by Bob Stephens
TORRINGTON, Wyo. – Troy Tillard feels right at home at the Goshen County Fairgrounds, home of the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping. He was certainly comfortable during Friday’s opening performance of the two-day event while placing in three of four rounds to grab a big lead in the average.
“It’s been good to me here,” said Tillard, who represents the Mountain States Circuit. “It’s close to home.”
The Tillard family lives near Douglas, Wyo., about 100 miles from Torrington, site of the NCFSR since its inception in 2010. The Tillards own ranches in excess of 100,000 acres.
His grandfather, Bud, and his mom, Debbie, watched him place third in Rounds 1 and 2, and fourth in the Round 3. His wife, Heidi, and sons, Ryder, 10, and Talon, 6, were also on hand to witness his success. His father, Tim, was back at the ranch.
“He was shearing sheep,” Troy Tillard said. He said the family owns about 10,000 sheep.
He didn’t feel a bit guilty about competing, though.
“You can’t miss a roping like this,” he said.
His cousin, Casey Tillard, placed third in Round 3.
“Casey’s my cousin, but we’re like brothers,” he said. “We practice together a lot and we work hard at it.”
A lot of work remains to determine the champion at the 2016 NCFSR. Saturday’s final performance will feature Rounds 5 and 6, with the top eight contestants moving into a semifinals round. The top four from the semifinals will advance to the four-man final, with the fastest time from that round being declared the champion.
Tillard’s time of 49.4 seconds on four head is well ahead of the Columbia River Circuit’s Howdy McGinn (62.1 seconds on four head). Jess Tierney (72.4 seconds) of the Badlands Circuit and Vin Fisher Jr. (73.1) of the Texas Circuit are the only other contestants to tie four steers. Sixteen cowboys have tied three steers, with Scott Snedecor (36.1 seconds) of the Texas Circuit and Brent Lewis (36.5) of the Turquoise Circuit leading that pack.
“I’ve been around this deal long enough to know this can change in a hurry,” Tillard said. “I just want to focus on one steer at a time and try to make the top eight.”
Tillard earned $1,975 for the day’s work, the most of any of the 35 contestants.
“I had a good day, and a guy is happy with that,” he said. “But there’s a long way to go.”
Round winners earned $1,580. Chance Kelton of the Turquoise Circuit won Round 1 in 10.3 seconds. Snedecor took Round 2 in 10.5 seconds. Rocky Patterson of the Prairie Circuit won Round 3 in 10.4 and Travis Mills of the Mountain States Circuit won Round 4 with the day’s fastest time of 9.4 seconds.
Money won at this event will begin to count toward the world standings next year. Tillard sits 10th in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings.
“I had a good winter and I’ve got some money won,” Tillard said, “so I’m going to go a lot and take advantage of this horse.”
His horse, Rowdy, was the top horse at this event last year and was voted the 2015 AQHA Steer Roping Horse of the Year. Tillard has qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping the last two years, and also back in 2004. It’s no coincidence that he bought Rowdy a little more than three years ago.
“He’s the best I’ve ever had – hands down,” Tillard said. “He really makes it easy for me; all I have to do is back in and rope. Our timing is good and we know each other inside and out. It didn’t take long for that to happen. I knew he was something special the first time I ran a steer on him.”
Tillard made the four-man final round last year, and in 2013. He’d like to do that again, then take his best shot at winning the championship.
Previous winners of this event were Ralph Williams (Prairie Circuit, 2010), Trent Mills (Mountain States Circuit, 2011), Patterson (Prairie Circuit, 2012), J.P. Wickett (Prairie Circuit, 2013), Roger Branch (Prairie Circuit, 2014) and Jason Evans (Texas Circuit, 2015).
Tillard refused to think about adding his name to that list.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “I’m just proud to be part of it.”
Read more about the NCFSR in the May 20 ProRodeo Sports News.
Courtesy of PRCA