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Utah brothers have fourth saddle bronc rider competing at NFR

There must be something in the water in Milford, Utah. Or more specifically, something in the water at Bill and Evelyn Wright’s house.

Because that household turns out world-class saddle bronc riders like nobody’s business. In 2012 and 2013, three Wright brothers competed in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo — Cody, Jesse and Jake. This year, the Wrangler NFR gets a little bit more of the Wright stuff, with Spencer joining his older brothers in the chase for a world championship at the Thomas &Mack Center.

With 15 riders in the field, someone with the last name of Wright has a nearly 33 percent chance of winning each night. And with payouts to the top six competitors in each of the 10 rounds, it’s a pretty good bet that at least one Wright brother — and probably more — will cash a check every night. Spencer is champing at the bit to collect his share.

“I’ve been working for this for a long time,” said Spencer, 23, who among his 12 — yes, 12 — siblings is two years junior to twins Jesse and Jake, and 14 years younger than Cody. “I’m proud to be among the top 15 in the world.”

In the 2014 season, Spencer traveled with Cody, a two-time PRCA world champion saddle bronc rider (2008, 2010). He said that made a huge difference during a season in which he earned $60,265, good for 13th in the world standings and his first NFR berth.

“That helped me take my game to the next level, for sure,” Spencer said. “I don’t know if it was one specific thing Cody does. But his attitude toward everything is probably the biggest thing. And all his tips on the little things helped. He just helped me improve my mindset a lot.”

Spencer said he got off to a strong start this season and looked like a shoo-in for the NFR. But he ended up having to calm some nerves late in the year.

“I never thought I was in until the very end,” he said. “You just gotta keep going. Anything can happen.”

Just a few thousand dollars separated 13th place from 17th place in the world standings. Spencer sat in the 13th spot and held on the final day of the regular season.

“The last weekend, I was playing defense. It was really close with the guys at the end,” he said, with one of those guys being brother Jake, who finished 14th at $59,975. “I wasn’t that nervous riding. I was more nervous that last day not knowing what everybody else had done (at other rodeos), just waiting for the results.

“I was really happy. It felt like a big weight on my shoulders had been lifted.”

But does the family legacy now weigh on him? Along with Cody’s two world titles, Jesse won the gold buckle in 2012, and last year, Jake won four of the 10 rounds at the Wrangler NFR to finish second in the world standings, with Cody right behind him in third and Jesse in eighth.

“That’s never really been a factor for me,” Spencer said. “I can only ride to the best of my abilities. This was more about the fact that I’d made it. My goal since I started riding bucking horses nine years ago was to get to Vegas.”

With all his brothers’ successes, Spencer is no stranger to the Wrangler NFR — “I’ve watched it as a fan seven or eight times,” he said — but he’s got a much different vantage point this year.

“I’m excited to get on the good horses. They’re all good ones there,” he said. “I try not to think about it too much. I don’t want to get nervous.”

If there are any anxious moments, it won’t be because of any sibling rivalry. Spencer said he and his brothers are all on the same team when it comes to any rodeo, big or small, any time of year — even at the lucrative Wrangler NFR.

“We all root for each other, we’re all really supportive,” he said. “If we could all tie for first in a round, that’d be best.”

Still, the latest Wright brother to ride on the hallowed dirt at the Thomas &Mack Center wouldn’t mind finding his way to the top of the standings. He placed in each of the first four rounds, winning the fourth round with an 84-point ride aboard Mata Fact.

“The only goal I’ve set for myself is to take it one horse at a time. I look at it the same way I do every other rodeo. Just try to stay positive, and hopefully it’ll work out,” he said. “But I’d sure like to walk out of there with a gold buckle.”

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