In professional rodeo, like many sports, there is so much to be said for momentum. Pro cowboys and cowgirls spent the week surrounding the Fourth of July chasing across the country, fighting for a share of the $3.5 million in purses available at the 32 approved contests that week. When the dust, and jet fuel, had settled, bareback rider Kaycee Feild emerged as the high money winner for the week; Feild won $34,483 while Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racer Kaley Bass finished second with $28,814.
Just a week removed from those big wins, and riding an incredible wave of momentum, both Feild and Bass picked up an even better paycheck during Showdown Sunday July 13, 2014 at the Calgary Stampede. Both competitors won on the final day in Calgary, earning $100,000 each.
It was Feild's third win in Calgary; he first won here in the Novice Bareback riding in 2006. The three-time defending Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) World Champion also won in 2012.
"I came up here as a kid," said Feild, who grew up watching his father, Lewis, win three All Around and two bareback World titles. "I guess I stepped into manhood here; I got my man card," joked the younger Feild as he accepted not only the huge check but also the bronze given to the Calgary champion.
Feild earned a total of $109,000 and won the final round with a 92 point ride on Mucho Dinero. He won the Ponoka Stampede over the Fourth on the same horse from Vold Rodeo.
Calgary is one of the most elite events in professional rodeo; the rodeo accepts just 20 contestants in each event, dividing them into two pools of competition. Each pool competes through four rounds with the four high money winners advancing to the Semi-Finals held on the final Sunday. The 12 who missed the first cut get one more chance on Wild Card Saturday; the top two fastest or highest marked rides also move on to Sunday.
During the rodeo's final performance, the ten contestants are given one round of competition. The four best move on to the Showdown Round. All scores and times are erased and each contestant gets one run for $100,000.
Although the Stampede is no longer a sanctioned event for the PRCA, it has been approved by the WPRA for the past two years. Only $50,000 of the final $100,000 counts towards WPRA World standings, and thus towards qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in December.
Bass started the Fourth of July run ranked 38th in the WPRA standings; after earning $28,814 over the Fourth and $65,500 in Calgary (that's what counted toward the standings), the Florida cowgirl in now number one. Her actual money in pocket is better than $144,000 in two weeks, including $115,500 won in Calgary.
"I went to a rodeo with my dad when I was seven; I just decided right there that was what I wanted to do," Bass told the fans in Calgary. When asked what she was going to do with the money, her response matched Feild's. "Save it."
Probably an unexpected answer from the still just 21 years young cowgirl who has made two trips to Las Vegas for the WNFR already and is certain to be there again after the win in Calgary.
Bass and her fourteen year old gelding Wonders Cowboy Dan, better known as Cowboy, beat the field by just one one-hundredth of a second, stopping the clock at 17.61 seconds. Last year's Calgary Stampede Champ Jean Winters and Fallon Taylor were both 17.62.
"He's been running so well, I had a lot of confidence," Bass said of Cowboy. "I really don't know what I ran still," she laughed.
Three Canadians claimed titles in Calgary in 2014. Probably the biggest story was timed event hand Morgan Grant. Although Alberta and even British Columbia are strong in rodeo, Grant hails from Ontario, making him something of an oddity in Canadian pro rodeo.
Grant had a spectacular run competing in his first Calgary Stampede. He won the tie down roping, stopping the clock at 7.0 seconds to be the likes of two-time PRCA World Champ Tuf Cooper, WNFR qualifier Matt Shiozawa and Canadian Champion Curtis Cassidy. He won $107,500 in the tie down roping.
His day was not done with that event however. Grant also qualified for the Showdown in the steer wrestling. He came within three tenths of a second $100,000, settling for a share of second worth $20,000. His steer wrestling earnings were $33,500 giving him a grand total for his week in Calgary of $141,000.
“It’s like winning the Stanley Cup and scoring the winning goal in Game 7,” Grant told the Calgary Sun. “It’s just unbelievable; I’m on top of the world. It’s so amazing and cool. It’s the rodeo I've always dreamed of winning.”
Bull rider Scott Schiffner of Strathmore, Alberta also represented the Maple Leaf well on Sunday. In fact, three of the final four in the bull riding were Canadians: Schiffner, Ty Pozzobon and Zane Lambert. Schiffner scored 89.5 points Mr. Buddy in the final round to edge Pozzobon for the win. Schiffner earned $109,000 at Calgary.
The saddle bronc riding was a shoot-out between Iowa cowboy Wade Sundell and Canadian Dustin Flundra. Sundell soared through pool competition, earning $19,000 in four rides and easily advancing to the final day. Meanwhile, Flundra finished fifth in his pool and had to win the Wild Card round to advance.
In the final round of four, Flundra covered Stampede Warrior of the Calgary string while Sundell conquered Lynx Mountain. Both cowboys earned 89 points from the judges. In Calgary, ties are not acceptable, nor do the competitors simply split the money like other rodeos. Instead, two more horses are brought forward for a ride-off for the title.
Flundra drew Holly Blues from Big Bend/Flying Five while Sundell had Rubles from Big Stone Rodeo. Flundra posted 87.5 points while Sundell settled for 86. Flundra earned $112,500 while Sundell just missed his third Calgary title but collected $44,000 anyway.
"That's a great horse," said Flundra of Stampede Warrior. "I was very happy when I saw my name next to hers."
"This is the best rodeo in the world and I'm so glad to be right here at home in Alberta."
Oregon cowboy Trevor Knowles did earn a third title here on Sunday afternoon. Knowles had previously won in 2009 and 2012. On Sunday afternoon, he stopped the clock in the final round in 3.8 seconds, just edging Billy Bugenig and Grant's runs of 4.1 for the big win.
"I'm just luckier than hell, I think," laughed Knowles as he collected his awards. "It's unbelievable, life changing, to have the opportunity to be here."
As he does with every paycheck, Knowles will donate part of the proceeds to the American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors.
"I figured I could use this platform [rodeos] to help raise awareness for our soldiers," said Knowles; his father Jeff is a veteran of Vietnam.
Knowles and the rest of the Calgary Champs will be back in action south of the northern border, competing this week at Cheyenne (WY) Frontier Days and the California Rodeo Salinas along with many others.