Houston, Texas— Over the years, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has played a big role in determining which competitors represent the Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo thanks to the large purse that has always been a part of the rodeo. Beginning with WPRA World Champion Ardith Bruce, who won the then-five go round Houston Rodeo in 1966 and running right through Charmayne James' record 10 titles in Houston, the HLSR has played host to the best of the WPRA and has catapulted more than one barrel racer to stardom.
Beginning in 2007, the HLSR, rebranded as RodeoHouston®, has been a tournament, bracket style event. Only 40 competitors are invited to compete at NRG Stadium at Reliant Park. In 2015, the competitors were chosen based on 2014 WPRA World standings positions with some also coming from current standings and the WPRA Tour. The past four RodeoHouston Champs were also invited as are the Canadian Champ along with winners from big rodeos in San Angelo (TX), Colorado Springs (CO) and the All American Pro Rodeo Series.
The 40 competitors are divided into five Super Series rodeos, sets of eight competitors. Each Super Series is given three runs along with an average to earn enough money to advance to the Semi-Finals. Each round is paid along with an average; the winner in each earns $2,500 with $1,200 to second, $800 to third and $500 to fourth. The top four money winners from each Super Series will move on to the Semi-Finals.
Competition for spot in the Semi-Finals, to be held March 18-19, kicked off on March 3 with the opening round of Super Series I.
The kickoff of the 2015 edition of Houston's show looked like a carbon copy of 2014. Exactly one year ago, Britany Diaz and her great black mare Rootie won two go rounds and the Super Series I title, qualifying to the Semi-Finals as she marched to her second Wrangler NFR.
Once again, Diaz and the now 15 year old Rootie dominated Super Series I, winning the opening go round with the fastest time of the rodeo thus far, 14.53 seconds. She returned in round two on March 4 with a 14.63 that was also good enough for the round win.
Diaz was sure to advance as the final round began on March 5 but she and the mare that is registered Dasher Dude turned in another good run, stopping the clock at 15.01 for second.
Diaz ran away with the average, posting 44.17 on three runs. The closest thing to her was Kenna Squires' 45.63 seconds. Her three run haul from the NRG Stadium was an event best $8,700, beating her Super Series I winnings in 2014 by $1,700.
PHOTO BY: RodeoHouston
The North Dakota cowgirl, who made history in 2011 as the first barrel racer from her state to compete at the Wrangler NFR, attributed her success to the rock solid Rootie.
"She did very good," said Diaz of Rootie, who was voted the Horse of the Year in the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association in 2014 as well as the WPRA Horse with the Most Heart at the Wrangler NFR. "She is just so solid and I've had the same dancing partner for a long time. I can trust her."
Diaz will compete in the first Semi-Finals on March 18. To fill the two week gap, Diaz plans to crack out a five year old at rodeos in Glen Rose and Bay City this week and will get back with Rootie on the 17th for RodeoAustin.
"No not at all," said Diaz when asked if she minds the big break in between competition in Houston. Since marrying saddle bronc rider Isaac Diaz, who just missed out on qualifying to the Semi-Finals during Super Series I, in the fall of 2013, Diaz is spending winters in Texas. "I get to be home and work with some colts. And Rootie loves her pasture."
Ranked 53rd in the standings prior to RodeoHouston, Diaz is sponsored by Classic Equine, Platinum Performance, 4 Bears Casino, Double J Saddlery, Horner Equine, Hande Equine Therapy, Purina Feeds, EQI, Leanin Pole Arena, Reata Equine and Panhandle/Rock and Roll Cowgirl.
Wrangler NFR arena record holder Taylor Jacob had a rough start to her 2015 RodeoHouston. First, the Texas cowgirl knocked over a barrel on opening night. Then, during the day of her second round, her family home burned down.
Showing incredibly tenacity, Jacob bounced back with a second place finish in round two and sealed her Semi-Finals position with a round win on the final night of the Super Series. Riding Honor Thy Frenchman, aka Bo, Jacob was 14.95 seconds on March 5 and also finished fourth in the average. Her total winnings of $4,200 landed her second in the set. She will compete in the second Semi-Final on March 19.
Kenna Squires and Dashing Trace won $2,000 in Super Series I with a third place finish in round one and a second in the average to also advance. Squires will join Diaz in Semi-Final #1. Rounding out the qualifiers from the set is Arkansas cowgirl Laura Kennedy. Riding Hopes Money Boy, aka Tall Boy, Kennedy won fourth in round two and third in round three to accumulate $1,300, enough to edge Kelley Carrington-French by $100. Kennedy will compete in Semi-Final #2.
All eight cowgirls in Super Series I earned a check.
Once in the Semi-Finals, all contests are sudden death. The four fastest from each Semi-Final will move into the Championship while the other six are given one more chance via the Wild Card Round on March 20. The two fastest competitors from the Wild Card round out the top ten Championship Round.
The Championship is where the big money is paid out. Contestants make another run, hoping to be one of the four fastest who will earn another run in the Shootout. The winner of the Shootout earns $50,000.
Super Series II begins on March 6 and features the 2014 Canadian Champ Steff Mather as well as arguably the hottest cowgirl in the WPRA this winter, Georgia's Sarah Rose McDonald, the number one ranked cowgirl in the WPRA at the moment.
For more information and complete brackets, visit www.rodeohouston.com. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Super Series I
Britany Diaz, 14.53, $2,500
Kelley Carrington-French, 14.56, $1,200
Kenna Squires, 14.73, $800
Brittany Pozzi, 15.10, $500
Diaz, 14.63, $2,500
Taylor Jacob, 14.89, $1,200
Jean Winters, 14.96, $800
Laura Kennedy, 15.00, $500
Jacob, 14.95, $2,500
Diaz, 15.01, $1,200
Kennedy, 15.09, $800
Pozzi, 15.11, $500
Diaz, 44.17, $2,500
Squires, 45.63, $1,200
Andrea Cline, 46.82, $800
Jacob, 50.03, $500
Semi-Finals Qualifiers (World Rank) / Horse / Money Won
Britany Diaz (53) / Dasher Dude / $8,700
Taylor Jacob (39) / Honor Thy Frenchman / $4,200
Kenna Squires (13) / Dashing Trace / $2,000
Laura Kennedy (60) / Hopes Money Boy / $1,300
Other Money Winners
Kelley Carrington-French / Jacobs Hi / $1,200
Brittany Pozzi / Shes Free to Flame / $1,000
Andrea Cline / Debs Sporty Win (Rds 1&2) and CFour Tibbie Stinson (Rd 3) / $800
Jean Winters / Crickets Peppy Zan / $800