Trevor Brazile started the National Finals Rodeo a year ago with an overwhelming lead in the all-around race and won his sixth championship as the world’s best cowboy.
When the 51st annual NFR begins tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center, Brazile’s lead will be even bigger. He is on the cusp of matching legendary cowboy Ty Murray’s mark of seven all-around world titles in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, though Murray’s titles came via the roughstock events (bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding).
Brazile’s pursuit of Murray could add even more lustre to the 10-day event that runs through Dec. 12 in the 25th anniversary of the NFR’s move to Las Vegas.
Brazile, 33, holds a $144,638 lead over Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, Utah.
Brazile’s only legitimate threat will come from Josh Peek of Pueblo, Colo. Brazile and Peek are the only two among the 118-person field who will compete in two events during the $5.75 million rodeo. Both qualified in calf roping, and Brazile is a team roping header, and Peek is a steer wrestler.
There might not be much all-around drama as Brazile, from Decatur, Texas, goes for his fourth straight gold buckle, but story lines abound as they have since the Finals moved from Oklahoma City, to the Thomas & Mack in 1985. Following are breakdowns of each event, with top money winners, other qualifiers, reigning champions and a short overview:
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, $288,588; 2. Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, $143,950; 3. Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., $131,266; 4. Ryan Jarrett, Summerville, Ga., $115,228; 5. Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, $107,594
2008 CHAMPION: Trevor Brazile
OVERVIEW: Robinson, a calf roper, might be the closest to Brazile in the standings, but Peek has the best chance of catching Brazile.
Robinson has only qualified for one Finals event. Peek, who trails Brazile by $157,322, will compete in calf roping and steer wrestling.
Brazile is No. 1 in calf roping — where he won the world title in 2007 — and is fifth among team roping headers. He placed fourth in the steer roping finals — an event not contested in the NFR — to earn $65,965.
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, $233,457; 2. Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., $170,339; 3. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., $138,591; Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., $124,284; 5. Heath Ford, Greeley, Colo., $118,580.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, $103,162; 7. Kaycee Feild, Elk Ridge, Utah, $102,835; 8. Tilden Hooper, Carthage, Texas, $92,438; 9. Kelly Timberman, Mills, Wyo., $88,637; 10. D.V. Fennell, Neosho, Mo., $69,929; 11. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, $69,545; 12. Royce Ford, Briggsdale, Colo., $68,918; 13. Jared Smith, Williston, Fla., $62,154; 14. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., $59,925; 15. Jason Havens, Prineville, Ore., $57,769.
2008 CHAMPION: Justin McDaniel
OVERVIEW: Cannon, 31, enters the NFR after a monumental regular season that produced a PRCA record for money won before the Finals. His $233,457 tops what bull rider Matt Austin won in the 2005 regular season. Cannon’s biggest payday this year was $50,000 for winning RodeoHouston in March.
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Lee Graves, Calgary, Alberta, $120,574; 2. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., $112,553; 3. Jake Rinehart, Highmore, S.D., $110,927; 4. Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, $96,950; 5. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., $77,737.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., $77,108; 7. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., $74,075; 8. Hunter Cure, Holliday, Texas, $73,945; 9. Shawn Greenfield, Lakeview, Ore., $69,034; 10. Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., $65,260; 11. Blake Knowles, Heppner, Ore., $62,761; 12. Matt Reeves, Pampa, Texas, $61,380; 13. Casey McMillen, Craig, Colo., $59,570; 14. Joey Bell Jr., Athens, Texas, $59,209; 15. Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., $59,180.
2008 CHAMPION: Luke Branquinho
OVERVIEW: The bulldogging championship race likely will be the most closely contested. Less than $10,000 separates the top three, with money-leader Graves only ahead of two-time and reigning champ Branquinho by just $8,000.
It’s already been a great year for Graves. After finishing second in the world in 2007, he missed nearly all of 2008 after sustaining a major knee injury.
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Chad Masters, Clarksville, Tenn., $130,186; 2. Luke Brown, Rock Hill, S.C., $105,442; 3. Kelsey Parchman, Cumberland City, Tenn., $93,686; 4. David Key, Caldwell, Texas, $90,664; 5. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, $89,707.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. JoJo LeMond, Andrews, Texas, $85,892; 7. Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont., $85,503; 8. Nick Sartain, Yukon, Okla., $80,397; 9. Blaine Linaweaver, Leavenworth, Kan., $73,618; 10. Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn., $73,149; 11. Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., $67,316; 12. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore., $64,410; 13. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz., $63,017; 14. Steve Purcella, Hereford, Texas, $62,643; 15. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont., $62,303.
2008 CHAMPION: Matt Sherwood, 21st (did not qualify)
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Jade Corkill, Fallon, $120,714; 2. Richard Durham, Morgan Mill, Texas, $111,598; 3. Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, $98,086; 4. Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, $90,989; 5. Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, $90,500.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Brad Culpepper, Ashburn, Ga., $85,754; 7. Randon Adams, Logandale, $85,314; 8. Michael Jones, Stephenville, Texas, $84,884; 9. Kollin VonAhn, Durant, Okla., $79,230; 10. Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., $71,118; 11. Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., $67,316; 12. Russell Cardoza, Farmington, Calif., $64,410; 13. Cory Petska, Lexington, Okla., $63,446; 14. Jhett Johnson, Casper, Wyo., $59,482; 15. Justin Davis, Cottonwood, Calif., $55,315.
2008 CHAMPION: Randon Adams
OVERVIEW: Logandale’s Adams won the world heeler title a year ago with Matt Sherwood as his header, but he decided to rope with new partners in 2009.
Adams found another good header. He teamed with JoJo LeMond of Andrews, Texas, to tie the PRCA record of 3.5 seconds on April 22. They became the fifth pair to rope a steer that quickly.
PAIRS (Header first): Masters-Corkill; Brown-Lucero; Brazile-Smith; Key-Skelton, Tryan-Jones; LeMond-Adams; Minor-BMinor; Begay-de la Cruz; Crawford-Cardoza; Purcella-Johnson; Tryan-Petska; Linaweaver-Davis; Parchman-Durham; Daniel-Culpepper.
SADDLE BRONC RIDING
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., $130,054; 2. Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., $100,383; 3. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., $89,295; 4. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, $88,901; 5. J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., $86,906.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Billy Etbauer, Edmond, Okla., $86,903; 7. Bryce Miller, Buffalo, S.D., $84,893; 8. Shaun Stroh, Dickinson, N.D., $82,159; 9. Isaac Diaz, Stephenville, Texas, $81,831; 10. Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, $75,164; 11. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., $74,399; 12. Justin Arnold, Santa Margarita, Calif., $72,439; 13. Dustin Flundra, Alberta, $68,195; 4. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, $67,652; 15. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., $65,788.
2008 CHAMPION: Cody Wright
OVERVIEW: Cruse has a solid lead over Heith DeMoss.
And there’s a 45-year-old cowboy in the battle, but that’s nothing new for Billy Etbauer. The South Dakota native and Oklahoma resident can never be written off. The five-time world champ will start his 21st Finals sixth in the money standings.
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, $132,916; 2. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., $100,780; 3. Ryan Jarrett, Summerville, Ga., $92,615; 4. Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, $91,733; 5. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, $87,387.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, $86,993; 7. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, $84,052; 8. Ryan Watkins, Dublin, Texas, $83,009; 9. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, $78,583; 10. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, $76,240; 11. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, $76,040; 12. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., $73,978; 13. Blair Burk, Durant, Okla., $73,157; 14. Monty Lewis, Hereford, Texas, $70,297; 15. Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., $66,005.
2008 CHAMPION: Stran Smith, 17th, did not qualify
OVERVIEW: Brazile is going for his second world title in the event and won’t have to contend with Smith to get it.
Southern Nevada will be represented by Moapa Valley High grad Matt Shiozawa, who splits his time between Las Vegas and Chubbuck, Idaho. The 29-year-old former all-state basketball player qualified for his fourth NFR in five years.
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. J.W. Harris, May, Texas, $219,237; 2. Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, $108,444; 3. Corey Navarre, Weatherford, Okla., $105,885; 4. Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., $92,799; 5. Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., $92,169.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Douglas Duncan, Alvin, Texas, $81,628; 7. Clayton Savage, Casper, Wyo., $81,410; 8. Tate Stratton, Stanley, N.M., $80,604; 9. Cody Whitney, Asher, Okla., $78,985; 10. Colin McTaggart, Las Vegas, $78,834; 11. B.J. Schumacher, Hillsboro, Wis., $77,996; 12. Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., $75,412; 13. Howdy Cloud, Kountze, Texas, $67,721; 14. Cody Hancock, Taylor, Ariz., $66,483; 15. Zack Oakes, Elk, Wash., $63,568.
2008 CHAMPION: J.W. Harris
OVERVIEW: Harris is in great shape to defend his title with more than a $110,000 lead over Woolsey. Harris, 23, has won 30 PRCA titles this year, including the Justin Boots Finale and Reno Rodeo.
WPRA BARREL RACING
TOP CONTENDERS: 1. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, $155,865; Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, $141,217; 3. Mary Burger, Pauls Valley, Okla, $122,288; 4. Tiffany Fox, Fox, Okla., $100,235; 5. Jordon Peterson, Chilton, Texas, $92,048.
OTHER QUALIFIERS: 6. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., $77,376; 7. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., $73,528; 8. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., $72,697; 9. Cassie Moseley, Farwell, Texas, $70,039; 10. Sheena Robbins, Fresno, Calif., $68,242; 11. Tammy Fischer, Ledbetter, Texas, $66,840; 12. Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, $66,811; 13. Danyelle Campbell, Beaumont, Calif., $66,759; 14. Shelley Morgan, Eustace, Texas, $59.453; 15. P.J. Burger, Pauls Valley, Okla., $57,060.
2008 CHAMPION: Lindsay Sears
OVERVIEW: The barrel racing world title in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association again features Pozzi and Sears. Pozzi won it in 2007, when Sears was runner-up, and Sears won it last year, with Pozzi placing third.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.