By Jolee Jordan
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.
Super Series II
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
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
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
Pozzi Tonozzi, $4,000*
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA