 days for Biglow, who in his fourth Wrangler NFR is on the precipice of a first world championship.

On Thursday night, Biglow did what no other bareback rider in Wrangler NFR history has done: Win a go-round for the fourth straight night. A 90-point ride aboard Showstomper led to his third $26,231 check in the last four nights; in Tuesday’s sixth go-round, Biglow had to settle for a three-way split of first place with Tilden Hooper and Caleb Bennett, with each rider collecting $20,872.

Biglow is certainly not complaining, though, as those big checks keep piling up.

“I’m dreaming, and don’t wake me up,” Biglow said after Thursday’s victory broke the 2011 record of three straight bareback wins by Kaycee Feild, who won a record six of 10 go-rounds that year. “It has not hit me yet, I will tell you that. I lay in bed at night thinking about having a Finals like this. This just doesn’t seem real.”

Oh, it’s real, all right. Through eight go-rounds, Biglow has pocketed $137,064, lifting his season earnings to a hefty $319,016. That puts him at first in the world, more than $55,000 ahead of second-place Orin Larsen. And the Clements, Calif., cowboy leads the NFR average, worth $67,269 if he can keep that perch through Saturday night.

That would guarantee Biglow his first gold buckle. Not that he’s scoreboard watching or anything.

“I haven’t looked at the standings once, and I don’t need to, because everyone is telling me what’s going on,” Biglow said, adding he’s not paying too much attention to what everyone is saying. “I’m just coming out every night wanting to ride the horse I have the best I can. That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now.”

Here comes Hailey

Defending barrel racing world champion Hailey Kinsel was due for some lucrative runs this week, and in fact she now has two of them. Kinsel posted her second straight go-round victory Thursday with a blazing 13.54-second finish — the fastest time of this year’s NFR — aboard her star horse Sister.

That kept the Cotulla, Texas, cowgirl atop the world standings, with season-long earnings of $262,944. However, she’s fifth in the NFR average, and if she stays in that slot, the bonus after the 10th round would be $6,769. The average winner collects a hefty $67,269. So Kinsel and Sister have to keep performing at a high level to snag a second straight gold buckle.

Team player

Header Clay Smith teamed with heeler Paul Eaves to win the 2018 world championship in team roping. Now Smith is in position to make it two in a row, though this time with Jade Corkill in the heeling role.

Smith and Corkill have consistently cashed checks all week, winning the second go-round, splitting fourth in the fourth go, tying for second on the fifth night, taking solo second in the sixth go-round and fifth in Thursday’s eighth go. The two earned $90,808 through eight nights, which has Smith atop the header standings with season-long winnings of $241,320 and Corkill first in the heeler standings at $199,446.

Smith has a shot at breaking the team roping single-season earnings record, which he set in 2018 with $289,921.

Another go-round win and perhaps a corresponding move up in the NFR average — Smith and Corkill are currently fourth, which would pay each an $11,000 bonus — could net the record and, more important, a second gold buckle for Smith.

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