The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association/Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s 2019 regular season is almost over.
Some competitors have secured a berth in the Dec. 5-14 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas or the Nov. 22-23 Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kan. Others are on or near the bubble and they are traveling relentlessly as they attempt to earn a National Finals berth.
In order to qualify for a National Finals, a competitor must finish within the top 15 in an event when the regular season concludes on September 30.
With that in mind, cowboys and cowgirls are competing in pro rodeos this weekend in Amarillo, Texarkana, Ark., St. George, Utah, Pasadena, Texas, and other cities as they attempt to earn a National Finals berth or to move up in the world standings.
For example, Jeff Askey of Athens entered the Sept. 19-21 Tri-State Fair Rodeo in Amarillo as he attempts to earn another National Finals berth in bull riding. He was ranked No. 13 in the PRCA bull riding standings (released on Sept. 16) with $106,159.89. He will attempt to remain in the top 15 and earn a third trip to the National Finals. Askey qualified in 2016 and 2018.
Askey improved his chances of qualifying for the 2019 National Finals by finishing third in the bull riding title race at the Sept. 11-14 Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up Rodeo. Askey earned $6,776 during the renowned rodeo.
John Douch of Huntsville also entered the Amarillo rodeo as he attempts to earn a National Finals berth in tie-down roping. Douch was ranked 16th in the tie-down roping world standings (released on Sept. 16) with $77,085.04 in regular season earnings. He was $2,672.10 behind No. 15 ranked Shad Mayfield who was ranked No. 15.
Douch improved his chances of qualifying for the National Finals for the first time by finishing in the fourth in the tie-down roping title race at the Sept. 10-15 New Mexico State Fair Rodeo in Albuquerque, N.M. He earned $2,470 at the New Mexico rodeo.
All-around race update
Stetson Wright, the 20-year-old rookie from Utah, is ranked No. 1 in the world all-around title race. He is attempting to qualify for the National Finals in two bucking stock riding events. Wright was ranked No. 2 in the PRCA’s 2019 bull riding race (in the Sept 16 standings) and he has enough earnings to qualify for the Las Vegas-based National Finals in the sport’s most dangerous event. But he was ranked No. 20 in saddle bronc riding and has a mathematical chance of qualifying for the nationals in the sport’s classic event. So, he must rally in dramatic fashion between now and Sept. 30 in order to move into the top 15 in saddle bronc riding. If Wright can qualify for the NFR in both bull and saddle bronc riding, he will have a much better chance of clinching the 2019 world all-around title.
Wright was ranked No. 1 in the world all-around (Sept. 16) standings with $181,269. Oklahoma cowboy Clay Smith was ranked No. 2 with $155,068. Caleb Smidt of Bellville was ranked No. 3 with $145,189. Four-time world champion Tuf Cooper was ranked No. 4 with $130,454.
Cooper has secured berths to both the November National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane and the December National Finals Rodeo (in tie-down roping). That makes the 2017 world all-around champion a serious contender for the 2019 world all-around title because a competitor can win way bigger money at a National Finals.
Clearly, Cooper has a great chance of clinching the 2019 all-around buckle because he will qualify for the National Finals in two events. Smith, a team roper, and Smidt, a tie-down roper, will qualify in only one event. And if Wright fails to qualify in saddle bronc riding, he will compete at the NFR in only one event (bull riding).
New TV deal
The PRCA and Rural Media Group (RMG) announced a multi-year TV agreement, which means that the venerable Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) will move to The Cowboy Channel (TCC) and RFD-TV beginning in 2020, according to prorodeo.com. It means the sport’s equivalent of the World Series will be viewed live simultaneously on two national TV networks.
Jose Vitor Leme, a Brazilian from Decatur, clinched the title at last weekend’s Professional Bull Riders tour stop in Springfield, Mo., and earned $37,445 throughout the Sept. 13-15 show. It was the second consecutive week that Leme has snared a title on the Unleash The Beast, the PBR's top tier tour. He also finished No. 1 at the stop in Anaheim, Calif.
Leme was ranked No. 1 in the PBR's 2019 world title race with 5,901.66 points (in the world standings released on Sept. 15).
Jess Lockwood, the 2017 PBR world champion, was ranked No. 2 with 5,080 points. Chase Outlaw was ranked No. 3 with 4,362.5.
The World Champions Rodeo Alliance organization will offer a $1 million bonus to any athlete who can win a title at three consecutive WCRA rodeos that offer a $1 million purse. It is the WCRA Triple Crown of Rodeo. The 2020 schedule includes three major rodeos where athletes can qualify for the $1,000,000 bonus, beginning Feb. 28 in Kansas City, Mo.