By Jolee Jordan
Fort Worth, Texas — College rodeo has long been touted as the springboard to the pro ranks. A pair of barrel racers are lending a huge amount of credibility to that notion here at the 122nd edition of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.
On top of the heap at the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo is Cotulla, Texas cowgirl Hailey Kinsel. Kinsel won the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) during a dream season in 2017 in which she also went to her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) and ran the two fastest times ever laid down inside the Thomas & Mack Arena.
During the Fort Worth rodeo, Kinsel won fourth in the opening go round against the 210 entries here. She came back in the progressive second go round during the Thursday night performance, the 25th of 29 during the long run of the Stock Show. Riding her freaky fast mare Sister, Kinsel stopped the clock at 16.29 seconds to roll out to a big lead in the average with her time of 32.86.
It was already well established that Loni Lester was a hand long before the Stock Show kicked off three weeks ago. The cowgirl from the south Texas community of Gonzales owns a pair of National Championships from the CNFR, earned in 2017 in both the all around and the breakaway roping.
Competing in the 23rd performance in Fort Worth, Lester showed that she can circle the barrel pattern every bit as fast as she can throw a breakaway loop. Lester rode her mare Champagne to the best time of the event so far, a smoking fast 16.27 second run.
Lester rolled into a share of second in the average, tying with fellow Texan Kellie Collier. Collier ran her mare Lolo in the same performance as Lester, stopping the clock in a time of 16.46 seconds. Both ladies are 33.09 on two runs.
Former Fort Worth Champion Sarah Rose McDonald is fourth so far after her run on Thursday night of 16.46 seconds. McDonald is on a new stick in 2018, a horse known as Dutch that helped Jackie Schau qualify for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2017.
Also competing in the 25th performance was Cayla Small, who is currently fifth in the average as the FWSSR rolls into its final four performances. Small piloted her horse Gator to a time of 16.58 seconds, staying consistent after a first round run of 16.61.
Jody McKay was on the schedule on Thursday night as well, part of an electrifying set of ladies and horses. McKay and her horse Hellion ran first and set the fast course with their time of 16.56 seconds. They are sixth to come back for a final run on Saturday night.
Californian Katie Pascoe was the best in the 22nd performance, the first of the progressive round. Pascoe and her tough gelding Naughty were 16.52 on their second trip through Will Rogers Memorial Center. They are currently sixth in the second go and ninth in the average.
Cambra Smith topped the 24th perf on Thursday afternoon aboard her gelding Hank. The 11 year old helped the cowgirl from Hico, Texas fill her permit during the WPRA World Finals in 2016, allowing her to get her card and enter rodeos like Fort Worth. Now, he’s helping her win performances. Smith posted a 16.58 to sit sixth in the average so far.
The progressive round ends on Saturday afternoon during the 28th performance of the FWSSR. It’s a short turn-around to the Championships that same night where the fastest 12 from the two-head average will battle for the title. Those short round qualifiers will also have a chance at a $5,000 bonus for being named the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Cowgirl.
The final 30 runners before then include the top three from the first round: Amberleigh Moore, Kylie Weast and Shelly Anzick. Moore and Weast brought a nearly two-tenth lead into the second round and have a great opportunity to advance to the final night. They will both compete on Saturday afternoon while Anzick takes her shot in the Friday matinee.
Also still yet to make a second run here are first round money winners Taci Bettis, the WPRA standings leader, Tracy Nowlin, Jodi Colton, reigning Canadian champ Carman Pozzobon and Sadye Simpson.
Current Results (In Progress)
1. Loni Lester, A Dash of Champagne, 16.27
2. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 16.29
3. Kellie Collier, Streakin Easy April/Sarah Rose McDonald, Holland By, 16.46
5. Jill Wilson, 16.51
6. Katie Pascoe, JR Naughty Jet, 16.52
7. Jody McKay, RL Rare and Lucky, 16.56
8. Cambra Smith, Honor Me Firewater/Cayla Small, Shameon U, 16.58
10. Nikki Hansen, Sky High Guy, 16.61
1. Kinsel, 32.86
2. Lester/Collier, 33.09
4. McDonald, 33.12
5. Small, 33.19
6. McKay, 33.34
7. Smith, 33.44
8. Jessi Fish, Guys Night In Vegas, 33.49
9. Ari-Anna Flynn, Tobys Poco Misterio & Sunny Two Socks, 33.50
10. Pascoe, 33.54
11. Hansen/Jane Melby, Perks Pizazz, 33.56
Courtesy of WPRA