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Junior Division News

Papageorge Outraces Wilderness Circuit Leaders for Preston Win
by Jolee Lautaret

Preston, Idaho-That Famous Preston Night Rodeo has been held every year since 1934 with just one year off due to World War II and has seen its share of world and circuit champions claiming titles. Given its name for being the first night rodeo in the world, Preston concluded its three performance run on August 1 with a new name in the spotlight for the barrel racers.

Lori Papageorge has not been a WPRA member for long, joining two years ago and quickly filling her permit at just a handful of rodeos. She only goes to close rodeos each year, saying she doesn't like to travel more than about three hours from home, especially with high gas prices like those experienced last year.

Living in northern Utah, the drive to That Famous Preston Night Rodeo was just a short jaunt up the road about an hour for Papageorge and her 12-year old gelding, Societys Smokey Road, better known as Smokey. Once there, she would score the biggest win of her young pro career, beating out the bulk of the circuit's barrel racers at the moment in a hotly contested race with just 28/100ths of a second separating first and 10th. Papageorge's 17.33-second run just slid past current circuit leader Sue Smith's 17.34 for the victory. She collected $1,480.

Papageorge has been running barrels for about 15 years now, taking time off to raise two boys, Joel and Cody, 22 and 27 respectively. Neither the boys nor her husband, Alex, are involved in horses but support Lori 100 percent. Her mount Smokey came to Papageorge off the track as a 3-year old.

"He was supposed to be sold and going to California to run there but the owner just wanted me to have him," she explains. "He needed a chip taken out of his ankle but I really liked him and got him for a good price."

After surgery and rehab, Papageorge began the colt on barrels but he seemed injury prone and didn't get to start running much until five and six years of age. Coming up through the local NBHA and UBRA (Utah Barrel Racing Association) races, Papageorge soon began entering local rodeos and then decided to try the pro ranks. Meanwhile the gelding was growing into quite a big horse, now standing 16.1 hands and weighing 1,400 pounds.

"He likes the outdoor arenas and is not as good indoors, just because he is so big," Papageorge says.

"I did not have any luck at the beginning of the year and I was getting frustrated," she recalls. "I was wondering, 'what am I doing wrong?' Then I talked to my friends Carolee Rex and Carol Knudsen." Her friends gave her advice on how to clear her thoughts and how to focus on her horse and what she needed to do in her runs.

"They really helped me out, got me thinking about what I needed to do, what my horse needed to do, to get around the barrels."

Still, the win at Preston seemed to shock the cowgirl. "I was just so happy we had a clean time, I was hoping it would be a 17.5 so that maybe I could win a check," she laughs. "When they said my time, I about had a heart attack! I was so excited.

"It's the most exciting thing I've done in years and the most exciting thing with this horse so far. I'm blessed."

Though new to the WPRA, Papageorge has a long history with horses, having been a galloper and sometime jockey on the tracks in southern California where she grew up and in Idaho. She had horses from the time she was 15, competing in gymkhanas and local play days. She also tried her hand at jumping but found that she preferred the speed events to being judged.

"Carol [Knudsen] got me involved in barrel racing while I was still working on the track," Papageorge explains. "I love it! It is so much fun, you get to travel and meet a lot of different people. I love the excitement of the rodeos but I still get pretty nervous."

With her win in Preston, Papageorge moved into the top 25 in the current Wilderness Circuit standings. The circuit season is winding down, though, with just over a month left before the cut-off for the 2009 season.

"I'm just now getting it down!" Papageorge laughs. "I wish I could have gotten him going sooner so I would have been more ready for the season. He is just now getting fit and running good. I will do that next year for sure."

For more information on That Famous Preston Night Rodeo, visit them on-line at

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