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Jimmie Smith

PHOTO BY 
Kent Soule

By Jolee Jordan

 

NFRSmith Shakes up Rookie Race With Biggest Career Win in Puyallup
NFR

 

Puyallup, Washington—For three rounds, the barrel race at the half million dollar Justin Finale presented by Justin Boots at the Washington State Fair Pro Rodeo in Puyallup was a runaway for past champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi.

The two-time World Champion and winner of more than $2 million in her career dominated the two long rounds of competition, winning the average by two tenths of a second. The 24 cowgirls invited to compete here by virtue of their standing in the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour each got two shots to win money and land inside the top eight to compete in the Finale’s Championship Round held Sunday, September 9.

 

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NFR
Jimmie Smith
Photo by Kent Soule NFR

 

With the biggest chunk of the purse offered here up for grabs on Sunday, Pozzi Tonozzi rode a high into the last day and looked like the domination would only continue after she claimed the victory in the Semi-Final round with a run of 14.33 seconds, nearly three full tenths of a second ahead of second place.

The closest run to her in that round was rookie cowgirl Jimmie Smith, who had already won more than $10,000 in her first appearance in Puyallup. Smith and her tough little palomino mare Lena were running tightest to Pozzi Tonozzi’s own palomino superstar, world champion Duke, through the first rounds.

Both rounds on Sunday in Puyallup are sudden death—nothing done prior to the final day matters in the chase to the title. That makes the stakes high on Sunday for cowgirls like Kellie Collier and Tammy Fischer, who came to Puyallup on the bubble for a trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as the season plows through its final month.

Fischer and her own palomino steed Zeva responded to the pressure with a time of 14.74 seconds to win third behind Pozzi Tonozzi and Smith to advance to the finals.

Andrea Busby slid into fourth place aboard her horse Sunday, running a 14.76, rounding out the competition. Busby has been on a hot streak as the summer closes out, ranked 32nd in the WPRA World standings.

The tournament style format here means that the four-round qualifiers then wait as the other events crown their champions, giving the finalists about an hour to catch their breath and prepare for the finals.

Fischer kicked things off in the final round, scampering through the pattern in 14.63 seconds for the early lead.

Busby ran second this time aboard Dial It Fast, bumping Fischer with her own run of 14.56 seconds, her best run of the rodeo.

All focus then went to Pozzi Tonozzi, looking to put another exclamation point on the comeback tour of Duke, who spent more than four years out to pasture with what was believed to be a career-ending injury before returning to championship form this season. As the big gelding sprinted through the pattern with his one-of-a-kind style, the clock stopped at 14.77, putting Pozzi Tonozzi third.

Running as the last barrel racer in the biggest rodeo of her young career, Smith and Lena responded like veterans, not rookies. Going to the left barrel first, Smith blistered the course, posting a time of 14.41 to easily claim the victory.

The young cowgirl—who is just as handy with a breakaway rope as she is in the barrel saddle—was in tears as she claimed her win, taking a well-deserved victory lap.

While most were watching the bubble chase for the Wrangler NFR here, the rookie race was just as compelling. New Mexico cowgirl Leia Pluemer has led or been near the top of the standings for much of the season and was in the Semi-Finals in Puyallup.

But after winning $11,000 on the final day alone, it was Smith who vaulted from third to first. She won more than $21,000 for her four runs in Puyallup. She’s now won almost $50,000 on the year, jumped into the top 30 of the World standings, and leads the rookie race by more than $15,000.

There are now 21 days left in the 2018 rodeo season and Smith is in a full sprint to the end.

“I’m entered everywhere! I’m entered at Pendleton, Abilene and Albuquerque,” laughs Smith. “But I’m trying to find something to jump ride and leave Lena at Pendleton.”

The Pendleton Round-Up begins Monday, September 9 and is one more in a summer’s worth of new adventures for Smith this season.

“First time out here, period,” she says. “Awesome experience.”

Pozzi Tonozzi moved to third in the WPRA World standings after earning more than $17,000 in Puyallup. After finishing second in the final round, Busby’s earnings jumped to more than $7,000.

Bubble Watch

The see-saw battle amongst the bubble cowgirls continued for another week. Two weeks ago, Carley Richardson had the big weekend, last week it was Tracy Nowlin.

After slipping to 15th last week, Fischer battled back in a huge way during the first full week of September. She began with a fifth place finish in the mud at Fort Madison, Iowa before the long haul back to the Northwest. Once there, she did major damage, winning second at the Lewiston Round-Up before her biggest win in Puyallup.

With $7,471 in Justin Finale earnings, Fischer’s weekend total of $10,928 was by far the highest of the bubble ladies, jumping her season earnings to more than $90,000. She moved up to 10th in the WPRA World standings, giving herself a little breathing room in the final weeks.

Elsewhere, Tracy Nowlin claimed a win at Spokane (WA) worth $1,242 and Salt Lake City for another $1,062, while Jessi Fish earned $1,856 in a round in Puyallup. Jana Bean picked up a couple of checks in Puyallup and Spokane while Tiany Schuster earned a check in Fort Madison. Nowlin held her position in 13th while Richardson slid to 14th.

Amber Moore should find herself 15th in the standings following the week with earnings of $82,084. That sets another new record for earnings to qualify to the Wrangler NFR with three more weekends to go. It’s also just about $4,000 behind 11th but only about the same amount ahead of 16th ranked Jessie Telford.

Eight of the cowgirls on the bubble are scheduled to compete in Pendleton this week: Richardson, Fischer, Collier, Telford, Schuster, Fish, Bean, and Teri Bangart, who has the best record on the huge pattern and grass that set Pendleton apart from every other rodeo.

Pendleton offers the biggest purse left on the schedule for the year with $37,500 added and 100 barrel racer entered. Following Pendleton, the focus will shift south for rodeos like Albuquerque, Amarillo, Omaha and Stephenville.

Results

1st Go

  1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Yeah Hes Firen, 14.34, $3,845
  2. Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 14.39, $3,182
  3. Jimmie Smith, Lena on the Rocks, 14.44, $2,519
  4. Jessi Fish, Guys Night in Vegas, 14.45, $1,856
  5. Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, 14.54, $1,193
  6. Brittney Barnett, Frenchmans Pick/Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West/Jana Bean, It’s Complicated, 14.66, $221

2nd Go

  1. Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.43, $3,845
  2. Smith, 14.53, $3,182
  3. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 14.55, $2,519
  4. Routier, 14.57, $1,856
  5. Leia Pluemer, Famous French Bug, 14.60, $1,193
  6. Andrea Busby, Cornitasundayspecial, 14.61, $663

Average

  1. Pozzi Tonozzi, 28.77, $5,767
  2. Smith, 28.97, $4,773
  3. Fischer, 29.21, $3,778
  4. Routier, 29.23, $2,784
  5. Fox, 29.45, $1,790
  6. Pluemer, 29.53, $994
  7. Kellie Collier, 29.59
  8. Busby, 29.70

Semi-Finals

  1. Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.33, $4,500
  2. Smith, 14.60, $3,500
  3. Fischer, 14.74, $2,500
  4. Busby, Cornitasundayspecial, 14.76, $1,500

Finals

  1. Smith, 14.41, $7,500
  2. Busby, Dial It Fast, 14.56, $5,000
  3. Fischer, 14.63
  4. Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.77

Total Money Won

Smith, $21,474

Pozzi Tonozzi, $17,957

Fischer, $7,471

Busby, $7,163

Routier, $4,861

Fox, $4,309

Conrado, $3,182

Pluemer, $2,187

Fish, $1,856

Barnett, $221

Bean, $221

 

 

NFRPozzi Tonozzi Full Speed Ahead in Puyallup
NFR

 

Puyallup, Washington—As the half million dollar Justin Finale presented by Justin Boots kicked off this weekend at the Washington State Fair Pro Rodeo in Puyallup, most eyes were fixed on the bottom end of the top 15 in the WPRA World standings as the bulk of the competitors here were ladies fighting to make their way to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The cut off is just a few weeks away on September 30.

But folks may have overlooked the second-highest ranked cowgirl competing here, two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi. Given the hot streak the winner of more than $2 million in WPRA earnings has been on this summer, that was definitely a mistake.

Pozzi Tonozzi competed in the second of two sets of ladies in Puyallup, all earning their spots from points earned during the season at Wrangler ProRodeo Tour events. Pozzi Tonozzi was the regular season standings leader in those events, gathering 1,640 points at stops like Salinas, Cheyenne, Kennewick and Ellensburg.

Each lady made two runs in preliminary competition; the first group of 12 ran in performances on Thursday and Friday nights, September 6-7 while the second group competed in two performances on Saturday, September 8.

Following the Saturday night perf, the field has been cut to eight ladies based on the two-run average. The eight ladies now vie for the title on Sunday, September 9 in a sudden death, two run format. The eight round will be cut to four based on fastest times; the four will run right back in the same performance, again with no times carried forward, to determine the champion who will walk away with $7,500 in prize money from the final round alone.

The first group was dominated by rookie of the year contender Jimmie Smith, the cowgirl who just graduated from Texas A&M and competed at the College National Finals Rodeo this summer. Smith and her mare Lena won both the Thursday and Friday night perfs to lead the average after the opening set.

“I mean, there’s lots on the line the rest of the month,” says Smith. “But my mare just decided she was ready and we are just gonna go one run at a time!”

Smith is third in a battle with Leia Pluemer, who is also in Puyallup, and KL Spratt for the title of WPRA Rookie of the Year. All three ladies came into the weekend separated by just under $4,000.

But while the newcomer dominated the first two days, Saturday was all about the veteran and the comeback kid—Pozzi Tonozzi’s World Champion barrel horse Yeah Hes Firen. Duke, as he is better known in barrel racing circles carried Pozzi Tonozzi to nearly every title available in ProRodeo before suffering what was believed to be a career ending injury prior to the 2013 Wrangler NFR.

But Duke eventually recovered from the injury and cautiously re-entered ProRodeo life this spring. After a huge win at the California Rodeo Salinas in mid-July—his fourth title there—Duke has been often found back in the winner’s circle. His most recent win was the finals at Ellensburg just four days ago on Labor Day.

Meanwhile, Pozzi Tonozzi, riding Duke as well as other horses Mona and Katniss, has won more than $53,000 since mid-July, jumping from ninth in the standings all the way to fourth.

After her first day in Puyallup, Pozzi Tonozzi may be rising again. Duke carried her to a clean sweep of the preliminary rounds along with the average, wins worth a total of $13,457.

On Sunday, Pozzi Tonozzi is hoping Duke will repeat history again . . . he won this rodeo in 2009.

Smith finished third in the opening round, behind Pozzi Tonozzi and Ivy Conrado, and second in the second round to win second in the average for earnings of $10,474. Though she’s blown to the lead in the rookie race, things are still quite interesting as Pluemer also placed in the second go and average, cinching her place in Sunday’s finals. Pluemer has won $2,187 aboard her mare Sister.

On the bubble chase, Texas cowgirl and six-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Tammy Fischer fared best in Puyallup, placing in the first go and third in the average for earnings of $4,971 so far. Her closest chasers in the WPRA World standings—Jessie Telford, Tracy Nowlin, Tiany Schuster, Jessi Fish, Jana Bean and Teri Bangart all failed to advance to the finals though Fish and Bean won checks in the first go round.

Only Kellie Collier will join Fischer on Sunday as one of the group of cowgirls who came to Puyallup ranked from 12th to 22nd in the standings. The 2017 Wrangler NFR contestant has not won a check yet but has exactly the same opportunity as the other seven ladies on Sunday thanks to the sudden death format.

A clean sweep on Sunday would be worth $12,000. That amount would all but assure Fischer or Collier a spot in Las Vegas. For Pluemer or Smith, it could make the difference in winning one of ProRodeo’s toughest titles, WPRA Rookie of the Year.

For Pozzi Tonozzi, it would get her that much closer to world leaders Hailey Kinsel and Nellie Miller and certainly put her name in contention for another WPRA World Championship.

The rest of the field for the finals includes Jessica Routier, the Badlands Circuit Champ who is well on her way to her first Wrangler NFR ranked eighth. Routier and her mare Missy have won $4,861 so far.

Wilderness Circuit cowgirl Darby Fox also made the cut riding Easy French Alibi. Fox is ranked 51st in the World standings but a good showing on Sunday could move her up high enough to allow the cowgirl to enter all the big winter rodeos with limited entries, generally reserved for the top 40 in the final WPRA World standings.

Andrea Busby rounds out the field of eight. The former Mountain States Circuit Finals champion rode a pair of horses on Saturday to punch her ticket to the finals. After riding Dial It Fast in the matinee, Busby switched to Cornitasundayspecial for the evening performance, running fast enough for a go round check and to land eighth in the average. She’ll again be aboard the aptly named Sunday for the finals.

Fans can catch all the action on ProRodeo TV by logging in at www.prorodeotv.com on Sunday at 1 p.m. (PT). You can also watch the final performance on CBS Sports on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Results

1st Go

  1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Yeah Hes Firen, 14.34, $3,845
  2. Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 14.39, $3,182
  3. Jimmie Smith, Lena on the Rocks, 14.44, $2,519
  4. Jessi Fish, Guys Night in Vegas, 14.45, $1,856
  5. Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, 14.54, $1,193
  6. Brittney Barnett, Frenchmans Pick/Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West/Jana Bean, It’s Complicated, 14.66, $221

2nd Go

  1. Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.43, $3,845
  2. Smith, 14.53, $3,182
  3. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 14.55, $2,519.Routier, 14.57, $1,856
  4. Leia Pluemer, Famous French Bug, 14.60, $1,193
  5. Andrea Busby, Cornitasundayspecial, 14.61, $663

Average

  1. Pozzi Tonozzi, 28.77, $5,767
  2. Smith, 28.97, $4,773
  3. Fischer, 29.21, $3,778
  4. Routier, 29.23, $2,784
  5. Fox, 29.45, $1,790
  6. Pluemer, 29.53, $994
  7. Kellie Collier, 29.59
  8. Busby, 29.70

 

 

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