By Jolee Lautaret
Salinas, California — Christina Richman has collected so much hardware at the California Rodeo that she is losing track.
"I'm not sure," she laughed when asked prior to the Championship Round of the 105th Annual edition of California's most prestigious rodeo just how many titles she has won on the track in Salinas. "I kept one, I gave one to my mom . . . "
Richman is, of course, referring to the gorgeous buckles given by the committee to the champions here, one of the most coveted buckles in the entire rodeo business. The California Rodeo (pronounced ro-DAY-o) is a Gold stop on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour and boasts a huge committee purse of $24,000.
Over 140 WPRA barrel racers were entered in 2015 and the ladies run every day for the opening three go rounds with the top 12 on three runs advancing to Sunday's short go round. Salinas is unique in that the barrel race is held on the track, setting up a quick go from the first barrel to the second with a long run down to the third. While the barrels run on the track, there is often other rodeo events happening next door in the main rodeo arena, setting up a carnival like atmosphere that can be tricky for horses and riders alike.
For Richman, the answer to how many titles she had won here was two, but only for a few hours until the final round concluded on Sunday afternoon, July 19. Richman won the title outright in 2011 after sharing the win with Sherry Cervi in 2010.
On Sunday afternoon, Richman came into the final of four go rounds leading the pack by the scantest of margins, just nine one-hundredths of a second over fellow California cowgirl Kris Gadbois and Texan—by way of California—Jaime Hinton.
Riding her tough sorrel mare Stitch, Richman had been the picture of consistency that fans have come to expect from this pair. After three trips to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from 2010 to 2012, Richman had to contend with bone chips in Stitch's knee.
"We had a bone chip removed in November of 2013 and then they went back in October of 2014 to clean things up again," says Richman, noting that she did not know how well her now 13 year old mare would bounce back following the second surgery.
Taking things slow upon her mare's return, Richman ventured to Tucson in February but basically took things easy until the California spring run.
"To begin with, I was just making sure she was going to stay sound."
Not only did the mare stay sound, she went right back to her winning ways, earning checks throughout California and making a big move over the Fourth of July with big checks in Oregon at Mollalla and St. Paul.
"My only goal at the beginning of the year was to make sure she would stay sound but about the end of April, I decided that she was alright. Then, I made it a goal to win enough to get into the buildings next winter."
Coming back to Salinas feels a little like home for the daughter of the PESI stallion Red out of Attract.
"It's real fun," Richman admits with a laugh. "We were laughing because every year, she's really tight on the first run. I'm really close on the barrels, almost hitting them. You would think that would happen on the second or third runs but she actually gets better each run. I think we've won the third round a few times."
Richman picked up money in the final paying hole (10th) on the opening round with a time of 16.40. The pair picked up the pace with a 16.35 in the second round that won ninth. The big checks started rolling on the final preliminary round where Richman won the go with a 16.12.
Richman drew 11th to run on the final day and watched as those chasing her struggled a bit. Trusting her mare to handle anything thrown her way, Richman clocked another consistent run of 16.34, good enough for a tie of second in the round.
With her four-run average time of 65.21, Richman collected her third Salinas buckle, finishing three tenths ahead of Colorado cowgirl Kelley Schnaufer. Hinton was third while Megan Williams-Mariluch won fourth.
Richman bagged $9,783 as the only cowgirl to place in every payoff of the rodeo. Other round winners were Lacinda Rose and Brittany Kelly in round one and Ivy Conrado in round two.
Richman moved to 23rd in the WPRA World standings with the win. She's won just over $34,000 on the season and is planning to rodeo around the Wilderness Circuit for the next few weeks before heading to the Northwest.
"She's basically been home all year; even over the Fourth, we were only gone three days so I'm hoping she's pretty fresh to go up there," says Richman.
For more information on the California Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.carodeo.com.
Christina Richman, Xtrared, $9,783
Kelly Schnaufer, Jess Undeniable, $8,151
Jaime Hinton, OJS Tex Wood, $5,257
Kris Gadbois, CRCS Regaldash, $4,659
Ivy Conrado, CFOUR Tibbie Stinson, $4,480
Layna Kight, Eyesa So Famous, $4,423
Megan Williams-Mariluch, Mr. JB Fire Fame, $4,248
Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, $4,048
Jana Bean, Im A Royal Design, $2,868
Lacinda Rose, Rr Meradas Real Deal, $2,330
Brittany Kelly, The Opossum, 2,330
Jill Welsh, French First Watch, $1,971
Lyndee Stairs, Red Horses Can't Jump, $1,792
Carley Richardson, $1,553
Sherry Cervi, Atlas Peak, $1,195
Kailee McNellis, Made Me Wild Bill, $1,195
Vickie Carter, Blazin ta Fame, $956
Cheri Graves, $956
Sheena Robbins, Bar D Mr. Dual Olena, $956
Ann Scott, Fallin for Fame, $717
Nellie Miller, Rebas Smokey Joe, $717
Carlee Pierce, $717
Ronan Angelini, $478
Jolee Jordan, Classy Rose Bug, $358
Danielle Shumate, $239