By Jolee Jordan
Waco, Texas — Very few professional rodeo athletes get to take the summer off. With so many lucrative rodeos on the schedule, the three months from Memorial Day to Labor Day are pretty much “don’t miss opportunities” for competitors hoping for a position in December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
But then again, most rodeo athletes don’t have a second job that is equally important to their rodeoing career the way that High Point Performance Horses’ Slick by Design does.
With obligations in the breeding barn as Equi-Stat’s all time money winning stallion, Slick and his jockey Michele McLeod must maximize their rodeo runs; in fact, the pair skipped the summer season all together in 2016.
The black stallion by Designer Red out of Dreams of Blue certainly nailed the efficiency quotient in the rodeos he did run in this season. Slick carried McLeod to huge wins in the winter and spring at San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Guymon and nailed the lid on a fourth trip to Las Vegas with September wins in Amarillo and Pasadena.
Ranked ninth in the 2016 WPRA World standings, McLeod and Slick began work on the 2017 season during Bracket A of the All American Pro Rodeo Series Finals in Waco, Texas on October 8-9.
The All American Pro Rodeo Series consists of rodeos with total purse money of less than $30,000 and competitors earn points at each rodeo equal to their winnings along with a 50 point bonus for each rodeo in which they enter and compete. At the end of the season, the top 30 contestants in the All American standings who have competed in at least 30 All American rodeos, qualify for the Finals which are hosted annually by the Heart O’ Texas Fair.
Once in Waco, the 30 contestants are divided into three brackets of 10 contestants and each bracket runs through two preliminary go rounds. The top three money winners at the conclusion of each bracket advance to the semi-finals to be held on October 15.
The final Saturday night consists of two rounds: the semi-finals and finals. The nine semi-finalists made one run with the four fastest earning a spot into the finals. After a short break, the finalists make one more run for the championship and the $7,500 payday. All rounds are sudden death with no averages paid.
Always a financial boon to the contestants who fare well here, the All American has been made even more important this season as all money earned in Waco counts towards the 2017 WPRA World standings.
With a shot to get a great jump start on the new year, McLeod and Slick wasted no time once again, winning the opening round of Bracket A on October 8 with a smooth run of 15.98 seconds. The pair ran first and their lead was never challenged.
“Slick is a true athlete,” McLeod posted on her Facebook following the conclusion of the 2016 regular season on September 30. “He absolutely loves to run barrels and to rodeo.”
Georgia cowgirl Taylor Carver took second on her gelding Wiz while fellow WNFR cowgirl Stevi Hillman piloted her palomino mare Martini to third. Sabra O’Quinn and Nosey rounded out the first round money winners.
Positions were reversed for the second round on Sunday night, October 9 with O’Quinn running first this time around and the former Southeastern Circuit champ took full advantage, posting the fastest run of the rodeo so far at 15.91 seconds.
Hillman broke sixteen seconds as well to finish second while McLeod and Slick continued their consistent ways, taking third from the last spot on the ground. Another Taylor grabbed up the fourth check this time around, Texas cowgirl Taylor Homuth.
With the two runs combined, McLeod’s earnings of $4,167 were the best of the set, allowing her to move on to the semi-finals. She will be joined by Hillman and O’Quinn who had identical earnings of $3,473.
The All American Finals takes a night off on Monday with Bracket B set to go on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, October 11-12. Among the field is a pair of past All American champions, 2012 WPRA World Champion Mary Walker and two-time WNFR qualifier Sarah Rose McDonald. Mary Burger will also compete in Bracket B; Burger set a regular season earnings record for 2016 and leads the way into this year’s WNFR. She is also the 2006 WPRA World Champion.
Set A Results
1. Michele McLeod, Slick by Design, 15.98, $2778
2. Taylor Carver, DR Krogs Copy Boy, 16.25, $2084
3. Stevi Hillman, Morning Traffic, 16.26, $1389
4. Sabra O’Quinn, Bring It On Guys, 16.35, $695
1. O’Quinn, 15.91, $2778
2. Hillman, 15.99, $2084
3. McLeod, 16.08, $1389
4. Taylor Homuth, Guys Whiskey Whitch, 16.14, $695
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA