By Jolee Jordan
Calgary, Alberta Canada — There is no denying that tournament style rodeos like the Calgary Stampede have a natural way of just getting more and more exciting the closer they come to the finale. A lot of that is just that the competition is narrowing down and the big money is about to be given away.
But at this Stampede, it’s been more about the caliber of competition as the final spots into Showdown Sunday are being divvied up. After a solid and exciting Pool A, Pool B brought all the thrills and spills a rodeo fan could ever ask from an event, from mud to sunshine, and finally to arena records.
Half of the 20 competitors are done with their preliminary action as each cowgirl is set into one of two pools. Each pool gets four full rounds of sudden death competition to try to earn as much round money as possible. The four high money winners advance automatically to Showdown Sunday on July 16 while the remaining six get a second chance with Wild Card Saturday. On Saturday, the 12 contestants get one more run with the two fastest also punching a ticket to Showdown Sunday.
The sunny skies that had prevailed for the opening pool of the 2017 Stampede disappeared on Monday night, replaced with heavy rains to set up Pool B’s opening round as one for the mudders.
The difficult conditions set up well for the veterans, like the only two former champions in the field this year, Lisa Lockhart and Sherry Cervi, competing here in Calgary in the mud.
Cervi was the first to break eighteen seconds after pulling her two-time WPRA World Champion mare Stingray out of the barn. The gritty palomino had spent more time chasing steers with Cervi’s husband Cory Petska than turning barrels lately but proved the great ones never forget, tracking around Stampede Park in 17.84 seconds.
“Stingray took a break from team roping to come north with me,” Cervi noted on her Facebook page, including the hastag #funinthemud. “I am forever grateful for every run I get to make on her.”
Cervi’s lead held until the second to last cowgirl to race which happened to be Lockhart. Lockhart’s own yellow steed, the fabulous Louie, just returned to competition in the last month following surgery last winter. Louie has proven his mettle in Calgary, winning the title in 2015 and coming within a tipped can in last year’s Showdown of a repeat.
Louie, like Stingray, showed their heart again in the mud with capable jockeying. Lockhart stopped the clock at 17.68 seconds to claim the round win.
“It still feels a little rusty, like our timings not there,” Lockhart told the Stampede media crew. “Honestly, it didn’t feel that good today, so I’m absolutely surprised and thrilled that we clocked what we did. I’ll take it!”
Both Lockhart and Cervi find themselves in foreign territory this Stampede—not Canada but outside the top fifteen in the WPRA World standings. Lockhart is ranked 26th while Cervi is 30th. But with four WPRA World titles, 29 WNFR appearances and nearly $5 million in WPRA earnings between them, fans should expect to see the veterans take advantage of the big paydays offered in Calgary to jump start their WNFR hopes just like they did on Day Five.
The draw was reversed for day two of Pool B and the results at the top ended up reversed as well. Unlike Pool A when the round wins kept going to the ladies running on top of the ground, the bottom seemed a bit luckier in rounds one and two of Pool B.
Making just her second run aboard Stingray since last fall, Cervi ran third from the bottom but clocked in at 17.51 seconds to edge past Lockhart who had led since the second runner with her 17.54.
After trading spots, the veterans have each earned $10,000 in two runs with Amberleigh Moore right behind them with a pair of third place finishes.
The theme for Pool B might just be “The Comeback Kids.” With Cervi and Lockhart staging their comebacks in the first two rounds, it was three other cowgirls who reversed their luck on the third day of their first Stampedes.
It’s hard to image that anyone could lump WPRA World leader Tiany Schuster into any group and call it a “comeback.” The cowgirl is on the verge of breaking the WPRA regular season earnings record and has led the standings since late October.
However, Schuster’s first Stampede got off to a rough start. Her horse, Show Mance, didn’t seem to like the mud and water splashing him in round one, posting a time in the 19’s instead of the 17’s. The duo recovered, taking more than a second off that time in round two but it was on Thursday that they showed exactly why the rest of the WPRA world has been chasing them all year.
Facing down a near arena record run set by Stevi Hillman and her locomotive who is called Truck and running last in the draw, Schuster and Show Mance ate up the ground around Stampede Park, besting Hillman by just one one-hundredth of a second.
“I didn’t even know the time, but when I heard everybody go ‘wow’ and the crowd go ‘ooh and ah’, you just knew it was going to be exciting,” Schuster told the Stampede blogger.
“Stevi, she weighs like fifty pounds soaking wet after a cheeseburger with mayo, so I didn’t think there was any way I could outrun Stevi. Her horse is so fast and phenomenal.”
“And I weigh a lot more than Stevi,” Schuster continued with a laugh. “I figured I was running for second place.”
Hillman settled for second but it was a great bounce back for her after tipping a barrel in round two. Meanwhile, Kathy Grimes returned from getting bounced completely off when her mare Ruby tripped at the first barrel in round two to win third in the round.
The three cowgirls posted the three fastest times of the Stampede thus far in a duel under the sun. The veterans kept pace with Cervi finishing fourth and Lockhart fifth.
Cervi’s money total has her in the lead at $12,500 with Lockhart just $1,000 behind. The brawl on Friday will be for the final two spots as Moore has earned $6,500 despite a barrel penalty on day seven, Schuster sits at $6,250 and Hillman has $6,000. Canadian champ Csabay and Grimes are both close as well.
By the final day of preliminary action on Friday, it looked like WPRA World leader Tiany Schuster had just gotten warmed up. Running second on the ground on the final day of Pool B, Schuster and Show Mance simply amazed. The pair galloped their way to a new Stampede record, thanks to amazing ground from the crew and one incredibly fast pony under expert jockeying.
Schuster’s 16.99 bested the old arena record held by Tammy Fischer by four one hundredths of a second.
The dog fight continued in the fourth round with Hillman putting up 17.18 on the bottom of the ground to clinch her spot on Sunday. Lockhart and Louie stayed solid in third while Moore and Paige did their best with a fourth place finish.
Lockhart ended as the pool winner with $15,000 won followed by Cervi, who elected to give Stingray a day off on Friday with her Showdown spot secure with $12,500 won.
Schuster shot to third with $11,750 as she inches towards the season earnings record. Hillman held off Moore for the fourth and final qualifying spot into the finals.
The stage is now almost set for the final showdown, just two spots still open for the richest single day on the WPRA calendar. On Showdown Sunday, the ten competitors will make one run in the Semi-Finals with the four fastest times moving into the Showdown Round.
Happening later on Sunday, the Showdown Round is one more sudden death, nothing carries forward, doesn’t matter what happened last time, run down the alley with the winner getting $100,000 to stuff inside their Wrangler jeans. Half of that counts towards the WPRA World standings.
Pool B Results
1. Lisa Lockhart, An Oakie with Cash, 17.68, $5,500
2. Sherry Cervi, MP Meter My Hay, 17.84, $4,500
3. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 18.05, $3,000
4. Nancy Csabay, Little Miss Wicked, 18.05, $3,000
5. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 18.07, $1,500
1. Cervi, 17.51, $5,500
2. Lockhart, 17.54, $4,500
3. Moore, 17.56, $3,500
4. Cayla Small, Perks Pazazz, 17.68, $2,500
5. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 17.89, $750
6. Csabay, 17.89, $750
1. Schuster, 17.06, $5,500
2. Hillman, 17.07, $4,500
3. Kathy Grimes, KG Blazin Nine Oh, 17.27, $3,500
4. Cervi, 17.37, $2,500
5. Lockhart, 17.38, $1,500
1. Schuster, 16.99, $5,500
2. Hillman, 17.18, $4,500
3. Lockhart, 17.24, $3,500
4. Moore, 17.37, $2,500
5. Taylor Langdon, BB French Girl, 17.41, $1,500
Total Money Winners
*Advance to Showdown Sunday
Wild Card Saturday Competitors
Kassie Mowry, $10,000
Pam Capper, $4,000
Jackie Ganter, $1,500
Courtesy of WPRA