By Jolee Jordan - Revised version
Puyallup, Washington—When it comes to titles at major stops during the ProRodeo season, every contestant wants to be able to list championships on their resume and Ivy Conrado is no different. The superstar who now claims Oklahoma as home has had phenomenal success at the Washington State Fair Rodeo in Puyallup, contested under a variety of different titles over the years, and now she can add a second title from Puyallup (the first coming in 2016 aboard Tibbie).
This time the win came aboard her outstanding mare JLo after battling the emotional highs and lows of a rain delayed second go round and more than just a little bit of mud.
The ProRodeo Tour Finale is hosted by the Washington State Fair and was open to only the top 24 from the ProRodeo Tour standings. With $38,000 in committee and PRCA added purse, the Finale is a huge payoff during the final weeks of the regular season.
For some, like Conrado, it was a chance to clinch their position among the top 15 money winners and secure their spot in Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in December. For others, it was a nearly last chance grasp at precious dollars to climb into those same ranks.
With only two of the top 10 cowgirls entered (sixth ranked Stevi Hillman and eighth ranked Dona Kay Rule), the drama of the Finale centered fully upon the race to the Wrangler NFR with nearly every cowgirl ranked from 11th to 25th in the WPRA World standings competing here.
In addition, the top two rookies in the WPRA Rookie standings— Carly Taylor and Megan Champion—were among the competitors.
Of the bubble cowgirls—those on both sides of the 15th and final qualifying position—Conrado and Amberleigh Moore, ranked 11th and 15th, respectively, carried the best previous track record inside the small Main Grandstand Arena. Moore and her tough mare Paige won the title in 2017 and was runner-up to Conrado in 2016.
Like many other major rodeos, the ProRodeo Tour Finale is held in a tournament style format. Each competitor made two runs in preliminary competition; the first group of 12 ran in performances on Thursday and Friday nights, September 5-6 while the second group was scheduled to compete in two performances on Saturday, September 7.
Payoff was made in both long gos and the two-run average, with the top eight in that average moving on to the Semi-Finals round held on Sunday, September 8.
Hillman and Moore were first and second to run on Thursday and they posted the top two times at 14.03 and 14.09, respectively. No one in the following 22 runs over two days could catch them with Dona Kay Rule and Ivy Conrado taking third and fourth on Saturday afternoon.
Fourteenth ranked Cheyenne Wimberley took another step towards the Wrangler NFR with her fast run in the second go on Friday night. Riding Rocko, Wimberley posted a 14.06 to take the lead. Brittney Barnett, currently 17th, refused to go away in the standings too with a time of 14.16 to sit second.
The weather became the story on Saturday night as dangerous thunderstorms packing lightning shut down not only the rodeo but the entire State Fair, forcing mandatory evacuation of the facilities.
With a heavy downpour accompanying the lightning, the arena was under water as the rodeo was postponed until Sunday morning, meaning the field for the Sunday afternoon final rounds would not be set until just a few hours prior to the final performance.
For Conrado, it was a dilemma: she usually avoids the mud, preferring to turn out rather than risk injury to her horse, but she had made her first mud run on mare JLo to great success this summer at the Calgary Stampede. While some chose not to run Sunday morning, she took the chance and was greatly rewarded.
Though none of the cowgirls competing on Sunday morning were able to break into the second go payoff, both Conrado and Alishea Broussard were able to pair up their tough round one times with fast enough times to advance to the next round. Moore and Hillman claimed first and second in the average.
The best of the payoff comes on the final day: $8,500 to any contestant that can sweep both the Semi-Finals and Final rounds, both held on Sunday afternoon and both sudden death with no previous times carrying forward. Following the Semi-Finals, the fastest four cowgirls advanced to run again to determine the champion.
Both top rookie contenders moved on to Sunday afternoon, allowing that battle to continue, while three of the cowgirls on the right side of the bubble (Conrado, Wimberly and Moore) and a trio on the wrong side also advanced (Taylor, Pluemer, Champion).
In the round of eight, Wimberley and Rocko began the round with a time of 14.60 seconds, already just a bit safer than the second go win worth more than $2,000.
Moore and Paige followed up and posted yet another fast run, this one worth 14.26 seconds for the lead.
Next up was Pluemer and her mare Sister, the first of the bubble cowgirls hoping for a huge day. The run was smooth at 14.45 seconds for second at the time.
With nothing to lose with her solid ranking, Hillman ran next and her 15.51 was off the pace a bit though the young mare Layla still laid claim to the fastest time of the rodeo in round one. Top rookie contender Carly Taylor came next with a 14.63 aboard her mare Diva.
The wild card in the mix, not close enough to vie for a Wrangler NFR position but able to play spoiler for the rest of the field, Broussard and Trick ran next, scampering through the pattern in 14.38 seconds, good enough for second and bumping Pluemer to third.
Then came Conrado. Like Broussard, making her second run within a matter of hours, the always gritty and solid JLo took the lead with a smoking time of 14.17 seconds. That put Pluemer on the cut line for advancement to the Finals with only Champion still to run.
Champion’s mare Smartee dug through the pattern but a 14.82 left the rookie race unchanged as both cowgirls failed to move on to the Finals.
It’s always a quick turnaround to the final round in tournament play and the two horses most experienced in the format—also the two horses running at the top all weekend—rose up once again.
Conrado shaved one one-hundredth of a second off her semi-final time during her third run of the day inside the quick State Fair Arena to finally shed the bridesmaid blues in Puyallup. Her 14.16 in the Finals clinched her first championship after coming close twice before at the ProRodeo Tour Finale.
Sunday is likely the day that clinched a fourth Wrangler NFR trip for Conrado as the $10,488 won in Puyallup will move her from 11th to well inside the top 10 in the new WPRA World standings.
Moore settled for second with an equally consistent time in the final round, three one-hundredths better than her first trip of the day. She was the only competitor to place in every payoff, earning more than $10,000 to solidify her chances at a fourth straight Wrangler NFR as well and move off the target spot of 15th.
With a large gap of more than $10,000 between 15th ranked Moore and 16th ranked Taylor prior to Puyallup, the prospects for the gals on the wrong side of the bubble only shrunk with Conrado, Moore and Wimberley’s good showings. Lacinda Rose will probably hold the new target spot in the next standings with more than $84,000 won for the season with Barnett and Taylor still stalking, more than $11,000 behind.
The focus will now shift to the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque and the Pendleton Round-Up, which begins on Monday, September 9 and is the biggest purse left on rodeo’s regular season schedule. With last year’s champion Cheyenne Allan winning nearly $11,000, it is the last rodeo offering enough for a contender to leap the canyon from outside the top 15 at this point in the year.
- Stevi Hillman, Luv My Fame, 14.03, $2,130
- Amberleigh Moore, CP Dark Moon, 14.09, $1,633
- Dona Kay Rule, High Valor, 14.11, $1,207
- Ivy Conrado, KN Fabs Gift of Fame, 14.17, $781
- Alishea Broussard, Bogies French Trick, 14.21, $497
- Teri Bangart, RCA Three Bugs Honor, 14.23, $355
- Megan Champion, Miss Dual Smartee, 14.25, $249
- Ericka Nelson, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 14.25, $249
- Cheyenne Wimberley, VQ Sucker Punch, 14.06, $2,130
- Brittney Barnett, Chicks Keen O PocoPoo, 14.16, $1,633
- Sidney Forrest, So Epic, 14.23, $1,207
- Carly Taylor, Diva Deniro, 14.24, $781
- Ivy Hurst, Top of the Roc, 14.25, $497
- Jackie Ganter, SmokN Lane, 14.26, $284
Moore, 14.26, $284
Leia Pluemer, Famous French Bug, 14.26, $284
- Moore, 28.35, $2,130
- Hillman, 28.44, $1,633
- Conrado, 28.50, $1,207
- Taylor, 28.51, $781
- Champion, 28.56, $497
- (tie) Pluemer/Wimberley, 28.65, $319 each
8. Broussard, 28.84, $213
- Conrado, 14.17, $4,000
- Moore, 14.26, $3,000
- Broussard, 14.38, $2,000
- Pluemer, 14.45, $1,000
- Conrado, 14.16, $4,500
- Moore, 14.22, $3,000
Total Money Won