If fans were starting to feel like Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day during Round 7 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), it was completely understandable. For a stretch there, the rodeo was running exactly as it did three nights back during Round 4 with Jake Wright, Cody Ohl and Taylor Jacob all taking victory laps in their respective events once again.
Wright is one of three brothers competing here this week in the saddle bronc riding and the only one without a gold buckle . . . yet. He could be just 24 seconds away after winning Round 7 with 84.5 points on Special Time from J Bar J Rodeo.
"I'd seen him a bunch but never been on him," he said of the horse. "He's a bucker. He made one move and then another and honestly, I think on the second, he bucked back under me or I would have been gone. It was survival."
Wright jumped $2,661 ahead of big brother Cody in the standings for the first time this season. He is also third in the average.
"It would be awesome; I wouldn't rather go against anyone else for the greatest buckle in rodeo," he said. "I'll honestly be happy as long as the buckle comes home with the Wrights. I always want to win it, but I also like to have a good time and support everyone else."
As for the world title, Wright isn't talking much about it yet.
"Everybody thinks about winnign a world title often, but I try not to think about it because it makes me so nervous I could puke," he said. "But this is a long ways from over with the average in there, and three nights is a long time at the NFR and anything can happen. I'm going to keep spurring them and see what happens."
Cort Scheer had to get on three re-rides but finally got a score of 80.5 points, good enough for third in the round and helping him hold his lead in the average. He is $30,00 behind Wright for the World title.
For the fourth time this week, Cody Ohl took the victory lap in the tie down roping; his time was 6.7 seconds, the third time he has cracked seven.
"Tonight I had a calf that Ryan Jarrett tied me with [in Round 4]. I knew he was going to be a little off the pace like mine last night," said Ohl. "Last night I second-guessed myself and gave him too big a head start and I wasted a round. Tonight, it didn't matter how slow he was; I was still going to take my start. I blew it out of there and got it on him and got him turned around. The rest of it was just clockwork."
Ohl leads the standings by $21,000 over Tuf Cooper, who had to use two loops to get a time in Round 7. The title race now appears to be between Ohl and Shane Hanchey, who leads the average while Ohl is sixth.
"To me, I'm going to go at these last three just like that," said Ohl, who at 40 years old is chasing his sixth tie down roping world title. "Even though I moved up in the average, my saying tonight was I can't be beat if I don't let them, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to go at all three of these like three one-headers and see how it plays out."
Ohl and Hanchey have won $140,000 between them during the 2013 WNFR. Hanchey is about $26,000 behind but the difference in the average money between first and sixth is about $36,000.
Rookie Taylor Jacob continued to wow the crowd inside the Thomas & Mack with her great horse Bo, registered as Honor Thy Frenchman. Jacob won her fourth go round with a blazing fast 13.47. In one of the fastest rounds of Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racing at the WNFR ever, she held off Michele McLeod's 13.48 and reigning champion Mary Walker's 13.54 by the smallest clicks on the clock.
"I wanted this to happen but I don't know if I thought it could be real," she said of earning $82,432 in her first trip to Las Vegas. Downed barrels in the two opening nights have her sixth in the average but she has climbed to third in the World at $164,484.
“Well hitting barrels is never good,” Jacob said. “But I’m not dwelling on it. In fact, I’m using it as an advantage.Now that I don’t have to think average, I am not holding anything back and am having fun just going all out for the round wins.”
Jacob leads for the Ram Truck Top Gun Award, giving to the contestant who wins the most in a single event during the WNFR. Second is held by fellow barrel racer Sherry Cervi. Cervi placed for the seventh straight night and has earned $75,220 this week.
Cervi holds a commanding lead in the average, nearly a full second over Lisa Lockhart, and is better than $31,000 ahead of Walker in the World standings as she seeks her fourth world championship.
Kaycee Feild has dominated the last two seasons in Las Vegas, earning a pair of world championships along the way. 2013 has seemed a bit slower because Feild hadn't had a victory lap yet but he got his first one--and it was a big one--in Round 7. He won the bareback riding with 83 points on Shadow Warrior from the Calgary Stampede.
"It feels great," said Feild, who has been riding with a sore back. "I'm so thrilled right now. I've been drawing pretty good but I haven't quite been capitalizing on them."
"I came to Vegas pretty sore but the Justin Sportsmedicine guys have really helped me out, getting my back and my hips loosened up. My hats off to them."
With the ride, Feild moved to the lead for the average, 8.5 points ahead of Steven Peebles. He has won the last two averages here as well. His lead in the World was stretched out to $14,000 with the win on Wednesday night.
"When you set your gear down back there with the top 15 in the world, you know anybody can take advantage like I did tonight," he said when asked if he felt in control for the gold buckle. "I feel like I'm doing what I want, what I intended. I haven't made any mistakes."
"It'd be a dream come true," Feild said of possibly winning his third straight title. "I'm still pretty young (26) for a bareback rider. My ultimate goal is to beat five world championships. I want to win at least six."
And just when it looked like J.W. Harris had his fourth world title all but sewn up, it got a little interesting in Round 7. Reigning champion Cody Teel, who beat Harris by just over $1,000 for the title a year ago, won the round with 85 points on Slim Chance from the Bar T Rodeo Company.
“It was just one of those nights where an 85 was good enough to win, even though it wasn’t my best ride of the week,” Teel said. “Sometimes when you keep staying on your bulls, it all comes around for you eventually. I’ve seen that bull before, and he’s a little older now, but he’s still a solid draw.”
“I’m having fun and I’m way more relaxed,” he said of competing in his second WNFR. “It’s not really because I’ve already won a gold buckle, it’s more that I don’t have those first-time jitters anymore and I know what’s going on. I knew what to expect and I knew what it’d be like to climb behind those chutes, which has helped my riding.”
Teel still trails Harris in the average and the world standings but the door was left cracked open a bit when Harris bucked off. Three cowboys have ridden five of seven, Harris, Teel and Shane Proctor, the last three bull riders to win the world title since 2007.
Harris still holds the hammer, leading the standings by $55,000 over Teel and the average by 12 points.
The team roping and steer wrestling continue to be a bit wild, with the world standings races still open to several cowboys in each. In the team roping, world leaders Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill helped their cause with a share of the round win with Dustin Bird and Paul Eaves at 4.1 seconds each.
Tryan and Corkill have won $54,988 at the Finals and are $30,000 ahead of the Minor brothers for the titles. But Brady and Riley are second in the average while Tryan and Corkill are fifth.
“Breaking the five-second barrier tonight was my goal,” Tryan said. “If we catch the next three good, we’ll win it, no matter what anybody else does.”
Both cowboys are seeking their second world championships; Tryan won in 2005 while Corkill is the reigning champion on the heeling side.
“I’m just going to try to do the same thing I do everywhere,” said Corkill, who injured his left hand in Round 1 and battled a bit through the next few rounds. “I’m going to get into good position, take a good shot and not do anything stupid. If things are set up good I’m going to throw. We need to keep placing in the go-rounds and win something in the average, too.”
It was Bird and Eaves' first victory lap of the 2013 WNFR.
“I’ve been ready to make a trip to the South Point (home of the go-round buckle presentations) for a week now,” Bird said.
“Dustin’s roped really good here,” Eaves said. “He’s turned two steers to win the round, and I haven’t really held up my end of the deal yet. So it was good to catch one tonight. I wasn’t doing a very good job getting into position on these steers at the start of the week. I’ve been a little too distracted thinking about my position. Tonight all I thought about was being dialed in on the feet.”
Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn are leading the average, the only team with catches on all seven steers.
In the steer wrestling, Matt Reeves drew a steer that had previously been thrown for 3.1 seconds, one tenth off the arena record, twice during this WNFR. He was not outdone, stopping the clock at the exact same time.
"I drew the best steer here; they've been 3.1 on him three times," said Reeves, who moved ahead of Trevor Knowles into second in the standings but is ninth in the average. "It was pretty fun. My horse has been good all week and Riley [Duvall] has done a great job hazing,"
"That's the fastest time I've ever had." Reeves is just $1,700 behind Casey Martin but Martin is second in the average behind Bray Armes. If Martin can maintain, he could win his first world title but Armes has a chance if he win the $47,776 for winning the average. Look out also for Dean Gorsuch, third in the average and just $9,000 behind Martin.
Round 8 begins at 6:45 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday night, December 12. It is Canada Night. Steer wrestler Straws Milan is the only Canadian competing at the 2013 WNFR.
Round 1 recap
Round 2 recap
Round 3 recap
Round 4 recap
Round 5 recap
Round 6 recap
Other Round 7 Notes:
Ram Truck Top Gun Award: Sherry Cervi lost her lead for the first time to fellow barrel racer Taylor Jacob. Jacob has $82,432 with Cervi at $75,220. Tie down roper Cody Ohl has won $72,566 and saddle bronc rider Jake Wright is fourth with $68,810. Twenty contestants have won more than $43,970.
Trevor Brazile already wrapped up his 19th gold buckle in Round 6 but now he's chasing another record. With over $21,000 earned in Round 7 for second in the tie down roping and fourth in the team roping, he is now $61,582 shy of becoming the first man to pass $5 million in career earnings in PRCA history. He is the only cowboy to cross $4 million in a career as well.
With a split of third and fourth in the tie down roping, Scott Kormos passed $1 million for his career.