By Jolee Jordan
Waco, Texas — On Tuesday afternoon, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) announced its annual list of the best horses in professional rodeo in conjunction with the PRCA and WPRA.
The headlines went to a roan mare from California known as Sister as the top vote getter from the nation’s best barrel racers in the pro ranks as Rafter W Minnie Reba, ridden by Nellie (Williams) Miller and owned by her dad Sam, was named the Horse of the Year.
But second on the list was the young upstart, the five year old gelding known as Sharpie who debuted at pro rodeos back in February and made an impressive romp through the summer run picking up big wins in Cheyenne, Caldwell and Belle Fourche. The lightning quick son of the great mare Mulberry Canyon Moon helped vault his rider Stevi Hillman to second in the WPRA World standings and her second qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
“Sharpie wins runner up horse of the year,” his owners Matt and Bendi Dunn took to Facebook right after the announcement. “This big ol Gray guy is so special!”
“Thank you Stevi Hillman and Ty Hillman for this amazing year, we will be forever grateful,” they continued. “So many people have been a part of Sharpie’s life and they each played key roles to his success: Paul Cain, Jolene Montgomery, Troy Crumrine. And Stevi your such a talented young lady; the bond you and Sharpie have is so special!”
The dynamic duo took no time resting on their laurels and the 2018 campaign began for them in Waco, Texas at the 2017 All American ProRodeo Series Finals. The Series is made up of all the smaller rodeos on the pro rodeo schedule and only those contestants who have competed in at least 30 of the rodeos on the schedule are eligible to compete.
The top 30 money winners earn a spot in one of three brackets in Waco where the event is held in conjunction with the Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo. Each bracket competes in a pair of sudden death go rounds with the three high money winners after round two advancing on to the Semi-Finals on Saturday, October 14.
The final perf here on Saturday is a two-run sprint for the title and every dollar won counts for the 2018 season. After the Semi-Finals run, the four fastest move on to the next round where the slate is wiped clean for another run. The winner of that round is crowned the champ and takes home the lion’s share of the purse at $7,500.
Hillman claimed the championship here a year ago and is the only former champion of the All American ProRodeo Series Finals in the field this season. Last year, she claimed the win aboard the palomino mare Martini, another five year old phenom.
In 2017, Hillman rode Sharpie and the pair wasted no time in getting their start to the 2018 Wrangler NFR. They won the opening round in 15.86 seconds.
“So blessed to be starting off the 2018 season pretty good!” Hillman posted to her own Facebook account. “Sharpie and I won the round tonight in our first go at the All American finals in Waco, TX.”
Just 24 hours later, the pair was back in action for the second round. The grey displayed his athleticism and quickness in the run while Hillman showed off her own ability to stick in the saddle on a wild ride that was good enough for first again.
“Sharpie just never ceases to amaze me,” she posted online. “We get the go round win again tonight! I wanted to trick ride as a child… be careful what you wish for! I feel that’s what I do 90% of the time.”
“We’ll be back for the finals Saturday!”
With the sweep, Hillman won $5,557 in two runs and easily moved on to the next round. She is the high money barrel racer here thus far.
Momentum from the just-finished 2017 season continued to be a factor in Waco as first time WNFR qualifier Tillar Murray and Ari-Anna Flynn, who finished 20th in the WPRA World standings for 2017, rounded out the qualifiers from Bracket B to the Semi-Finals. Each cowgirl finished second to Hillman in one round of the preliminary competition, earning $2,084.
Only one bracket remains before the Semi-Finals. Competing in the final group is the record breaking World leader Tiany Schuster, who not surprisingly also leads the season standings in the All American ProRodeo series. Challenging Schuster are WNFR qualifiers Michele McLeod, Jana Bean, Taylor Jacob, Taci Bettis, Tammy Fischer, and Nikki Hansen, who just claimed the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo championship last weekend. Also in the mix is former Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo Champion Carmel Wright.
For more information on the All American ProRodeo Series, visit www.prorodeo.com/prorodeo/tours-circuits/all-american-prorodeo-series or www.hotfair.com. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Bracket B Results
1. Stevi Hillman, MCM ImASharpGuy, 15.86, $2,779
2. Ari-Anna Flynn, 15.97, $2,084
3. Nicole Laurence, Bullys Little Dash, 16.06, $1,389
4. Lacinda Rose, RR Meradas Real Deal, 16.13, $695
1. Hillman, 15.78, $2,779
2. Tillar Murray, Dirty Dan Stinson, 15.97, $2,084
3. Jaime Hinton, OJS Tex Wood, 16.03, $1,042
4. Rose, 16.03, $1,042
Total Money Won
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA