By Jolee Jordan
San Antonio, Texas — There’s a shootout going on in professional rodeo barrel racing this winter and its raging across Texas. Oregon cowgirl Amberleigh Moore and Texan Hailey Kinsel have duked it out across three major winter stock shows already, the most recent showdown happening February 24 during the Finals at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
The San Antonio Rodeo has been a force in professional rodeo for half a century. The rodeo first hosted a WPRA (Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) at the time) barrel race in 1962, adding a whopping $1,500 to make it one of the premier stops for professional barrel racers.
Fifty-six years later, the ladies of the WPRA are battling for a share of the $1.7 million total purse offered. Fifty cowgirls began the journey to a San Antonio title two weeks ago, navigating their way through five rounds of preliminary action of the tournament style rodeo. The pressure mounts with each run as ladies scrap for every dollar, the key to advancing to the next round.
Before the big finale could begin, the field had to be set with the final five cowgirls to advance from the second semi-finals. The semi-finals are two runs and each round pays nearly $4,500; as with bracket competition, advancement is based upon total money won.
Ivy Conrado led the way into the semi-finals as the high money winner. The Colorado cowgirl clearly didn’t need the leg up that position gave her as she and the super smooth J-Lo won the opening round of semi-finals 2 on Thursday night. Her time of 14.00 was a tenth better than reigning San Antonio champion Moore.
Moore’s earnings bumped her to a solid position, third behind Conrado and Tillar Murray with one run to go. The final two spots were in the hands of Shelby Janssen and Sammi Bessert but the field was stacked tightly with just $3,269 separating Janssen in fourth from Taylor Langdon in tenth.
Two cowgirls whose time in San Antonio has resembled a roller coaster ride are Lisa Lockhart and Taylor Langdon. Lockhart qualified to the semi-finals after placing in two rounds of bracket competition but taking a no time in the third round. Langdon failed to place for two rounds of bracket competition before turning in a clutch performance in round three to advance to the semi-finals.
In the first night of semi-finals action, Langdon took costly barrel penalties while Lockhart, riding the super quick Rosa, held up to miss a penalty on the third can and ended up running too long for a check.
Both cowgirls needed a big performance in round two to make their way to the Finals and they got it.
Rosa and Lockhart ironed out the kinks in a big way, winning the go round with a 13.78 second run that was the third fastest of the rodeo; Langdon and her Louie broke fourteen seconds for the first time of the rodeo to win second.
Conrado finished as the high money winner with more than $10,000 so far while Moore became the second former San Antonio champion to make her way to the Finals, joining Kelly Bruner. Lockhart slid into third with Murray fourth and Langdon fifth, just $74 ahead of Janssen for the final slot into the Finals.
With the positions all assigned—and every preliminary bracket represented—the Finals got underway on Saturday night with the rodeo’s largest check, more than $15,000, on the line for the round winner. As it was throughout the rodeo, the most money won was key to being named the Champion.
Positions in the finals are drawn based on the competitor’s qualifying spot and the reigning champ, Moore drew first gunner. Moore and her mare Paige owned this pen a year ago, winning every go round en route to the title. In 2018, the pair advanced to the Finals without winning a single round, a fact they seemed determined to change as they charged the alley on the final night.
When the clocked stopped, Moore stood first at 13.83 seconds, tossing the gauntlet for the nine to follow to beat.
Carley Richardson came next but a little stumbled on the first turn cost her too much on the clock as she and Money finished at 14.31.
Idaho cowgirl Jessie Telford continued her remarkable San Antonio comeback as the third to run; Telford tipped barrels in her first two bracket rounds but roared back to place on the next three runs to punch her Finals ticket. With a blistering run on Saturday aboard Cool Whip, she ran into second place with a time of 13.88 seconds.
Lockhart was next, staying aboard the super catty Rosa. Unfortunately, the mare cut into the second too hard, knocking the barrel away and turning back without going around it, causing the pair to take a no time on the run.
Then came the Cotulla, Texas cowgirl who has built a well-deserved fan base in the last year as shown by the roar from the crowd at her introduction.
Kinsel’s winter showdown with Moore began back in Fort Worth where she finished second in the average to Moore by just one one-hundredth of a second. It continued last week in San Angelo where Moore again took the top spot while Kinsel was third.
But Kinsel had already set the arena record here in San Antonio a few nights back and her palomino mare Sister had won four of five rounds thus far.
As Sister hustled into the arena, she took the first turn a bit wide—but fans knew the mare could still cut off the clock. As the run ended, the time showed just how tough the WPRA barrel race can be . . . 13.85 seconds put her just behind Moore in the round.
Langdon followed but a barrel penalty dashed her hopes. Kelly Bruner ran next, the 2000 San Antonio Champ. Her big gelding Suzy ran out to 14 seconds flat, fourth at the time.
Tiany Schuster took her shot next and the field knew the lead was not safe for Moore. Schuster has already posted three times in the thirteens and Show Mance delivered again on Saturday night, this time going in at 13.90 seconds, moving her to fourth.
Next came Conrado, making her third consecutive appearance in the Final round here in the Alamo City. Riding the palomino mare J-Lo this time around, Conrado continued her consistency with a run of 13.98 seconds.
The round wrapped up with Tillar Murray and Commander. But the pair had a bit of trouble finding their footing around the first, putting them too long for the money at 14.29 seconds.
That left Moore with her first round win of the 2018 edition of the San Antonio rodeo but with Kinsel right behind her, the title went to the Texan by just over $1,466. The final round lived up to its billing—where only seven one-hundredths of a second separated the top four money winners.
As the Champions, Kinsel and Sister were the models of efficiency, the only cowgirls to run in the thirteens on all six runs. Her fastest time was the new arena record of 13.60 seconds and her slowest, a 13.90 for a round win in bracket competition.
“It’s been awesome,” Kinsel told the Wrangler Network immediately after the win. “I didn’t expect to do this well here, my first time here, but my horse liked it.”
“She kinda likes it anywhere so I’m proud of her.”
Kinsel took home one of the best prize lines in pro rodeo including the champion’s buckle and a $5,000 gas card. Sister was named the Animal Athlete for the barrel racing as well, worth an additional $1,500. With more than $58,000 won already this season, Kinsel will land second when the new WPRA World standings are released on Monday.
Moore earned better than $23,000 in San Antonio to continue her torrid trek through Texas. She has now won more than $60,000 in just six rodeos, holding her spot at the top of the heap in the standings.
Telford finished third with $15,498 after winning $7,500 in the final round, while Conrado banked more than $10,000 in fourth.
For more information on the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.sarodeo.com.
1. Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 14.00, $4,459
2. Amber Moore, CP Dark Moon, 14.10, $3,344
3. Tillar Murray, Royal Star Commander, 14.15, $2,230
4. Jana Bean, Its Complicated, 14.16, $1,115
1. Lisa Lockhart, Rosas Cantina CC, 13.78, $4,459
2. Taylor Langdon, Dashin Louie, 13.94, $3,344
3. Moore/Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Steele Magnolias, 14.02, $1,673
Total Money Won (Inc. Semi-Finals)
Shelby Janssen, $5,054
Sammi Bessert, $4,162
Pozzi Tonozzi, $3,753
Kelly Tovar, $2,378
*Advance to Finals
1. Moore, 13.83, $15,092
2. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 13.85, $11,319
3. Jessie Telford. Famous Cool Whip, 13.88, $7,546
4. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 13.90, $3,773
5. Conrado, 13.98
6. Kelly Bruner, Suzytreisses, 14.00
7. Murray, 14.29
8. Carley Richardson, Flit Money, 14.31
9. Langdon, 21.10
10. Lockhart, NT
Total Money Won
Courtesy of WPRA