By Jolee Lautaret-Jordan
San Antonio, Texas — While it is no surprise to find the all-time money winningest cowgirl in the WPRA atop the leader board following the third bracket at the 2015 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, her legion of fans may have been surprised to see Sherry Cervi aboard a sorrel gelding and not her two-time WPRA World Champion palomino mare Stingray.
Instead of her usual dance partner, Cervi elected to go with a borrowed mount, the 13-year old Dash ta Fame son Atlas Peak for one of the winter's most lucrative rodeos and it proved as astute a move as one would expect from a $2 million, four-time WPRA World Champion.
Money won is the key in San Antonio. Each of the 50 cowgirls entered here will get three runs within one of five brackets; 43 qualified from the 2014 WPRA World standings with five qualifying from the 2015 WPRA World standings and two coming out of the 2014 WPRA Tour.
With no averages paid, the top four money winners in each bracket advance to the two-run semi-finals. At the end of the semi-finals, the top five money winners from each semi advance to the finals.
The finals are held Saturday, February 28 with the 10 qualifiers from the two semi-finals competing. The Champion will be the cowgirl who wins the most money with a big chunk of what's available coming from the last run during the finals.
Competing in the third bracket, Cervi and Atlas Peak, who is owned by Trip and Callie DuPerier, won second on the opening night of bracket three on February 17 before kicking on the afterburners for the next two nights. Cervi won both rounds two and three to easily advance to the semi-finals with $6,273 won.
A futurity winner on the West Coast with trainer April (Hickey) Yeager, Atlas Peak has a Reserve World title in the AQHA to his credit, under the saddle of Add Waddell, and has also carried 2006 WPRA World Champion Mary Burger to the pay window in his long career. Cervi took the gelding to Las Vegas last December as a back-up to Stingray.
At the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Cervi stopped the clock under 14 seconds on each run, going 13.92, 13.86 and 13.86.
Her one defeat came at the hands of 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Christine Laughlin. The Pueblo, Colo., cowgirl began her big Wrangler NFR run here in San Antonio a year ago, winning a go round and earning nearly $10,000 after making the finals.
Laughlin was back in 2015 aboard Guys Six Pack to Go and won the opening round of bracket 3 with a 13.87 second run. She earned $2,281 for the win. Although she failed to earn another check, Laughlin squeaked into the semi-finals in fourth place for bracket 3.
Sandwiched between the go round winners were Washington cowgirl Pam Capper and Texan DuPerier. Both cowgirls showed tremendous consistency, placing in every payoff.
Capper rides Sheza Smooth Flight, aka Jesse, the 13 year old daughter of Dinner Flight, and has been a top contender for several years. She won $3,422 on three runs in San Antonio after finishing fourth with a 14.03, second with a 13.91 and third with 14.00 seconds flat.
Meanwhile, DuPerier and the great Rare Dillion continued their hot winter by placing third with a 14.01, fourth with a 14.04 and second with a 13.95. DuPerier is ranked sixth in the WPRA World standings already this season as she chases her first Wrangler NFR qualification.
Other money winners from bracket 3 were Sammi Bessert ($1,141) and Liz Herrin ($570).
Competition continues with bracket four on February 20-21. Among the scheduled competitors are WPRA World Champions Brittany Pozzi and Mary Walker along with 2014 Wrangler NFR qualifiers Lisa Lockhart, Nancy Hunter, and Carlee Pierce and Jana Bean, both finalists here in 2014. Throw in Alexa Lake and Kelly Tovar, both currently inside the top 10 of the WPRA World standings, and this set should be very competitive.
For more information on the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.sarodeo.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Bracket 3 Money Winners
Cervi, Atlas Peak, $6,273
Capper, Sheza Smooth Flight, $3,422
Duperier, Rare Dillion, $3,422
Laughlin, Guys Six Pack to Go, $2,281
Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, $1,141
Liz Herrin, Bogies Lil Skeeter, $570