Sherry Cervi jockey's Trip and Calllie DuPerier's horse Atlas Perk to the title in San Antonio.

Greg Westfall

By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan

San Antonio, Texas — Odds-makers taking a quick glance at the field for the Championship Round of the 2015 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo may have been tempted to put the race in favor of current WPRA World leader Sarah Rose McDonald, who won all three rounds of her bracket and posted two of the four fastest times of the rodeo, or reigning WPRA World Champion Fallon Taylor who is already ranked third in the 2015 standings. Perhaps they would have looked long and hard at 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Jana Bean, who swept both rounds of her semi-finals competition.

There actually was no wrong way to bet but surely many would have had to place their bets on the veteran of the field, the WPRA’s richest cowgirl Sherry Cervi. The only WPRA barrel racer to win more than $2 million in her career, to win $1 million at the Wrangler NFR alone and one of just three cowgirls with at least four WPRA World Championships would have definitely been a solid bet.

It didn’t matter at all that Cervi was not on the horse that carried her to her last two WPRA World titles, MP Meter My Hay, aka Stingray. Cervi came into the finals as the third high money winner after winning two rounds in bracket competition and one of her two semi-finals rounds as well. In fact, Cervi had not failed to place on any one of her previous five runs prior to the finals.

Cervi borrowed Atlas Peak, a 13-year old son of the great Dash ta Fame, for her runs in the Alamo City with Stingray soaking up the rays, and handling the competition duties, at the Tucson Rodeo this week. Atlas belongs to Trip and Callie DuPerier and has a history of winning with previous jockeys like 2006 WPRA World Champ Mary Burger and Add Waddell.

Turns out the combo of Cervi in the saddle of a DuPerier horse is a winning combination for big rodeos. Two years ago, Cervi rode Reality Go to win her first championship at the Reno Rodeo.

In 2015 it was Atlas Peak carrying Cervi to the championship of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. This was Cervi’s second title in San Antonio; she earned her first back in 2003, the first year it was held in the AT&T Center.

Voted 10 times as the PRCA’s Indoor Rodeo of the Year, the San Antonio rodeo is one of the most lucrative of the season for the contestants and generously pays all entry fees for the contestants. The title is based upon total earnings with the biggest checks written for the final round. Ten cowgirls out of an original 50 advanced through a series of brackets and semi-finals to compete on the final night, Saturday, February 28.

Cervi drew first to run on the final night and set the bar high with a run of 13.80 seconds. Interestingly, DuPerier ran next, riding Rare Dillion. She stopped the clock at 14.02 seconds.

Taylor rode next but without her World Champ partner Flos Heiress, aka Babyflo. The little red mare was stuck at home in the ice and snow which hit northern Texas while Taylor flew into San Antonio from Scottsdale, Ariz., where she had competed in the Wrangler Champions Challenge. She had to scramble for a mount in the final hours before the finals. Like Cervi, she ended up on a DuPerier horse and made the pattern in 14.63 seconds.

Fourth ranked cowgirl Alexa Lake came next in the draw. Twenty-four hours prior to the finals, Lake had come through in the clutch with a round win in the semi-finals to advance to the finals. Riding Sure Down Dash, aka Viper, Lake stopped the clock in a smoking 13.77 seconds, taking the lead.

photoRiding Sure Down Dash, aka Viper, Alexa Lake stopped the clock in a smoking 13.77 seconds to win the final round in San Antonio but fell short of the title due to total earnings in San Antonio, which determines the champion. Photo by Kenneth Springer

One of six lefties in the finals, Viper is 10 years old and a son of Down Home Dash. Lake bought the gelding three years ago and has made huge waves in the WPRA this season.

Bean ran next aboard the five year old phenom, Dashing Klee, aka Chick. Bean turned in a 14.09 second run, sitting fourth at the time with four monies to be paid in the final round. 2014 San Antonio Finalist Shelly Anzick rode Scooten ta Fame next, running a 14.29 after having a little trouble around the first barrel.

McDonald was next to run. The 2014 WPRA Rookie of the Year has been the big story of 2015 after winning every round at Fort Worth a few weeks back. The WPRA standings leader and her gritty little roan mare Fame Fling N Bling, aka Bling, hadn’t run lower than second in any round at San Antonio on her path to the finals.

On the final night, Bling and McDonald put together their usual exciting trip around the cans, stopping the clock at 13.99 seconds for third.

Kenna Squires and Dashing Trace followed McDonald, clocking in at 14.19 seconds. Reigning Columbia River Circuit Champion Pam Capper brought Sheza Smooth Flight, aka Jesse, next, narrowly missing the money at 14.06 seconds. Seventh ranked Kelly Tovar finished the night; riding BB French Fooled Ya, aka Edwin, Tovar ran 14.12 seconds.

As the final round winner, Lake collected $14,476. Cervi added $10,857 to her earnings. McDonald won $7,238 and DuPerier won the final check worth $3,619.

Many times the Championship goes to the final round winner but when the total earnings were figured, Cervi edged Lake by $338. It was the closest finish since 2011 when Britany (Fleck) Diaz beat Jill Moody by just one penny.

Cervi was unranked prior to San Antonio but should jump high into the standings following the big win. She will jump a plane and get back on her usual ride, Stingray, for the short round in Tucson on Sunday.

Lake will move to second in the World with $38,000 won already in 2015.

McDonald finished third in San Antonio with $20,497 won, effectively doubling her season earnings to extend her lead in the WPRA World standings. McDonald was the only cowgirl in San Antonio to finish under fourteen seconds on all six runs.

Bean finished as the fourth high money winner with $11,976, pushing her season earnings to better than $23,000.

Finalists with Money Won
Sherry Cervi, Atlas Peak, $21,942
Alexa Lake, Sure Down Dash, $21,604
Sarah Rose McDonald, Fame Fling N Bling, $20,497
Jana Bean, Dashing Klee, $11,976
Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, $11,049
Shelly Anzick, Scooten ta Fame, $8,269
Pam Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, $6,629
Callie Duperier, Rare Dillion, $6,629
Kenna Squires, Dashing Trace, $5,631
Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooled Ya, $5,132