Riley Pruitt Warms Up for Wrangler NFR with Waco PRCA Win

By Matt Naber

WACO, Texas – Six weeks ago, tie-down roper Riley Pruitt was 17th in the 2019 PRCA | RAM World Standings and had not won any rodeos during the entire season.

But he’s riding high after winning the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo in Waco.

The Nebraska cowboy ended 2019 with a bang by winning the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up for $14,446, Sept. 14, which launched him from 14th to ninth in the world standings.

“It’s huge, this (Waco) is my first rodeo of the new year and I got a W,” Pruitt said. “It was funny, before Pendleton I had not won a rodeo the entire year. It did not matter where I was. I placed a lot but had not won a rodeo, and finally after Pendleton I won a rodeo.”

A week later he won his second rodeo of the 2019 season at the 75th annual Four State Fair & Rodeo in Texarkana, Ark., Sept. 21 for $2,400. Without those wins, Pruitt, 28, wouldn’t have made his second qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Fresh off ending the 2019 regular season ranked eighth in the world with $99,535, Pruitt started his 2020 season with a $5,937 win in Waco, Oct. 12.

Pruitt had to give his main horse, Bently, a break after Pendleton, but his dad struck gold by finding a gray, 18-year-old American Quarter Horse for Pruitt to ride, named Gray Bird.

“He scores really well, has plenty of run and gets down on his belly,” Pruitt said. “He’s a special kind of horse.”

Gray Bird took flight in Waco with a 6.7-second run in the second round and a 6.8-second run in the final round in Waco. Winning the average in 22.8 seconds on three head boosted Pruitt’s confidence.

“Now I have two horses under me, and they really like to go fast,” Pruitt said. “I’m very excited for this year now that I’ve figured out how to go fast again.”

Pruitt thought he was safe to go home after picking up $7,276 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Aug. 25.

“But no, I needed to keep going,” Pruitt said. “I won a check in Ellensburg (Wash.), and I was looking and I didn’t move up any spots, I was still 14th. John Douch, Shad Mayfield and Lane Livingston were fighting right behind me, and I was concerned.”

He continued to compete across the Northwest, picking up checks in Lewiston, Idaho, and Puyallup, Wash.

“I thought, surely that’s enough to get in, and it still wasn’t,” Pruitt said. “Then I won the average in Pendleton, and I could finally breathe. You sleep a lot better when you can go, ‘OK, now I’m in.’”

Pruitt is returning to the Wrangler NFR with a different mindset from when he qualified in 2016.

“I will take it as 10 one-headers and win as much money as I can because there are 14 other guys who made it, and they’re really fast,” Pruitt said. “It will come down to 10 knife fights, and it’ll be a fun NFR to be part of.”

Other winners at the $278,709 rodeo were all-around cowboy Tuf Cooper ($2,575, tie-down roping and steer roping); bareback rider Tyler Berghuis (251.5 points on three head); steer wrestlers Cade Staton and Cade Goodman (12.8 seconds on three head); team ropers Dustin Egusquiza/Jake Long (13.3 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Cole Elshere (253 points on three head); barrel racer Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi (47.49 seconds on three runs); steer roper Trevor Brazile (19.6 seconds on two head); and bull rider J.T. Moore (249.5 points on three head).

For more coverage of the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo, check out the Oct. 18 edition of ProRodeo Sports News.

Courtesy of PRCA

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