By Jolee Jordan
Fort Worth, Texas — Each and every performance of the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (FWSSR) begins with the posting of the six flags over Texas, carried on 12 matching yellow horses known as Kay Gay's Palomino Parade.
The palomino theme seems to be carrying over to the WPRA barrel racing as the 120th edition of the FWSSR kicked off its huge 29 performance run over the weekend.
Leading the ladies after eight shows are a pair of Texas Kellies: Rockdale's Kelly Tovar and Hereford's Kellie Collier.
Tovar rides a pretty palomino of her own, Edwin, and posted her 16.60 second run in the fifth performance on Sunday afternoon, January 24. Tovar and Edwin, who is registered with the AQHA as BB French Fooledya, battled hoof abscesses for much of the 2015 season after a very hot winter start. Back healthy again, Edwin has already carried Tovar to the Ram Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo title earlier this month and clinched the Texas Circuit Championship as well.
Meanwhile, Collier was the second lady to run on opening night, Friday, January 22. The second year student at Texas Tech in Lubbock rides Streakin Easy April, the horse that carried Carlee Pierce in her last trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) back in 2014.
"I bought her last summer and went to the pro rodeos a little," says Collier. "We had some troubles but we started getting together at the college rodeos [last fall] and now we are trying the pro rodeos again!"
"She's fun," adds Collier of the mare she calls Lolo, a daughter of A Streak of Fling, who is eight this year.
Hosting a rodeo with the stock show since 1918, the FWSSR added the WPRA barrel racing to its line up in 2003. Since that time, it has become a tremendous venue for up-and-coming stars due to having such a high entry limit. A full 210 WPRA cowgirls get a chance to earn their share of the $40,000 committee purse.
The FWSSR began January 22 and runs through February 6. Each WPRA contestant gets one round in one of the first 21 performances. Following that 21st performance on Tuesday, February 2, the field will be cut to the fastest 70 and each of those ladies will get one more run during one of the remaining seven perfs from Wednesday, February 3 through the matinee on Saturday, February 6. The top 10 on two runs will compete in Saturday night's Championship Round.
Following Collier and Tovar in the current round standings is Krum, Texas cowgirl Tiany Schuster. She ran in the second performance on Saturday morning, January 23 and a put a quick 16.75 second run on the board.
Schuster brought JSYK Im Famous to Fort Worth, a horse she purchased just two weeks ago from Courtney Roberts of Ocala, Florida. The eight year old gelding set an arena record at the All American Quarter Horse Congress back in 2014.
Henryetta, Oklahoma barrel racer Ashlie Withrow is sitting fourth after her efforts in the third performance, the Saturday matinee. Withrow blasted through the pattern inside the famed Will Rogers Coliseum in a perf-best 16.76 seconds.
Withrow rides BA Brothers Profit, a six year old grandson of PESI stallion Dash ta Fame. She raised and trained the gelding aboard whom she just began to hit the rodeo trail last season.
"He is just really laid back and easy to be around," she notes.
Sharing fifth and sixth in the round thus far are 2012 WPRA World Champ Mary Walker and renowned trainer and clinician Dena Kirkpatrick. Walker ran in the opening performance while Kirkpatrick was the best in the Saturday night perf, January 23.
Walker was aboard her superstar Latte while Kirkpatrick rode Kate Always First. Both cowgirls were fresh off winning runs at the National Western Stock Show where Walker won the short go and finished fourth in the average while Kirkpatrick tied for the opening round win. Both ladies stopped the clock in Fort Worth at 16.80 seconds.
Texas Circuit Finalist Romany Gordon bested the field on Sunday night, January 24. Gordon rides Ozzie, a grade gelding she has had since he was just two or three years old. Her time of 16.91 has her eighth in the opening round thus far.
On Monday night, another Texan rode to the top of the field. Outstanding sophomore WPRA member Morgan Breaux kicked off her 2016 FWSSR campaign with a time of 16.92 seconds. Breaux rides SS Streakers R Us, better known as Harley, the horse who carried WPRA Rookie of the Year Lee Ann Rust to the WNFR in 2012.
Breaux is tied for ninth with another WNFR cowgirl, Tana Poppino of Oklahoma. The 2010 FWSSR Champion, Poppino rode Goose, aka Hickorys Cross, the same horse which carried her to the title here.
Tuesday was Stock Show Goes Pink Day with half of all proceeds from ticket sales going to Susan G. Komen for Cure Greater Fort Worth. All the stock show and rodeo officials donned their pink in support of finding a cure for this horrible disease. Running in that eighth performance, it was Garden City, Texas cowgirl Jennifer Driver with the fast time of the night. Her 17.06 second effort was fast enough to land her 25th in the long go so far.
The FWSSR continues its run for another eleven days. Among the WPRA competitors running through the weekend are WNFR qualifiers like Jane Melby, Shelley Morgan, Martha Wright, Carley Richardson, Christine Laughlin, Michele McLeod, Carlee Pierce, Vickie Carter, Britany Diaz, Kaley Bass, Jackie Ganter, Jackie Jatzlau, Angie Meadors, Christy Loflin and Jana Bean.
Past WPRA World Champs Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi and Mary Burger, who is currently No. 1 in the standings will be out along with reigning champion Callie duPerier. Saturday, January 30 will bring the last two FWSSR Champions to the arena: Shelly Anzick (2014) and Sarah Rose McDonald (2015) while 2013 Champ Taylor Jacob takes her turn on Sunday.
For more information on the FWSSR, visit them on-line at www.fwssr.com and stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing updates.
Current Go Leaders
1. Kellie Collier, Streakin Easy April, 16.60
2. Kelly Tovar, BB French Fooledya, 16.60
3. Tiany Schuster, JSYK Im Famous, 16.75
4. Ashlie Withrow, BA Brothers Profit, 16.76
5. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 16.80
6. Dena Kirkpatrick, Kates Always First, 16.80
7. Aimee Kay, LK Sheza Peasa Dinero, 16.90
8. Romany Gordon, Ozzie (grade), 16.90
9. Morgan Breaux, SS Streakers R Us, 16.92
10. Tana Poppino, Hickorys Cross, 16.92
A reminder to those that qualify for the Finals, there will be $5,000 up for grabs for the winner of the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Award. Jennifer Driver, Garden City, Texas, who clocked the fastest time of the 8th performance at Fort Worth on Tuesday evening, Jan. 26th with a 17.06, participated in the Stock Show's Tough Enough To Wear Pink night by wearing a pink blouse and with a Jerry Ann Taylor eye for excellence in attire dressed it up with embroidery, sequins and turtleneck underneath.