By Jolee Jordan
Fort Worth, Texas — The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (FWSSR) is a huge tradition, an event 121 years old and still running. The WPRA has a long history with the rodeo, although there has only been a WPRA sanctioned barrel race as part of the regular rodeo since the early 2000’s, but the Stock Show once hosted the WPRA’s Finals back in the days before the barrel race was held at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Today, the FWSSR is one of the most lucrative stops for WPRA barrel racers having the largest limits of the major winter rodeos, allowing 210 competitors a chance at the $40,000 committee added purse. The rodeo is also the longest on pro rodeo’s schedule with 29 performances.
Each cowgirl competes once and the field is pared down to the fastest 70 from round one for the progressive round held on the final four days of the rodeo. From there, the top 12 on two runs advance to the Championship Round held on Saturday night, February 5.
In addition to a big share of the prize money, short round qualifiers will have the opportunity to compete for the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Award, a $5,000 bonus to the cowgirl who is chosen. Given only at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and the FWSSR, the award is sponsored by the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the WPRA.
Since 1944 the FWSSR has been held inside the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the competition for the barrel racers has always been tough. In fact, since 2004 only one cowgirl has ever won the title here twice, Kelly Maben, but even she was unable to repeat in back-to-back seasons. That trend will continue in 2017 as last year’s champion, Ivy Conrado tipped a barrel on her opening round run on Monday night during the seventh performance.
Performances began on Inauguration Day, Friday, January 20, kicking off a furious weekend of rodeo with six perfs.
Washington cowgirl Kathy Grimes lit up the Saturday morning performance as the final barrel racer to compete in the 2017 Stock Show’s first 10 AM perf. Grimes and her gritty black mare Izzy posted the rodeo’s first sub-seventeen run, taking the round lead at 16.84 seconds.
Grimes is fresh off her second Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo championship and picked up some money in Denver last week to start her 2017 campaign.
Her lead was short-lived, as it turned out, when last minute replacement Sadye Simpson of nearby Millsap, Texas galloped to the lead in the afternoon performance also on Saturday. Simpson got the call to come run in the place of another competitor who had turned out and she and her mare Disco made the most of the opportunity.
The little grey mare blew through the pattern inside Will Rogers arena, stopping the clock at 16.82 seconds.
“She’s a diva!” Simpson said of the eight year old mare.
Idaho cowgirl Darby Fox took top honors in the fourth performance on Saturday night. Riding Easy French Alibi, Fox was able to beat seventeen seconds as well, posting a 16.90 that is in the top five so far.
After a relatively quiet Sunday afternoon performance, Abby Penson and her streaking bay Pearl Snappin raced to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday night, tying Simpson at 16.82 seconds. The winner of RodeoAustin in 2016, Penson finished inside the top 50 of the WPRA World standings a year ago and is hoping to get a big start on the new year here at the Stock Show.
Penson and Simpson held on through Monday’s performance and the defending champ but dropped to second as Wrangler NFR cowgirl Michele McLeod took her turn during Stock Show Goes Pink night on Tuesday night, January 24.
For McLeod is was a horse of a different color but the same result. The Whitesboro, Texas cowgirl won the first round here a year ago aboard her outstanding roan mare Disco but in 2017 she was riding Toby who is registered Apt to Be Special. Her time of 16.75 seconds scampered to the round lead.
The FWSSR continues with one-a-day performances until Thursday when things kick into overdrive. On tap to compete during the week are past champion Taylor Jacob as well as WNFR cowgirls Cassidy Kruse and Pam Capper along with current WPRA World number two ranked barrel racer Jordan Moore.
For more information on the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, please visit them on-line at www.fwssr.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates throughout the rodeo as well as the WPRA’s Facebook page.
1st Go Results (through 8 performances)
1. Michele McLeod, Apt to Be Special, 16.75
2. tie Sadye Simpson, DHR Disco Fire, 16.82
3. tie Abby Penson, Pearl Snappin, 16.82
4. Kathy Grimes, KG Justiceweexpected, 16.84
5. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 16.90
6. Liz Herrin, Bogies Lil Mikey, 16.93
7. Davie King, 16.96
8. Becki Mask, Little Power Proof, 17.02
9. Jaime Barrow, 17.04
10. Jodee Miller, 17.05
Courtesy of WPRA