By Jolee Jordan
Houston, Texas — For the last decade, Kassie Mowry has spent the first of December in Oklahoma City, competing at the massive Barrel Futurities of America (BFA) World Championships, a competition designed for horses in their first years of competition.
If her winter continues on its current path, however, the Dublin, Texas cowgirl may find herself with a big decision when she makes those December travel plans this year.
After an appearance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in 2005 when she was training for the Jud Little Ranch, Mowry embarked on her own as a trainer. The cowgirl who began her equestrian career riding dressage soon proved herself a phenomenal barrel racing trainer, producing quality futurity horses year in and out. Finding the challenge of competing with four-year olds more appealing than hitting the road to chase down rodeos, Mowry quickly climbed to the top, often finishing the year as one of the top earning trainers on the road.
Part of her regimen includes slowly introducing her horses to rodeo competition and the cowgirl often enters a few rodeos a year for that purpose. In fact, she did just that when she entered the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo in February as a way to step up her competitive level with one of her top four year olds.
After placing in the long round, Mowry turned to a more seasoned competitor for the performance rounds in San Angelo: Junior, who is registered Firewatermakemehappy, has been with Mowry since his own futurity days and has been in the top 20 in Oklahoma City the last three years, finishing 17th as a futurity horse and then sixth and third as a derby horse in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Junior is a proven winner but is just getting his start in professional rodeo. After dominating the second two rounds of San Angelo to win the title, Mowry and Junior earned a spot at RodeoHouston, one of the WPRA’s most lucrative stops but also one of the toughest in which to earn a qualifying spot.
Since showing up at NRG Stadium, Mowry has quickly proven herself one to beat here.
RodeoHouston is a tournament style rodeo where each of the original 40 competitors get three runs in a Super Series to earn as much as possible toward advancing to the Semi-Finals. Mowry and Junior easily advanced from their Super Series after winning two rounds, and earned more than any other barrel racer.
Once into the Semi-Finals, the pressure is immense as advancement becomes totally dependent upon running the fastest times each night in a sudden death battle through three rounds to the title. The four fastest from each Semi-Finals move on to the Championships and are joined by two from the Wild Card Round, which is held Friday night and comprised of the Semi-Finalists who did not move on during their first round.
While Mowry was set to compete in the second semi-finals, the first night of semi-finals action began on Wednesday, March 22.
With the intensity born of knowing that a $50,000 prize awaits the winner on Saturday night during the Shootout Round, competition was fierce. It began with fifth ranked Taylor Langdon who posted a quick 14.11 to take the lead.
Two-time WNFR qualifier Sydni Blanchard tied things up with her horse, Famous Heartbreaker. Blanchard ran in the final Super Series, winning the final two rounds to make it three rounds in a row on top.
Langdon has earned $6,500 at RodeoHouston so far, while Blanchard has pocketed $8,500.
Kelly Tovar and Nellie Miller kept things tight, stopping the clock at 14.13 and 14.18 respectively to also ensure their positions in Saturday’s finals. Tovar is riding her five year old Bakken while Miller is aboard Sister.
Thursday night was Mowry’s turn to shine and she wasted no time putting the pressure on the field. Running second on the ground, she and Junior raced through the pattern in 14.01 seconds, the second fastest time of the rodeo thus far.
No one would even put pressure on her lead with Stevi Hillman and Truck coming closest with a smooth run of 14.24 seconds.
Rounding out the field was a pair of finalists from the 2016 edition of RodeoHouston, Carley Richardson and Brenda Mays. Richardson rode her great gelding Radio to a time of 14.25 seconds while Mays piloted Dora to a 14.39.
Mowry has now earned $10,000 in Houston with a chance at another $50,000 on Saturday night. Already ranked inside the top twenty with more than $16,000 won, Mowry has a great shot to put herself in contention for another trip to Las Vegas for the WNFR. And seriously complicate her December schedule.
The Championship Round will be set following Friday night’s Wild Card Round. The Championship will be a two-run pressure cooker for the competitors with the 10 finalists making one run before the field is narrowed down to the four fastest for the Shootout Round. Held later the same performance, the Shootout is sudden death, one run for $50,000.
Name, Horse, Time, SF Earnings, Total Earnings
1. tie Sydni Blanchard, Famous Heartbreaker, 14.11, $2,500, $8,500
2. tie Taylor Langdon, Cashin on the Bayou, 14.11, $2,500, $6,500
3. Kelly Tovar, A Dash ta Glamour, 14.13, $1,000, $6,000
4. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 14.18, $750, $ 5,750
Name, Horse, Time, SF Earnings, Total Earnings
1. Kassie Mowry, Firewatermakemehappy, 14.01, $3,000, $10,000
2. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 14.24, $2,000, $ 8,000
3. Carley Richardson, Doda Flit, 14.25, $1,000, $4,750
4. Brenda Mays, Judge My Fame, 14.39, $750, $ 3,750
Wild Card Round, Friday, March 24
Name, Money Won, Super Series
Sami Bessert, $6,000, SSI
Ivy Conrado, $6,000, SSIV
Kathy Grimes, $6,000, SSI
Jana Bean, $3,750, SSIII
Pam Capper, $3,000, SSIII
Sherry Cervi, $3,000, SSIV
Cassidy Kruse, $3,000, SSII
Tiany Schuster, $3,000, SSII
Britta Thiel, $3,000, SSII
Nancy Csabay, $2,750, SSV
Kellie Collier, $2,500, SSI
Rachel Dice, $2,000, SSIV
Courtesy of WPRA