By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan
Houston, Texas— There is no need to be in RodeoHouston on the weekend to catch top level action. In fact, in the 2015 edition of the WPRA-sanctioned barrel racing, the mid-week performances produced some of the best times of the rodeo thus far.
It all began on a Monday night, March 9, the first night of Super Series III. RodeoHouston is a tournament style rodeo with competitors advancing from bracket competition. Each of the 40 invited competitors gets three runs within their Super Series to try to be the top money winners. Only the four highest earning from the three rounds and the average will move on to the Semi-Finals.
On Monday, second year WPRA member Callie DuPerier turned in a 14.50 second run for the round win. Already ranked fourth in the current WPRA World standings, DuPerier is new to RodeoHouston but her horse is not. Rare Dillion actually owns the arena record inside the NRG Stadium, a blistering 13.92 set back in 2012 with then-owner Carlee Pierce.
“I was pretty nervous,” said DuPerier of her first competition inside the huge stadium. Even winning the first round didn’t settle the cowgirl’s mind. “I was still nervous every time!”
Hot on DuPerier’s heels is the lady who just won the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo aboard a horse that DuPerier owns: Sherry Cervi is back on her main mount, Stingray—aka MP Meter My Hay—here in Houston and looking for yet another Championship appearance. Cervi clocked in at 14.52 on the opening night of Super Series III.
2012 WPRA World Champ Mary Walker took Latte, aka Perculatin, around the cloverleaf in 14.59 for third while Victoria Williams rode the borrowed Fantasia Fame, aka Fanny, to fourth.
Twenty-four hours later, it was the same four ladies in the money again but this time Williams took the victory lap for her run of 14.44 seconds. Cervi and Walker followed at 14.49 and 14.57, respectively, with DuPerier landing fourth at 14.60.
Heading into the final night of Super Series III on Wednesday, March 11, DuPerier and Williams were in a dead heat for the lead in money won while Cervi held the lead in the average.
Proving there is plenty of excitement mid-week in Houston, DuPerier returned to the winner’s circle in round three, matching her round one time of 14.50 seconds. Cervi was remarkably consistent, picking up second once again with her 14.59.
This time around, Trula Churchill picked up the third place money on Worm, who is registered A Streak of Rita, with a run of 14.61 while Pam Capper and Jesse, Sheza Smooth Flight, took fourth at 14.65 seconds.
When the times were calculated, DuPerier and Cervi actually tied for the win in the average, earning another $1,850 apiece. Their three-run average time of 43.60 is the best of the rodeo so far this year. Walker finished third at 43.82 while Williams picked up fourth with her time of 43.94 seconds. Interestingly, all four times would have won the average in the two previous Super Series this year.
DuPerier was crowned the champ of Super Series III with $7,350 in season earnings while Cervi picked up $5,450. DuPerier will compete in Semi-Final #1 on March 18.
In the meantime, she will head for RodeoAustin on Sunday, March 15 with her dad, Trip, in tow as her hauling partner for the season. DuPerier looks poised to make her first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this season after finishing 25th in the final WPRA World standings last year as a rookie.
Once in the Semi-Finals, which are held March 18-19, all competition becomes sudden death. The fastest four from each Semi-Final move into the Championship while the six who miss the cut get one more chance in the Wild Card Round. Held March 20, the two fastest from the Wild Card advance to the Championship on March 21.
The final night of the rodeo is a two-run sprint to $50,000. All ten ladies make one run with the four fastest moving into the Shoot-Out held during the same performance. With a clean slate, the four compete one more time for a shot at the big payoff for first place.
Joining DuPerier in Semi-Final #1, Cervi was rock solid once again in Houston; the Arizona cowgirl who holds four WPRA gold buckles has won RodeoHouston four times on three different horses, just another one of many records she has set in WPRA history. She was one of four finalists a year ago and has won better than $100,000 in Houston, just in the years since she began riding Stingray.
The ninth ranked cowgirl in the current WPRA standings, Williams finished with $3,500, enough for her to move on to the next round; she will compete in Semi-Final #2 on March 19. Though she usually rides the grey Three Jets Olena, Williams opted for a borrowed ride aboard Fanny, owned by Chris and Angie Jean.
“This pen just didn’t work for her last year,” Williams explained, noting that Three Jets is scheduled to run at Marshall, Texas this week. “We were going for a different game plan.”
Fanny is known by many rodeo fans as the red mare that Angie Meadors qualified to the Wrangler NFR in 2010 and was an outstanding futurity winner prior to turning to rodeos.
Rounding out the Semi-Finals qualifiers for Super Series III is Walker. She earned $2,400 in her three, clean runs and will race again in Semi-Finals #2.
Just 16 more ladies will run for the Semi-Finals here, split into two Super Series. Super Series IV begins on Thursday, March 12 and concludes Saturday, March 14. Among the scheduled competitors is Nancy Hunter, who has won RodeoHouston the last two years, and the arena record holder (on the jockey side) Carlee Pierce.
The final set, Super Series V begins on Sunday, March 15 and concludes on Tuesday, March 17. The top two cowgirls from 2014, WPRA World Champ Fallon Taylor and Reserve World Champ Lisa Lockhart will battle once again in the final bracket of the 2015 Houston rodeo.
For more information and complete brackets, visit www.rodeohouston.com. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Super Series III
Callie Duperier, 14.40, $2,500
Sherry Cervi, 14.52, $1,200
Mary Walker, 14.59, $800
Victoria Williams, 14.73, $500
Williams, 14.44, $2,500
Cervi, 14.49, $1,200
Walker, 14.57, $800
Duperier, 14.60, $500
Duperier, 14.50, $2,500
Cervi, 14.59, $1,200
Trula Churchill, 14.61, $800
Pam Capper, 14.65, $500
½. Duperier, 43.60, $1,850
½. Cervi, 43.60, $1,850
Walker, 43.82, $800
Williams, 43.94, $500
Semi-Finals Qualifiers (World Rank) / Horse / Money Won
Callie Duperier (4) / Rare Dillion / $7,350
Sherry Cervi (6) / MP Meter My Hay / $5,450
Victoria Williams (9) / Fantasia Fame / $3,500
Mary Walker (38) / Perculatin / $2,400
Other Money Winners
Trula Churchill / A Streak of Rita / $800
Pam Capper / Sheza Smooth Flight / $500