By Neal Reid
Kinsel Becomes First Barrel Racer in Nearly 15 Years
to Repeat as World Champion
LAS VEGAS – Hailey Kinsel may not want to say it, but the WPRA could have a barrel racing dynasty in the making.
The Cotulla, Texas, cowgirl won two rounds and placed in five others en route to her second consecutive world championship, which she claimed after Round 10 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday night. The 25-year-old didn’t have the finish she wanted, knocking over the second barrel on her final run, but still became the first barrel racer since Kelly Kaminski (2004-05) to win back-to-back gold buckles.
Kinsel was all smiles after joining her husband, the PBR’s Jess Lockwood, as a two-time world champion.
“I’ve dreamed of this, and it’s awesome,” Kinsel said. “I’m floored, and it’s very emotional.”
Despite the downed barrel, Kinsel had enough of a cushion to take home the title with $290,020 after finishing eighth in the Wrangler NFR average. Average winner Ivy Conrado-Saebens banked $67,269 for winning the rodeo with a 10-run total time of 138.44 seconds to finish the year second to Kinsel with $264,673.
Not surprisingly, Kinsel gave all the praise to her horse, 8-year-old palomino mare, DM Sissy Hayday “Sister.”
“She’s incredible. I can see how incredible she is, and I hope others can, too,” Kinsel said. “She’s just done things that I don’t know how many other horses can do. It’s incredible, and I’m thankful because I hardly have to ask for anything from her to give me her best effort. She just does it.”
The average race came down to the wire between Conrado-Saebens and Wrangler NFR rookie Emily Miller, but when Miller knocked over her first barrel on Saturday night, the door was wide open for Conrado-Saebens. Conrado-Saebens responded with a 13.86-second run on her 10-year-old palomino JLo, and the average crown was hers.
She had come amazingly close to winning the average in 2017, so earning it this year was extra special for the Hudson, Colo., barrel racer.
“I’m so excited, and I’m really proud of my horse,” said Conrado-Saebens, who pocketed an event-best $171,404 at the Thomas & Mack Center. “She really blew me away this week. Nellie (Miller) and I both broke the 10-run average record (in 2017), and I was .02 from winning it. (After Emily knocked over a barrel) I really I made sure I got JLo over and made sure we got around the second barrel instead of really sitting up and pushing her all the way to it.
“I’m really proud of Emily, and I’m super excited for Hailey. Sister deserves it.”
Thirteen-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Lisa Lockhart won Round 10 with an impressive 13.71-second run from the No. 15 spot on the ground, moving to third in the average and fourth in the world in the process. Emily Miller still finished second in the average in 143.25 seconds despite the turfed barrel, and that average check kept her third in the world standings with $255,799 when the dust had settled.
Kinsel said this year’s gold buckle was quite unique compared to her first one.
“It’s very different,” she said. “Last year, leading up to it I knew it could feel really good, so I was excited. This was more of a case where I wanted to do it again because you know how good it feels and don’t want to be second. I just had to go for it.
“It’s been a lot different race-wise. It was a dogfight all through the Finals, and we kind of knew it was going to be going into it. So, it definitely took some stepping up this week.”
Things didn’t look good for Kinsel after Round 1, when she knocked over a barrel and finished out of the money.
“After my first round having a (downed barrel) there, I just had to decide to battle and go from there,” she said. “It was tough, but I’m glad we did it. In some ways it was harder, and in some ways it wasn’t. They’re just so unique and so different.”
Cheyenne Wimberley finished second in Round 10 in 13.79 seconds to earn her second check of the Finals, and Jessica Routier – who won the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Award – took fourth place in 13.87 seconds.
Kinsel laughed when asked if this is the beginning of a dynasty.
“Oh man, I’d love to say that,” Kinsel said. “My goal is just to keep (Sister) around as long as I can and on top of her game. I’ll just try to preserve her so she does get that long career that I hope for her.”