By Jolee Jordan
Fort Worth, Texas — The slogan of the 121st edition of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (FWSSR) is “Welcome to Prime Time” and the competition at the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo® has certainly lived up to its name as the rodeo hits the middle of its 29 performances.
With $40,000 in committee added purse and entry fees from 210 competitors, the total prize money is huge and offers a big bump to those lucky enough to cash in. The format of the WPRA barrel race is one run for each of the 210 contestants with the 70 fastest times earning a second run. At the end of the progressive round, the top 12 on two will advance to the short round to be held on the final night, Saturday, February 4.
As the middle weekend of the 2017 edition of the FWSSR began on January 27, Texas cowgirl Michele McLeod held the lead in the standings (16.75), though she was pushed hard by WPRA World number two Jordan Moore (16.89) and fellow Texan Alexa Lake (16.86) on Wednesday and by Ari-Anna Flynn (16.80) during Texas Christian University night on Thursday.
McLeod’s lead disappeared in the Friday matinee, however, during the 11th of 28 performances on Friday afternoon.
Ever since Amberleigh Moore stormed through the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), setting a new NFR barrel racing earnings record at $187,693 for ten days and tying the arena record in round eight as she rolled from fifteenth in the WPRA World standings to second, folks have been wondering what the Oregon cowgirl might accomplish with her amazing mare Paige if she hit the road full time.
Although the FWSSR was only her second official rodeo of the 2017 season, Moore is still on a that big roll which began at the end of the summer and rolled through the Ram Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo last November through the WNFR. In Fort Worth, Moore and Paige were flawless, stopping the clock at 16.62 seconds, the best of the rodeo at that point.
It was a fast performance as two-time WNFR cowgirl Sydni Blanchard also posted a quick time. She moved into second behind Moore with her run of 16.70 seconds.
2012 WPRA World Champion Mary Walker has won a lot of money inside Will Rogers Coliseum in the last four years but it’s mostly all come during the unsanctioned Fort Worth Super Shootout prior to the rodeo’s beginning; she’s hoping to add some money to her WPRA standings this year from FWSSR and has a good start for that after posting a perf best 16.89 on Friday night.
As it turned out, Moore’s lead would last less than 24 hours as WNFR cowgirl Cayla Small continued the torrid start of her pro career after winning Rookie of the Year in 2016. Riding Gator in the Saturday morning performance, Small blasted through the pattern in 16.49 seconds, the best run of the rodeo to this point. In fact, it’s the fastest run here since 2015.
Saturday morning was kind to the barrel racers as Meghan Johnson also posted a quick time at 16.75 seconds. In the afternoon perf, it was another WNFR cowgirl, Kimmie Wall, who took top honors; riding Foxy, Wall ran 16.87 seconds to ensure herself another run.
On Sunday afternoon, the leaderboard had another challenge with 2014 WPRA World Champion Fallon Taylor posting a 16.64 to move to third overall. Taylor was riding Babyflo, the same horse that carried her to the title and who has put her in the short round here in Fort Worth several times in the past.
Prairie Circuit champ Emily Miller also moved into the top 10 with her run of 16.80; Miller was on her five year old she calls Foxy.
As the final weekend of the long round closed out, Sunday night saw a stream of fast times led by Texas cowgirl Sidney Forrest. Forrest is also riding a young horse, another five year old that she calls Sterling.
The long round of competition ends on Tuesday night, January 31, meaning there are just forty ladies left to take their shot at the cut-off for the progressive round, currently a 17.27. It’s a stacked field, however, with WNFR qualifiers Jana Bean, Jackie Jatzlau, Molly Powell, Stevi Hillman, Tammy Fischer, and Lindsey Hays-Banks along with the WPRA’s all-time money leading cowgirl, four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi still to compete.
1st Go Results (through 17 performances); 17.27 currently 70th
1. Cayla Small, Shameon U, 16.49
2. Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 16.62
3. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 16.64
4. Sidney Forrest, So Epic, 16.65
5. Sydni Blanchard, Famous Heartbreaker, 16.70
6. tie Michele McLeod, Apt to Be Special, 16.75
7. tie Meghan Johnson, Flyin Frenchman, 16.75
8. Ari-Anna Flynn, Sunny Two Socks, 16.80
9. Emily Miller, Namgis D 56, 16.80
10. Taylor Smith, Cash Flow Depot, 16.80
Courtesy of WPRA