By Jolee Jordan
San Antonio, Texas — Competition continued this week at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and in the WPRA barrel racing, it was Money and love during Bracket 3.
San Antonio is one of the most lucrative events on the WPRA schedule with a purse of $171,500 and is limited to just 50 cowgirls. Positions are determined by both previous and current WPRA World standings as well as the 2017 WPRA Tour standings.
The 50 competitors are divided into five brackets for the tournament style rodeo. Each bracket has three rounds and there are no averages paid. The top four money earners from each bracket advance to the semi-finals, where they get two more rounds to earn as much money as possible.
Following the final round of the semi-finals, the top five from each group advance to the Finals, to be held February 24. With a whopping payout of more than $15,000 to the fastest runner in the final round, that’s where the Championship is decided, based on the top money winner from all six runs.
Bracket 3 ran during the week, February 13-15, encompassing Valentine’s Day during the middle round.
Texas cowgirl Carley Richardson is a veteran of two Wrangler National Finals Rodeos but missed rodeo’s Super Bowl in 2017. She has been back on the rodeo trail with a vengeance in the early going of the big winter run in 2018.
Richardson entered San Antonio already sixth in the WPRA World standings after winning the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo last fall and third in Denver at the National Western Stock Show last month with her tough gelding Flit Money, aka Money.
Money proved to be money once again in San Antonio, taking the win in both the first and second rounds of Bracket 3. Richardson easily clinched the victories with times of 14.08 and 14.06, respectively.
Running right behind Richardson on the first two nights was new mom Shelby Janssen. Janssen welcomed her son, Rankan, to the world in November; now Rankan is watching his mom and dad—PRCA saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell—win at pro rodeos.
“Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone,” Janssen posted to Facebook after the second round. “I am so blessed we got to spend it as a family at San Antonio. Rankan also turned 3 months old today. Time is going way too fast.”
Janssen split second in round one with Wrangler NFR cowgirl Jana Bean while she was third behind Richardson and comeback cowgirl Cassidy Kruse in round two.
Kruse’s money-winning run on Valentine’s Day was extra special as it came aboard her great gelding JJ, who carried her to the Wrangler NFR back in 2015, winning the first go round.
“For everyone that knows JJ, this run means the world to all of us!” Kruse posted on social media, revealing that JJ had been sidelined with injury for most of 2017. “This is his first run back at a rodeo in 7 months! It’s been a roller coaster to get him healed up and ready to roll again, but he’s back! There are so many people that have helped me to get him here and I can’t thank you all enough.”
Richardson and Janssen looked to be shoe-ins to the next rounds as the final night of Bracket 3 kicked off on Thursday night, but who would capture the other two positions in the semi-finals?
Great Lakes Circuit Champ Lacinda Rose had picked up two checks but a downed barrel—which cost her the round win—ended her 2018 San Antonio run as the first to compete on Thursday. Four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi, who also has a pair of San Antonio titles on her impressive resume, put up a fight on the final night, earning a check for fourth in the round.
As it turned out, Richardson and Janssen dominated again, as Janssen won the night. It was extra special as Sundell also claimed the round win in his signature event, his third win of the Bracket, allowing the entire family to advance to the next round.
Janssen’s 14.05 edged past Richardson’s 14.11 in the go round.
Kruse was the clutch performer, sliding into third on the final night to punch her ticket to the next go round.
Richardson topped the bracket at $6,540 while Janssen earned $5,054. Kruse took third with $2,973 and Jana Bean’s check of $1,486 for splitting second in the first round proved enough to move the Texas cowgirl on to the semi-finals.
The final two Brackets of preliminary competition begin with Bracket 4, held on Friday, February 16 and ending with a pair of performances on Saturday, February 17 while Bracket 5 wraps things up with two rounds on Sunday, February 18 and ending on President’s Day, February 19. Among the competitors yet to take their shot are three past San Antonio champs [Amberleigh Moore (2017), Michele McLeod (2016) and Kelly Bruner (2000)] and six of last year’s finalists (Taylor Langdon, Sabra O’Quinn and Sammi Bessert (B4); Moore, Kathy Grimes, Nellie Miller (B5).
Competitors in Bracket 4 also include circuit champion cowgirls Tracy Nowlin, Jordan Moore and Lori Todd along with reigning Canadian champ Carman Pozzobon, and three time Wrangler NFR cowgirl Sydni Blanchard, who happens to be the arena record holder here in San Antonio. They’ll be joined by newcomer Jodi Colton and perennial top competitor Ericka Nelson.
The final bracket includes two WPRA World Champions, Mary Walker and Nellie Miller, the reigning champ from 2017. The reigning San Antonio champ is also on the schedule, Moore, who set a record in 2017, winning every round of competition inside AT&T Center.
McLeod and Bruner are set to appear in Bracket 5 along with last year’s record setting regular season earners, Tiany Schuster and Stevi Hillman. The competition is rounded out by top Canadian competitor Kirsty White and the always tough Kelly Tovar.
1. Carley Richardson, Flit Money, 14.08, $2,378
2/3. Jana Bean, Sign of Frost/Shelby Jannsen, Famous Amous, 14.25, $1,486
4/5. Jaime Hinton, OJS Tex Wood/Lacinda Rose, RR Meradas Real Deal, 14.26, $297
1. Richardson, 14.06, $2,378
2. Cassidy Kruse, JKR Assured Win, 14.09, $1,784
3. Janssen, 14.18, $1,188
4. Rose, 14.23, $594
1. Janssen, 14.05, $2,378
2. Richardson, 14.12, $1,784
3. Kruse, 14.20, $1,189
4. Sherry Cervi, MP Del Rey, 14.31, $595
Total Money Won
*Advance to Semi-Finals
Courtesy of WPRA