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Nellie Miller

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RodeoHouston

By Jolee Jordan


NFRSister Act 2
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Houston, Texas—What’s the price of one one-hundredth of a second? The slimmest fraction in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racing is one of the most expensive commodities on the market. On the final Saturday at the 2018 edition of RodeoHouston, each one hundredth of a second was worth $15,000 for California cowgirl and reigning WPRA World Champion Nellie Miller.

RodeoHouston began way back in 1932 and has donated more than $450 million in scholarships in its history. Many cowboys and cowgirls competing in the rodeo have experienced life changing moments thanks to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s efforts as well. Forty competitors began their journey here two weeks ago, working their way through three rounds of Super Series competition as well as a semi-finals and, for a couple, a Wild Card Round, to arrive in the two-part Championship Round which delivers the big payouts.

Wild Card Round

Before the finals could begin, the field had to be completed with the qualifiers from Friday night’s Wild Card Round.

The Wild Card Round is almost always a shootout and 2018 was no different. The round began with Cayla Small posting her best run of the rodeo at 14.71 seconds, a time that would have won all but two of the 17 previous rounds this year.

Unfortunately, only the top two times advanced from this round and Small watched as she was bumped to the wrong side of the bubble for a second night, finishing third.

Southeastern Circuit Champion Sabra O’Quinn took the lead first on a wild and crowd pleasing run aboard her horse Chaos. The run was a little chaotic as the big gelding cut into the third barrel tightly and O’Quinn dropped her rein, reaching over to steady the barrel. She saved it from falling, leaning precariously out of the saddle as the horse stretched for home. Their time of 14.61 was the fastest time ran in RodeoHouston in 2018.

That was until two runners later when Kelly Bruner took her pass around NRG Stadium. Bruner and the gelding called Suzy went tight and flawless around the pattern, stopping the clock at 14.54 seconds, raising the bar on the new longer pattern established this year.

While six ladies ran underneath fifteen seconds, no one was able to push Bruner and O’Quinn out of the final qualifying positions into the Championship Round.

Championship Round

There were probably more than a couple sleepless nights prior to the Championship Round on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2018. The $50,000 check distributed to the final round winner could make the whole season for the cowgirl able to grab it.

The field was stacked—the reigning WPRA World Champ Nellie Miller was there as was the reigning Reserve World Champ Hailey Kinsel, the current WPRA World number one Amberleigh Moore, last year’s Rookie of the Year Taci Bettis and three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) cowgirl Carley Richardson, who had won third here in each of the last two seasons. WPRA World Champ Fallon Taylor, the only barrel racer in the finals to have a RodeoHouston championship on her resume, was also in the mix, riding a hot streak into the Championship.

Joining that group were the hopefuls . . . ladies who have not yet made a trip to the WNFR but for whom a big day on Saturday could make that dream a reality. Among this group is Ram National Circuit Finals Champ Carmel Wright, Circuit Champs Tracy Nowlin and Sabra O’Quinn, and veterinarian and veteran barrel racer Kelly Bruner.

The Championship Round is a two-run, full out sprint to the title. All ten cowgirls compete in one round with the four fastest returning less than an hour later to compete in yet another sudden death round, this time with the big money on the line.

Wright kicked off the day but tipped the first barrel aboard her mare Luna. Taylor drew second and Babyflo brought her smooth style to NRG Stadium again, stopping the clock at 14.70 seconds to take the early lead.

Riding high with confidence from the previous night’s performance, Bruner was next, posting another sub-fifteen run, 14.89 seconds after a stumble on the second pushed her a bit wide. Nowlin and Dolly Jo took their shot, also breaking into the 14’s at 14.98 to sit third as the heart of the order was set to run.

Miller, Kinsel, Moore and Bettis would run back-to-back-to-back-to-back right in the middle of the draw.

The reigning World Champ was first and her homegrown roan mare Sister did not disappoint, taking the lead at 14.69 seconds. Kinsel’s Sister took the Texan around the pattern in 14.72 seconds as the next to run.

With four to run, the top three ladies were separated by just four one-hundredths of a second and the girl on the bubble was Bruner.

Moore and her great mare Paige took their shot, but a wide first barrel would end their hopes of a Shootout position. Bettis and Smash blew down the alley next, putting another run right in the same tracks they’d been laying since Super Series I. On Saturday, the run was worth 14.79, putting her on the edge of qualifying for one more run.

Competing in her third straight RodeoHouston Championship Round, Richardson and the ever consistent Radio needed a 14.78 to move to fourth and a 14.71 to make darn sure they would return to the Shootout. This dynamic duo did even better. At 14.59 she ran the second fastest time of the whole rodeo, moving to the top of the leaderboard with one left to run.

Richardson shoved Kinsel to the chopping block with O’Quinn waiting as the final to run. O’Quinn had run a 14.61 just twenty-four hours prior but could her good black horse Chaos do it again?

After another pretty run, O’Quinn fell short, her run of 14.90 just a bit shy in a super tough Championship Round where eight cowgirls ran fourteen second runs.

Championship Shootout

Many of the WPRA’s most lucrative events feature a format similar to Houston’s insomuch as the final day is comprised of two rounds. That can be a challenge, to ask a horse for a tough enough run to qualify for another and lay it all on the line again about sixty minutes later for the championship.

The ones who succeed, the gritty ones, are those who win WPRA World Championships and make appearances at the WNFR.

The fabulous Final Four of the WPRA prepped for another run for glory. Richardson would run first as the winner of the 10-woman round and the West Texas cowgirl was no doubt running against history.

In 2017, Richardson won the Championship Round here but Radio stepped on himself in the opening run and Richardson chose to run her back-up Boy in the Shootout to ensure Radio’s safety until the injury could be further evaluated. She ended up winning third, matching the result she posted in 2016.

Miller would follow with Taylor next. Kinsel would have the chance to serve as spoiler as the final lady to run.

As it turned out, Richardson would make a fast run at 14.61 seconds but she dragged the second barrel over leaving it, costing her a five second penalty.

Miller was next and came barreling down the alley. Though Sister would leave some room on the backside of the first, and rub the third on the entry, Miller left them all standing, taking the top spot with a 14.86.

Taylor came in as the only lady with the chance to win RodeoHouston for a second time and had looked unstoppable in the early rounds. She won two rounds of her Super Series as well as tying for the win in her semi-finals. She was the high money earner to this point with $9,500 in the bank already.

But she too suffered a penalty on the second barrel after Babyflo stuck a hind leg in an odd way at the first corner, throwing off the rhythm of the run. She would cruise out with 21.33 seconds.

So next came the golden girl and her jockey Kinsel. Already ranked second in the WPRA World standings after winning the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, Kinsel and Sister had a chance to topple the World Champ from her perch atop the Houston leaderboard. She blew through NRG with Sister’s trademark free-wheeling style and fans watching on Fox Sports and live wondered where would the clock stop.

When the boards lit up with 14.88 seconds, Miller knew she’d claimed her first RodeoHouston title. The tight battle echoed the entire winter, a further illustration of the ultra high level of competition within the WPRA. This was the fourth major winter rodeo to have its championship determined by two one-hundredths of a second or less.

The difference in the paycheck from first to second? $30,000. That makes each one hundredth here in Houston worth $15,000.

Call it Sister Act 2. After Miller and her Sister claimed the WPRA World title in December and Kinsel and her Sister took second, the two Sisters were on top of the World again at RodeoHouston.

Miller earned $58,750 in Houston. She was ranked just 51st in the standings prior to Houston after running in just four rodeos in 2018. With the big win here, she will climb to third behind new World leader Kinsel and Moore, who slips to second.

Miller spoke to announcer Boyd Polhamus on the arena floor immediately following the win.

“She’s just such a consistent horse,” Miller said after telling a joking Polhamus he didn’t have enough money to buy Sister from her. “She stays strong however many runs I ask her to make. She’s so honest and willing.”

Miller noted that Houston was just her second rodeo since the WNFR.

“I’ve been at home most of the time,” she laughed. “I just like to save the runs on my horse.”

“This is a big one,” she replied when Polhamus asked where the RodeoHouston ranks in her resume of rodeo accomplishments. “It’s life changing. I love Houston and I’m so thrilled to be standing here right now.”

Later, she posted to Facebook.

“Dreams come true in Houston! I am amazed every time I come here and I am so proud to be this year’s champion at RODEOHOUSTON; it is a first class rodeo all the way around and I want to thank a special blue roan horse for taking me to places like this. Congrats to all the champions.”

Just for good measure, Miller and Sister returned to NRG on Sunday, winning the unsanctioned Super Shootout while competing for the team from the Reno Rodeo. That win was worth another $25,000, bringing her south Texas haul to nearly $84,000.

Kinsel earned $27,000 in Houston, bumping her season total to a very comfortable $85,332.

“RODEOHOUSTON, what a ride! Thank you for the amazing hospitality and consideration for the contestants!” Kinsel posted to social media. “Sister and I made it to the 4-man shootout and finished 2nd for $20k! Big congrats to Nellie Miller and her “Sister” on winning the $50k! I have had an incredibly blessed winter thanks to my Lord & Savior, my family, friends, and the fans, and especially this gritty little horse. Thanking God for every part of it!”

Despite not claiming the big prize, Richardson had a great RodeoHouston in 2018—she got engaged to WNFR pickup man Chase Cervi, whose family produces RodeoHouston, during the rodeo’s run. She picked up $18,000 in earnings, enough to drop her into the top five of the WPRA World standings and giving her an impressive three year total at NRG Stadium of $49,500.

Taylor’s $15,000 moves her near the top 10 from 83rd.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com.

Results

Wild Card Round

Name, Super Series, Horse, Time, Money Won

1. Kelly Bruner, SSI, Suzytresseis, 14.54, $3,000*

2. Sabra O’Quinn, SSI, Alive with Chaos, 14.61, $2,000*

3. Cayla Small, SSV, Shameon U, 14.71, $1,000

4. Emily Miller, SSIV, Namgis D, 14.82, $750

5. Kellie Collier, SSII, Sierra Hall of Fame, 14.86, $500

6. Lisa Lockhart, SSV, An Okie with Cash, 14.91, $500

7. Sherry Cervi, SSIII, Rare Dillion, 15.03, $500

8. Ericka Nelson, SSI, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 15.30, $500

9. Tiany Schuster, SSIII, Show Mance, 15.36, $500

10. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, SSII, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, $500

11. Ivy Conrado, SSIV, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 18.18, $500

12. Kelly Tovar, SSIV, A Dash ta Glamour, 20.11, $500

*Advance to Championship Round

Championship Round

1. Richardson, SSIV, Doda Flit, 14.59*

2. Miller, SSV, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 14.69*

3. Taylor, SSV, Flos Heiress,  14.70*

4. Kinsel, SSII, DM Sissy Hayday, 14.72*

5. Bettis, SSI, Bogie is a Smash, 14.79, $1,250

6. Bruner, SSI, Suzytresseis, 14.89, $1,250

7. O’Quinn, SSI, Alive with Chaos, 14.90, $1,250

8. Nowlin, SSIII, DJG Madison, 14.98, $1,250

9. Moore, SSII, CP Dark Moon, 15.72, $1,250

10. Wright, SSIII, Fortunes Last Xtrem, 24.91, $1,250

  • *Advance to Shootout Round

Shootout Round

1. Miller, 14.86, $50,000

2. Kinsel, 14.88, $20,000

3. Richardson, 19.61, $10,000

4. Taylor, 21.33, $5,500

Total Money Won

Miller, $58,750

Kinsel, $27,000

Richardson, $18,000

Taylor, $15,000

Bettis, $10,750

Bruner, $7,250

O’Quinn, $7,250

Nowlin, $7,000

Moore, $7,000

Wright, $6,750

Cervi, $5,500

E. Miller, $5,250

Lockhart, $4,500

Tonozzi, $4,500

Conrado, $4,000

Schuster, $3,500

Tovar, $3,500

Nelson, $2,875

Collier, $2,500

Small, $2,000

 

 


NFRWorld Champion Miller Looking for Big Payday in Houston
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Houston, Texas—Going fast is all that matters as the 2018 edition of RodeoHouston rushes towards its conclusion this weekend. There are just three rounds remaining in the tournament style rodeo before a champion is crowned and one barrel racer gets to at least dig out her suitcase for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in Las Vegas in December.

Because the final round on Saturday night, St. Patrick’s Day, is worth $50,000 to the lucky winner, and a berth at the WNFR is earned with somewhere in the ballpark of $75,000 won, the RodeoHouston Champion will be well on her way to her Vegas goal.

From a starting point of 40 cowgirls two weeks ago, only 20 remain but the four best from each semi-final have already earned their spots in the Championship Round, competing this week on Wednesday and Thursday.

Twelve ladies have another run before the final night, in Friday’s Wild Card Round, but only two will move on, making the Wild Card one of the most pressure packed runs of the year NOT coming in a final go round.

Championship Saturday night is a two-run race to the finish. The 10 finalists will make one run with the four fastest getting another shot that night in the Shootout Round, where the title and big money are finally distributed to the winner of this marathon of nerves and speed.

Semi-Final 1

Reigning WPRA World Champion Nellie Miller finished fourth at RodeoHouston in 2017, earning a big paycheck that eventually led her to her first World Championship. Miller is a proponent of “less-is-more” as the Californian competed in just 48 rodeos last season, the third-fewest of all the cowgirls in the top 35 of the WPRA World standings.

Miller is planning on following the same tracks as she looks to defend her title in 2018. RodeoHouston is just her fifth rodeo of the relatively new season and she had already doubled the season earnings that had her 51st in the standings last week.

Miller ran right in the middle of the pack during semi-final 1, already staring down two sub-fifteen second times set by Carley Richardson, who was third here a year ago, and Amberleigh Moore. Interestingly, Richardson was the only 2018 Super Series Champ to compete in the opening round of semi-finals action.

Riding her great roan mare Sister, Miller not only won her second round of the rodeo but also galloped her way to the fastest time of the rodeo at 14.63 seconds, picking up another $3,000 in earnings as she advanced to the Championship Round for the second consecutive year.

Richardson will join her after posting a time of 14.90 seconds while Carmel Wright scored a 14.92 from ninth on the ground. Moore was fourth in the round, earning a spot on Saturday night with a run of 14.97 seconds.

Richardson comes to Houston ninth in the standings and working towards her third trip to Vegas. Wright entered Houston 28th and is hoping for a big check here to push her over the top to her first WNFR. Meanwhile, Moore continues a nuclear winter pace, already ranked first in the WPRA World standings with more than $64,000 won.

Semi-Final 2

The second night of semi-final action lived up to its billing. With four of the five Super Series Champs on the docket which includes four of the six top money winners in the barrel racing thus far, not to mention the winningest cowgirl in WPRA history, fans knew they were in for a treat and the 10 ladies did not disappoint.

The night began with a sub-fifteen second run from Florida cowgirl Ericka Nelson at 14.99 seconds. In the previous16 nights of action, there had only been one round where a 14 second run did not ensure a paycheck, going back to Round Two of Super Series II.

But the competition takes a step up as each elimination round is reached and this round was to be the ultimate illustration of that fact.

 

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NFR
Fallon Taylor
PHOTO COURTESY of RodeoHouston
NFR


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NFR
Taci Bettis
PHOTO COURTESY of RodeoHouston
NFR



Hailey Kinsel ran third and quickly took over the top spot with a 14.82 second run. That mark only survived one cowgirl as Fallon Taylor, a RodeoHouston champion back in 1997, ran fifth and took the lead with her flawless run at 14.74 seconds.

Cayla Small and Gator posted their best run of the rodeo at 14.89 seconds, already third in the round at the time she ran sixth in the draw.

2017 WPRA Rookie of the Year Taci Bettis ran seventh; the Texas cowgirl is competing in her first RodeoHouston and continues to impress in her sophomore season as a pro. She and her gelding Smash rocketed to a tie with Taylor atop the leaderboard.

One of the final three cowgirls in the draw, Tracy Nowlin drew up ninth, broke into the 14 second range and it was just enough to advance the Prairie Circuit champion. She and mare Dolly Jo were 14.87 seconds to bump Small to the crying hole.

It was by far the fastest overall round of the rodeo thus far with six of the 10 ladies stopping the clock at less than fifteen seconds. Strangely, the draw positions of third, fifth, and ninth were lucky in both semi-finals as three of the four cowgirls advancing on both nights ran from those spots.

The shared round win was Taylor’s third of this year’s rodeo and Bettis’ second. The cowgirls have both won $9,500, best of all the barrel racers so far this year; while Bettis is already ranked high in the standings at third, Taylor is 83rd before Houston and looking to make a huge upward move by Sunday. She is the lowest ranked competitor to qualify into the Championship thus far.

Kinsel and Nowlin move into the Championship Round. With Bettis, they are three Houston rookies, an interesting contrast to the four qualifiers from semi-finals 1 which includes two of last year’s Shootout competitors as well as two ladies who have competed here in the past. Not surprisingly, all five Super Series Champions have qualified to compete on the final night.

Wild Card

For the 12 semi-finalists who missed the mark the first time around, Friday night, March 16 represents a last grasp to contend for the huge check given here. Last year, Kathy Grimes made the Championship from the Wild Card and finished as the RodeoHouston Reserve Champ, earning $28,000 and a big boost towards her first WNFR.

The Wild Card is packed with star-power with the WPRA’s only $2 million cowgirls: Sherry Cervi (who has actually won $3.4 million), Lisa Lockhart and Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi. Cervi has won RodeoHouston four times, on three different horses, and Lockhart has been second several times. The rest of the field is riddled with former WNFR qualifiers, circuit champions and top 30 cowgirls for whom Friday is win or go home – rodeo’s version of March Madness.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.

Results

Semi-Final 1

1. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 14.63, $3,000

2. Carley Richardson, Doda Flit, 14.90, $2,000

3. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtrem, 14.92, $1,000

4. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 14.97, $750

Semi-Final 2

1/2. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress/Taci Bettis, Bogis is a Smash, 14.74, $2,500

3.    Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 14.82, $1,000

4.    Tracy Nowlin, DJG Madison, 14.87, $750

Wild Card Competitors

Name, Super Series, Money Won So Far

Sherry Cervi, SSIII, $5,000

Emily Miller, SSIV, $4,500

Lisa Lockhart, SSV, $4,000

Sabra O’Quinn, SSI, $4,000

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, SSII, $4,000

Ivy Conrado, SSIV, $3,500

Kelly Bruner, SSI, $3,000

Kelly Tovar, SSIV, $3,000

Tiany Schuster, SSIII, $3,000

Ericka Nelson, SSI, $2,375

Kellie Collier, SSII, $2,000

Cayla Small, SSV, $1,000

Championship Round (Plus Top 2 from Wild Card to be held March 16)

Taylor, SSV, $9,500

Bettis, SSI, $9,500

Miller, SSV, $8,750

Richardson, SSIV, $8,000

Kinsel, SSII, $7,000

Wright, SSIII, $5,500

Moore, SSII, $5,750

Nowlin, SSIII, $5,750

 

 


NFRRichardson, Taylor close out Super Series action in Houston
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Houston, Texas—More than two weeks ago, the 2018 edition of RodeoHouston began with forty cowgirls carrying big dreams of winning almost enough in one rodeo to punch their tickets to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR)—Houston is one of three WPRA-approved events on the calendar that offer a payday worth $50,000 towards WPRA World standings to the winner of the final round.

The first two weeks are devoted to preliminary competition in this tournament style rodeo with each of five Super Series sets giving the eight cowgirls three runs to earn enough to advance. Half the field is eliminated this way, with four moving into the semi-finals.

The final week is a flurry of activity as rounds become sudden death for those hoping to advance all the way to the end.

The final weekend before the Championship brought a close to the Super Series rodeos, allowing eight cowgirls to keep their dreams alive including three of the cowgirls who competed in the Championship Round here a year ago, Carley Richardson, Kelly Tovar and Nellie Miller.

Super Series IV

Fans may have become accustomed to seeing Prairie Circuit cowgirl Emily Miller aboard the super consistent Pipewrench, so nicknamed because of the marking on his face. Pipewrench carried Miller to the title at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2017, helping her land 17th in the final WPRA World standings.

But with Pipewrench on the injured reserve list until just recently, Miller has relied on his flashy palomino little sister Foxy for the 2018 winter run. The six year old mare has stepped up to the plate, helping Miller stay inside the WPRA’s top 30.

Inside NRG Stadium for the first time, Foxy delivered in a big way during the opening round of Bracket IV, winning the night by one one-hundredth of a second over the veterans Richardson and her grey horse Radio. Both cowgirls broke fifteen seconds at 14.95 and 14.96, respectively.

Richardson and Radio roared back the following night, running first on the ground. The finalist from a year ago captured the second round win with a run of 14.75 seconds, displaying the same form that won them nearly $15,000 here a year ago.

With one run remaining in the set, Richardson and Miller looked locked into the next round with $5,000 and $4,500 won, respectively. Cassidy Kruse had picked up a pair of checks worth $1,750 while Ivy Conrado was on the bubble at $1,500.

On Saturday afternoon, Texas cowgirl Tovar delivered the clutch performance of the set, winning the final round in 14.72 seconds. The $3,000 payday is just enough to inch her past Kruse, who placed for the third straight time, and into the fourth and final qualifying position into the semi-finals.

Richardson placed again to win the group with $6,000. She is the first cowgirl to run three fourteen second runs here so far this year. Miller was second with $4,500. Conrado nabbed the third spot after winning second for a second round.

In addition to winning the round, Richardson also experienced another big event at RodeoHouston with her engagement to Chase Cervi, who serves as a pickup man for Cervi Championship Rodeo and has been selected to work the NFR a total of five times.

 

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NFR
Fallon Taylor
PHOTO COURTESY of RodeoHouston
NFR



Super Series V

The final set was filled with talent including a pair of WPRA World Champs and a $2 million cowgirl, and the ladies brought their A-games right from the start. 2014 WPRA World Champ Fallon Taylor got the jump in the first round, posting a smooth run of 14.90 seconds to win the opening round.

RodeoHouston is one of the very few big rodeos not listed on Lisa Lockhart’s resume of wins though she has often done very well here. Lockhart began her 2018 campaign aboard Louie and picked up second in the first round, just five one-hundredths behind Taylor.

Reigning WPRA World Champ Nellie Miller was in the money too, earning a check for fourth but round two belonged to the Californian and her mare Sister. They picked up the round win with a time of 14.88 seconds.

Lockhart was second and Taylor third, both finishing under fifteen seconds again. Going into the final night, the two ladies were tied up with $4,000 won each. Miller was right on their heels but the fourth and final qualifying spot was wide open.

As the final round got underway on Tuesday night, the cowgirls early in the draw were not finding the smooth rhythm needed to break into the 14’s. Even Miller had some trouble, stopping the clock at 15.01 seconds, a time that was holding first position for much of the competition.

That is until Taylor let Babyflo roll down the alley as the second to last to run. The pair went flawless for a third night, earning a second round win with a time of 14.78, the fastest run of the Super Series.

Taylor won the Super Series with $7,000 won and described her strategy to the in-arena announcer after the win.

“I’ve done well here but I haven’t done this well,” laughed an excited Taylor. “I spent the last month focusing just on this rodeo . . . I didn’t enter anything else so I could focus on RodeoHouston.”

“It looks like it’s paying off so far!” Taylor said after becoming just the second cowgirl to post three runs under fifteen seconds here.

Miller finished second with $5,750 won while Lockhart’s $4,000 allowed her to move on to the semi-finals as she gave Louie the final night of the Super Series off.

The mother-daughter duo of Jane Melby and Cayla Small picked up their first checks of the set in the final round with Small taking third. The $1,000 check was enough to move the cowgirl into the next round here as she won the tiebreaker with Sidney Forrest by having the fastest aggregate time.

New Mexico cowgirl Sydni Blanchard had been scheduled to compete in the final set but her horse Jesse suffered a shattered coffin bone during the morning practice at RodeoHouston and the decision was made that the gelding had to be humanely euthanized. Blanchard understandably chose not to compete and former Mountain States Circuit Champion Kim Schulze took her place.

Semi-Finals

The field has now been cut in half, with just 20 ladies still in the running for the huge payday awaiting after the Championship Shoot-out on Saturday night, March 17. Before they can get there, they must advance through two more rounds, the semi-finals and the Championship or three, if they are not among the top four from the semi-finals. Those 12 cowgirls will have a chance to make the final round through the Wild Card round on Friday, March 16. The top two from that round get into the Championship.

The final night consists of two runs—the Championship features 10 ladies and the Championship Shootout follows immediately after that round with the four fastest cowgirls.

Semi-Final 1 will contest on Wednesday night. The headliner has to be the WPRA World No. 1 right now, Amberleigh Moore. She’ll battle with the reigning WPRA World Champ Nellie Miller as well as Lisa Lockhart, Ram National Circuit Finals Champ Carmel Wright, Southeastern Circuit Champ Sabra O’Quinn, two-time World Champ Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, former Texas Circuit Champ Kelly Bruner, 2017 RodeoHouston finalist Kelly Tovar and WNFR cowgirls Carley Richardson and Tiany Schuster.

Semi-Final 2 on March 15 could be a shootout between Fallon Taylor, Taci Bettis and Hailey Kinsel. All three ladies dominated within their respective Super Series to get this far. They will face a field that includes four-time RodeoHouston champion Sherry Cervi, Prairie Circuit champion cowgirls Tracy Nowlin and Emily Miller, Florida cowgirl Ericka Nelson, and WNFR cowgirls Ivy Conrado, Kellie Collier and Cayla Small.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.

Results

Super Series IV

Round One

1. Emily Miller, Namgis D56, 14.95, $3,000

2. Carley Richardson, Doda Flit, 14.96, $2,000

3. Cassidy Kruse, Guys Dashing Girl, 15.00, $1,000

4. Christine Laughlin, Jess Undeniable, 15.20, $750

Round Two

1. Richardson, 14.75, $3,000

2. Miller/Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 14.93, $1,500

3. Kruse, 14.97, $750

Round Three

1. Kelly Tovar, A Dash ta Glamour, 14.72, $3,000

2. Conrado, 14.76, $2,000

3. Richardson, 14.95, $1,000

4. Kruse, 15.08, $750

Total Money Won

Richardson, $6,000*

Miller, $4,500*

Conrado, $3,500*

Tovar, $3,000*

Kruse, $2,500

Laughlin, $750

*Advance to Semi-Finals

Results

Super Series V

Round One

1. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 14.90, $3,000

2. Lisa Lockhart, An Okie with Cash, 14.91, $2,000

3. Sidney Forrest, Promises to French, 15.04, $1,000

4. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 15.12, $750

Round Two

1. Miller, 14.88, $3,000

2. Lockhart, 14.95, $2,000

3. Taylor, 14.98, $1,000

4. Alex Lang, Angels on the Moon, 15.01, $750

Round Three

1. Taylor, 14.78, $3,000

2. Miller, 15.01, $2,000

3. Cayla Small, Shameon U, 15.22, $1,000

4. Jane Melby, Perks Pazazz, 15.27, $750

Total Money Won

Taylor, $7,000*

Miller, $5,750*

Lockhart, $4,000*

Small, $1,000*

Forrest, $1,000

Lang, $750

Melby, $750

*Advances to Semi-Finals

Semi-Final 1, March 14

Name, Super Series Competed In, Money Won

Carley Richardson, SSIV, $6,000

Nellie Miller, SSV, $5,750

Amber Moore, SSII, $5,000

Carmel Wright, SSIII, $4,500

Sabra O’Quinn, SSI, $4,000

Lisa Lockhart, SSV, $4,000

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, SSII, $4,000

Kelly Tovar, SSIV, $3,000

Tiany Schuster, SSIII, $3,000

Kelly Bruner, SSI, $3,000

Semi-Final, March 15

Name, Super Series Competed In, Money Won

Taci Bettis, SSI, $7,000

Fallon Taylor, SSV, $7,000

Hailey Kinsel, SSII, $6,000

Sherry Cervi, SSIII, $5,000

Tracy Nowlin, SSIII, $5,000

Emily Miller, SSIV, $4,500

Ivy Conrado, SSIV, $3,500

Ericka Nelson, SSI, $2,375

Kellie Collier, SSII, $2,000

Cayla Small, SSV, $1,000

 

 


NFRNowlin, Cervi Co-Champs in Super Series III at RodeoHouston
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Houston, Texas—They may have taken different roads to get there but Tracy Nowlin and Sherry Cervi wound up in the same destination as RodeoHouston’s Super Series III came to its conclusion on Wednesday night, March 7.

On paper, the two cowgirls couldn’t be more different. One is a rookie here at RodeoHouston, taking her first run inside the huge NRG Stadium during the first round on Monday night.

The other has won nearly $200,000 at this rodeo alone in nearly two decades of competition inside both the former home of RodeoHouston, the Astrodome, and the new NRG Stadium.

One bought her horse on Facebook a few years ago, hoping the mare would make a tie down roping horse for her son. She calls it the craziest thing she’s ever done.

The other has won four WPRA World titles on three different horses, matching her record for Houston wins. Her family’s breeding program has produced Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) qualifiers in three rodeo timed events and in the barrel racing, a WNFR average winner, a pair of WNFR arena record holders and a WPRA World Champion.

A little tough luck bit both ladies—one started RodeoHouston’s Super Series III with a knocked over barrel, the other finished with a no time—but the cowgirls won more than anyone else in the set to advance to the semi-finals here next week.

RodeoHouston is a tournament style event with the 40 invited competitors divided into brackets or Super Series of eight contestants each. At the conclusion of each Super Series, the top four money winners move on to the semi-finals.

Nowlin rides a bay mare named Dolly Jo while Cervi is aboard the sorrel gelding called Arson. While they have many differences, they share a competitive spirit and the ability to go fast and win on the biggest stages.

Nowlin, the Prairie Circuit Champion, has been flirting with a trip to the WNFR in recent seasons and a good showing here could end the flirtation and land her in Vegas come December.

The semi-finalists will make one more run with the four fastest moving into the Championship Round on March 17; the remaining six will move into the Wild Card Round, held March 16, where the two fastest also advance to the Championship Round.

The final night consists of the ten contestant Championship Round, followed immediately by the Championship Shoot-out, comprised of the top four from the first round. Everything in Houston is sudden death and the final round winner will be crowned the champion and pick up a huge $50,000 purse, which counts towards WPRA World standings.

 

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Sherry Cervi
PHOTO COURTESY of RodeoHouston
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Cervi is a many-time Turquoise Circuit Champ and she often answers “RodeoHouston” to the query of which of pro rodeo event is her favorite.

It was the veteran who struck first in 2018, running almost two years to the day from the moment she passed $3 million in career earnings while winning Super Series III here in 2016. She remains the only cowgirl to do so.

On the opening night of her set this time around, Cervi piloted the super quick Arson to a second place finish behind Carmel Wright.

The pattern inside NRG Stadium often presents a big challenge to both seasoned horses and jockeys. Competitors race down a partially blind alleyway and the first barrel is very close to the gate. Running across to the second two turns, competitors see nothing but a ton of real estate: the arena is the size of a football field and no fence is in sight of any barrel.

The opening night saw several horses have a little trouble, Dolly Jo being one. The mare got too much speed rolling into the second barrel; displaying the heart and try of a champ, the mare tried hard to recover but cut back a little too hard, brushing the can to the dirt. The time still would have earned a check.

A champion in the circuit system as well, Wright has been in the semi-finals here before but back then she ran a mare called SweetHeart. Her new ride, the outstanding young mare Luna, picked up where her stablemate left off with the round winning 14.74 second effort.

The following night, it was Cervi’s spotlight again. The Arizonan won the round with her turn of 14.85 seconds, giving her a two-night total of $5,000.

Nowlin was right on her heels at 14.89 to win second. That left the Oklahoma cowgirl tied with Tiany Schuster for the third and fourth spots to advance, a precarious position with a round win worth more than the two had won at that point.

On the final night of the Super Series, it was Cervi’s turn for tough luck as her great horse fell down in the hind end on the first barrel, gallantly picked himself up and ran across to the second only to have the same thing happen again. Deciding to save her mount, Cervi pulled Arson to a stop and exited the arena.

With the luck of the draw, Wright and Nowlin ran next and both mares were able to navigate through with no issues. Wright stopped the clock at 15.02 while Nowlin and Dolly Jo wowed the crowd with a 14.68, the fastest time run on this new, bigger pattern.

The time would easily win the round for the mom with the Facebook horse, landing her at $5,000 in Super Series earnings to tie Cervi for the win.

Wright placed on all three runs here, earning $4,500 while Schuster’s trio of third place checks put $3,000 in her Wranglers. All four ladies will run again in the next round.

There are just 16 ladies left to compete in their Super Series before the semi-finals get underway. Super Series IV contests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a trio of 2017 RodeoHouston Finalists will be there hoping to repeat their success from a year ago: Taylor Langdon, Carley Richardson and Kelly Tovar. Also in the mix are WNFR cowgirls Ivy Conrado, Cassidy Kruse and Christine Laughlin.

Reigning Ram National Circuit Finals Champ Emily Miller is also on the schedule along with RodeoHouston Rookie Sissy Winn, who punched her ticket here as the highest placer at San Angelo who was not already qualified.

The preliminary competition ends with Super Series V on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The final eight are highlighted by reigning WPRA World Champion Nellie Miller, who was among the final four at RodeoHouston in 2017, 2014 WPRA World Champ Fallon Taylor, a former RodeoHouston Champ, and Lisa Lockhart, one of only three cowgirls to earn $2 million in their WPRA careers.

The dynamic mother-daughter duo of Jane Melby and Cayla Small will compete together in Super Series V as will Alex Lang, Sidney Forrest, and Sydni Blanchard, who is also hoping to be in the Championship Round here for a second straight year.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.

Results

Super Series III

Round One

1. Carmel Wright, Fortunes Last Xtrem, 14.74, $3,000

2. Sherry Cervi, Dash ta Diamonds, 15.28, $2,000

3. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 15.53, $1,000

4. Jaime Hinton, OJS Tex Wood, 15.61, $750

Round Two

1. Cervi, 14.85, $3,000

2. Tracy Nowlin, DJG Madison, 14.89, $2,000

3. Schuster, 14.96, $1,000

4. Wright, 15.01, $750

Round Three

1. Nowlin, 14.68, $3,000

2. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 14.97, $2,000

3. Schuster, 14.98, $1,000

4. Wright, 15.02, $750

Total Money Won

Nowlin/Cervi, $5,000*

Wright, $4,500*

Schuster, $3,000*

Hillman, $2,000

Hinton, $750

*Advance to Semi-Finals

 

 


NFRKinsel, Moore Finish 1-2 in Super Series II in Houston
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Houston, Texas—Great rivalries exist in every sport, the added drama on the side of the action that sticks in fans’ memories for years. In pro basketball, it was Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers against Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics. In baseball, it’s always been the Yankees against the Red Sox. Boxing fans probably think of Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier.

Professional rodeo barrel racing has had its own fair share of Ali-Frazier likes duels over the years, from Brittany Pozzi and Lindsay Sears to Sherry Cervi and Kristie Peterson.

The next heavyweight duel brewing inside the ranks of the WPRA is the one happening across Texas this winter between Hailey Kinsel and Amberleigh Moore. The cowgirls are 1-2 in the current WPRA World standings with just about $5,000 separating the two but more than $20,000 between them and the rest of the field.

In the last three major winter rodeos, San Antonio, San Angelo, and Fort Worth, Moore has won first at two (Fort Worth and San Angelo) and second at the third while Kinsel has been first (San Antonio), second (Fort Worth) and third (San Angleo). In Fort Worth, a measly one-one hundredth of a second put the title in Moore’s hands instead of Kinsel’s.

Ironically, the two cowgirls drew up in the same Super Series at RodeoHouston, bringing their rivalry into the huge NRG Stadium. RodeoHouston accepts just 40 entries, dividing the competitors between five different sets, or Super Series. Each Super Series is given three go rounds of competition; the name of the game is earning as much round money as possible as no averages are kept or paid.

At the conclusion of the Super Series, the four highest money earners move on to the semi-finals competition. Continuing advancement through the tournament style rodeo depends upon being faster than the competition in each round and only the four fastest in each semi-final round move on to the Super Series Championship to be held March 17. Those semi-finals who do not advance get to run at two more positions during the Wild Card round on March16.

Once the field of 10 is established, the final night involves two runs for the overall title. After the first round, the four fastest move into the Championship Shootout: another sudden death run with the added pressure of the title and a $50,000 on the line for the winner.

As it’s been for 10 of the last 11 years since the tournament format was introduced, the event is sanctioned by the WPRA, meaning the winner has a huge jump towards a qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).

Super Series II kicked off on Friday, March 2 with the marquee matchup of Kinsel versus Moore, or to be more specific, the sensational Sister versus the perfectionist Paige, the two most electric horses running in pro rodeo at the moment.

Kinsel struck first, winning the opening go round with a run of 14.92 seconds, the only sub-fifteen of the round. Not surprisingly, Moore was second at 15.12.

The pattern at RodeoHouston is bigger this year than in previous seasons and the fast time of the rodeo so far is Kelly Bruner’s 14.74 set during round three of Super Series I. Kinsel nearly beat that mark in round two of her set, running a 14.75 for a second straight round win.

Moore failed to earn a check as two-time World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi finished second in the go.

Kinsel was assured of her spot in the semi-finals but the other three positions in the next round were up in the air. Moore and Pozzi Tonozzi were tied up with $2,000 each with Tillar Murray third with $1,375 and Kellie Collier fourth with $1,000. Ari-Anna Flynn and Jackie Ganter had both pocketed some money, keeping them in the hunt.

On the final night, Moore and Paige took their turn in the spotlight, running a 14.77 as the first to run, a mark that no one could beat. Pozzi Tonozzi came close, stopping the clock at 14.78 aboard her mare Mona.

The two cowgirls punched their tickets to the semi-finals and Collier scooped up the final spot after finishing third in the round aboard Eagle. The $1,000 check she earned pushed her earnings to $2,000, $500 ahead of Flynn, who picked up another check on the final night.

Kinsel won the Super Series title with $6,000 with Moore right on her heels at $5,000. Pozzi Tonozzi earned $4,000.

“Our first Rodeo Houston experience has been good so far! Sis won the first two rounds and won our Super Series,” posted Kinsel to Facebook. “We’ll be back for the semi’s! Enjoyed seeing so many friends this weekend!”

The heavyweight battle will continue when the semi-finals begin on March 14-15.

Super Series III kicks off on Monday night, March 5. The headliner has to be Sherry Cervi, the second-winningest cowgirl in RodeoHouston history behind Charmayne James. Cervi is the only lady to win this rodeo on three different horses and she’s won the title four times.

Last year’s Reserve Houston Champ, Kathy Grimes, runs in this Super Series along with WNFR cowgirls Jana Bean, Stevi Hillman and Tiany Schuster. Former Ram National Circuit Finals Champ Carmel Wright is in the pack along with Prairie Circuit Champ Tracy Nowlin and Reserve Canadian Champ Jaime Hinton.

Along with Grimes, Bean and Hillman were both in the Championship Round here a year ago.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.

Results

Super Series II

Round One

1. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 14.92, $3,000

2. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 15.12, $2,000

3. Kellie Collier, Sierra Hall of Fame, 15.14, $1,000

4. Jackie Ganter, Cartels Fame/Tillar Murray, Royal Star Commander, 15.21, $375

Round Two

1. Kinsel, 14.75, $3,000

2. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 14.87, $2,000

3. Murray, 14.96, $1,000

4. Ari-Anna Flynn, Sunny Two Socks, 14.98, $750

Round Three

1. Moore, 14.77, $3,000

2. Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.78, $2,000

3. Collier, 14.89, $1,000

4. Flynn, Tobys Poco Misterio, 14.97, $750

Total Money Won

Kinsel, $6,000*

Moore, $5,000*

Pozzi Tonozzi, $4,000*

Collier, $2,000*

Flynn, $1,500

Murray, $1,375

Ganter, $375

*Advance to Semi-Finals

 

 


NFRBettis Bests the Field in Super Series I at RodeoHouston
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Houston, Texas—The year was 1966 and big changes marked the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). Already a professionally sanctioned rodeo for a dozen years, the HLSR made a big move from its home in Sam Houston Coliseum to the newest marvel of modern stadiums, the Astrodome.

More than 25,000 spectators witnessed the first performance in the Astrodome and were treated to another new addition to the show, a professional barrel racing sanctioned by the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA). GRA World Champion Ardith Bruce was crowned the first champion, earning a huge payout for the time, $798 for being the fastest cowgirl over five go rounds.

More than 50 years later, RodeoHouston, as it is now known, is still hosting a pro barrel race sanctioned by the WPRA, the GRA’s modern incarnation, and it is still one of the biggest events on the ladies’ annual schedule.

Success in Houston often propels a competitor straight to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), particularly since the rodeo changed to a tournament style format back in 2007. Competitors advance through rounds here hoping for a shot in the Championship Shootout on March 17 where the winner will earn $50,000.

Each of the 40 contestants here are divided into one of five Super Series. A rodeo unto itself, each Super Series is comprised of three rounds of competition. After the Super Series Championship Round (the third round), the top four money winners advance to the semi-finals to be held March 14-15.

Fast times are the key to advancement once the Super Series end with the four fastest from each semi-final moving on to the Super Series Championship on March 17. The remaining six are given one more shot during the Wild Card round on March 16 with the top two advancing.

The Super Series Championship is another sudden death round with the four fastest runners earning another shot at the big payout immediately after the Championship in the Championship Shootout round.

The fastest run in the Shootout earns the $50,000 as the RodeoHouston Champ.

The 2018 edition kicked off on February 27 with the first eight hopefuls looking for a big payday. The first round proved difficult on the field with several horses having trouble finding the cans inside the huge confines of NRG Stadium . . . the rodeo arena is the size of a football field.

One competitor who navigated the conditions well was Taci Bettis, last year’s Rookie of the Year who is competing in her first RodeoHouston.

Bettis is already ranked near the top of the standings after a hot start to 2018 dating back to the season’s beginning in October. Her week has been on fire as the Texas cowgirl pocketed $100,000 on Sunday at the unsanctioned RFD-TV’s The American.

With little time to celebrate the big win or rest on her laurels, Bettis took on RodeoHouston and walked away the winner of the first round of Super Series I with a run of 15.18 seconds. Bettis was on her reliable 10-year old gelding Smash for all the big wins.

Twenty-four hours later, the field seemed to have found its bearings and the times reflected that with a much faster go round on Wednesday night. Southeastern Circuit Champ Sabra O’Quinn was a study in controlled chaos as she collected the round win aboard her big brown gelding Chaos, just one night after the horse slid down to his hip on the second turn.

Bettis was right on her heels, running a sub-fifteen second time at 14.94 to O’Quinn’s 14.89.

Ericka Nelson, who hails from Florida like O’Quinn, picked up a second check in round two to land on the bubble at fourth with the final round looming on Thursday night, March 1.

Former Texas Circuit Champion Kelly Bruner has been living on the edge this winter, making the most of her spot into the big winter tournament rodeos after winning the WPRA World Finals last fall to earn her position. At San Antonio, Bruner shrugged off a first round no time and bounced back all the way to the Finals, winning more than $9,000.

Her start in Houston was ominously similar; though she did record a time, it was far off the leaders. She rebounded some in round two but pulled out the magic in the final round with a spot in the semi-finals on the line.

Bruner posted the fastest run of the Super Series at 14.74 to win the round and the resulting $3,000 check. It proved to be enough to move her on to the next round.

Meanwhile, the study in consistency, Bettis earned a third check, this one worth another $2,000 for second for her 14.77 second run.

Bettis finished the set with $7,000, easily advancing to the semi-finals as the Super Series Champ.

“This was like another dream come true! I always dreamt of getting a chance to run down this alley,” Bettis posted on social media after the final round. “I not only got the opportunity but I also won super series 1 - we are headed to the semis on the 15th! Feeling beyond blessed.”

O’Quinn’s $4,000 in earnings after a third place finish on the final night put her into second. Bruner’s round win landed her third while Nelson, who went three-for-three in the set, earned the final spot with $2,375, edging out Burger, a past champion here.

Super Series II begins March 2 and includes the top two cowgirls in the current WPRA World standings who have been battling throughout the winter stock show season: Amberleigh Moore and Hailey Kinsel. Carman Pozzobon runs in this set too, earning her spot by virtue of being the reigning Canadian Champion.

The field also includes Kellie Collier, who earned her spot in two ways as the champion of the 2017 All American Pro Rodeo Series in Waco last October and a 2017 Wrangler NFR qualifier. Other 2017 Wrangler NFR qualifiers in this group are Tillar Murray and two-time World Champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi. The field is rounded out by Ari-Anna Flynn who finished 19th in 2017 and two-time Wrangler NFR qualifier and former Rookie of the Year Jackie Ganter.

For more information on Rodeo Houston, visit them on-line at www.rodeohouston.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.

Results

Super Series I

Round One

1. Taci Bettis, Bogie is a Smash, 15.18, $3,000

2. Mary Burger, Streakin Bye Ta Fame, 15.49, $2,000

3. Kylie Weast, Hell on the Red, 15.57, $1,000

4. Ericka Nelson, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 15.60, $750

Round Two

1. Sabra O’Quinn, Alive with Chaos, 14.89, $3,000

2. Bettis, 14.94, $2,000

3. Nelson, 15.07, $875

4. Tammy Fischer, LK Sheza Hayday, 15.07, $875

Round Three

1. Kelly Bruner, 14.74, $3,000

2. Bettis, 14.77, $2,000

3. O’Quinn, 14.87, $1,000

4. Nelson, 15.10, $750

Total Money Won

Bettis, $7,000*

O’Quinn, $4,000*

Bruner, $3,000*

Nelson, $2,375*

Burger, $2,000

Weast, $1,000

Fischer, $875

*Advance to Semi-Finals

 

 

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