By Jolee Jordan
Reno, Nevada — It’s known by its tagline, the Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West, and the Reno Rodeo lives up to its name every year. For nearly a century, Reno has hosted one of the most exciting shows in ProRodeo, performing in front of a raucous capacity crowd nearly every one of its ten performances.
In the ladies event of barrel racing, Reno is notoriously wicked, a dogfight for the title each year that awards the champion spurs only to the cowgirl and her equine partner who can cut off the clock in near record times.
The competition in Northern Nevada is so tough in fact, that only six cowgirls in the nearly six decades of GRA/WPRA barrel racing in Reno have won more than one title. Only three cowgirls have won more than two titles here and they’re all WPRA World Champions: Sammy Thurman, Charmayne James and Kristie Peterson.
One cowgirl is poised to join this illustrious group and she already has a WPRA World title to her credit. Nellie Miller won the Reno Rodeo in 2017, one step on her fated path to the championship.
After the opening set of the 2018 edition in Reno, Miller stands on the edge of winning back-to-back titles here, something that no one has been able to do since Peterson won three straight from 1997-1999.
In the WPRA barrel racing, 96 ladies will have their chance at winning the coveted silver spurs as Reno Champ. Each cowgirl will make two runs in a day, one in the morning slack and a second in the evening performance, with the fastest 12 on two runs returning for the championship round on Saturday night, June 23.
Standing in Miller’s way as the first weekend of action closed out, however, is the cowgirl she brought with her from California, Katie Pascoe. Like Miller, Pascoe comes from rich California cowboy heritage. Her dad, John W. Jones, Jr. is a three-time PRCA World Champion and her granddad, John Sr., owns a title too. Both are Hall of Famers.
Pascoe detoured from rodeo for a time as she followed her husband Bear across the country as he played pro football. She jumped back into the sport several years ago following his retirement.
Riding JR Naughty Jet, Pascoe earned the Rookie of the Year title in the California Circuit in 2016 and currently sits third in the California Circuit after a good showing worth more than $10,000 during the California spring run of rodeos this season.
Naughty, now nine years old, is the product of Pascoe’s family’s breeding program, a son of Blazin Jetolena out of the Dash for Cash-Pie in the Sky bred mare, Dash on Sky.
While she’s been hauling with her husband for much of the spring—he’s taken up steer wrestling like his father-in-law—Pascoe is teaming up with Miller for Reno and the busy Fourth of July run.
“Nellie and I have buddied at a couple of rodeos so far and we will enter together over the Fourth,” Pascoe says. “We have known Nellie and her family for quite awhile. We got to know them when we high school rodeoed and in college.”
The long time friends competed in Reno on Friday, June 15 during the first day of the rodeo. In the morning slack, Miller fired off the first shot with a smoking fast time of 17.19 seconds aboard her mare Sister. Pascoe ran out to second for the day with her run of 17.35 seconds.
Returning in the evening’s performance, Pascoe turned the tables on her running mate, stopping the clock in a rodeo-best 17.16 seconds. When Miller posted 17.34 on her second run, it was Pascoe’s name that hit the top of the leaderboard in the average.
With just two one-hundredths of a second between them, the hauling partners had a lot to laugh about on the way back over Donner Pass to California.
By the close of the third set on Sunday night, June 17, no one had come within half a second of the pair. Rebecca Kenner, who also competed on Friday, sits third and the closest to the leaders.
Turquoise Circuit champ Lori Todd stole the show on Saturday morning with her smooth, flawless run that squeaked into the lead over the reigning Reno Champ. Todd’s time of 17.17 leads the first round though a downed barrel in the evening perf will end her chances of making an appearance on Championship Saturday.
Wilderness Circuit Finals Champ Jennifer Barrett was the star on Saturday night riding her good horse Larry. Barrett slid into second in the second go round with her time of 17.22 seconds. Like Todd, Barrett won’t be in the Finals after some trouble with her opening round but looks solid to earn money in the go.
Mother Nature dumped moisture on the Reno Livestock Events Center Arena before the third set of ladies competed on Sunday morning, leaving the times for the first go well off the pace.
However, conditions improved by the Sunday night performance, enough for Wrangler National Finals Rodeo cowgirl Sydni Blanchard to scamper into the second round money aboard her mare Frenchie with a time of 17.36 seconds.
The Reno Rodeo continues on Monday with 2017 WNFR cowgirls Tillar Murray, Kellie Collier and Kathy Grimes amongst the scheduled competitors. On Tuesday, past Reno champ Jill Welsh will begin her bid to become just the seventh lady to win two titles here, adding to the one she won in 2015.
Results (In Progress)
1. Lori Todd, Dashin Red Warrior, 17.17
2. Nellie Miller, Rafter W Minnie Reba, 17.19
3. Katie Pascoe, JR Naughty Jet, 17.35
4. Teressa Peck, 17.42
5. Deb Guelly, Queencommandercurtis, 17.55
6. Rebecca Kenner, Dfmcowboychip, 17.64
7. Darby Fox, Easy French Alibi, 17.65
8. Randi Buchanan, Royal Flight Ta Fame, 17.70
9. Italy Sheehan, Woody Pine Cone, 17.75
10. Rachel Primm, 17.85
1. Pascoe, 17.16
2. Jennifer Barrett, Beduinos Prospector, 17.22
3. Miller, 17.34
4. Sydni Blanchard, French Riviera, 17.36
5. Kenner, 17.41
6. Fox, 17.48
7. Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 17.49
8. Cheyenne Kelly, Running ta Dash, 17.53
9. Buchanan, 17.55
10. Tiany Schuster, Show Mance, 17.55
1. Pascoe, 34.51
2. Miller, 34.53
3. Kenner, 35.05
4. Guelly, 35.12
5. Fox, 35.13
6. Buchanan, 35.25
7. Kelly, 35.43
8. Lynette Clyde, Frenchmans Bella, 35.49
9. Schuster, 35.61
10. Janie Johnson, 35.62
11. Blanchard, 35.73
12. Katie Droshin, 35.91
Courtesy of WPRA