By Alex Riley
Winner’s Circle for First Time
CHEYENNE, Wyoming – Hailey Kinsel’s quest for a fourth-straight world barrel racing title got a sizable lift on Sunday.
The Cotulla, Texas cowgirl rolled past the other 11 finalists during Sunday’s championship finale at the 125th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, finishing in a time of 17.30 seconds claiming the title at the “Daddy” for the first time in her storied career.
Coming into the day, Kinsel sat just behind Eustace, Texas barrel racer Shelley Morgan in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world standings by just under $5,000. Thanks to her success in Cheyenne, Kinsel added $13,880 to her winnings for the season.
“It’s a wonderful boost. It's a confidence booster. The numbers are great to get me in a good position,” Kinsel said. She hasn’t been able to run at CFD since 2017 due to scheduling conflicts with the Calgary Stampede. “My goal is to just be in a solid place going into the finals just to give me a shot. To come to a rodeo like this be able to capitalize when money is right there is perfect. I’m grateful that she (my horse, Sister,) tends to turn it on when things really count.”
Kinsel and Sister came into Sunday’s final round having posted the best run of the rodeo at 17.22 seconds in the quarterfinals. After a semifinal run of 17.71, Kinsel and several other barrel races spoke with CFD officials about the dirt and the need for more solid footing. A decision was made to do the first six runs, then allow for a drag of the dirt before running the final six competitors.
Kinsel ended up being the sixth rider to go, forcing her to stick as close to the center of the grooves as possible and turn very tightly at the barrels. She admitted it was a risky plan, but one that worked to perfection.
“The ground is the biggest game-changer here. It’s gravel-sand and most of the time horses aren’t used to it. They either like it or they don’t. And I knew she would try her best and she did,” Kinsel said. “It’s an all-or-nothing deal when the fastest run of the day wins.”
Kinsel wasn’t the only cowgirl who used speed to pull away from the field and secure a CFD buckle as breakaway roper Sawyer Gilbert was the lone finalist to finish Sunday’s championship run in under five seconds and secure the title.
The Buffalo, South Dakota cowgirl completed her throw in 4.4 seconds to grab the win during her first time participating at the Daddy of ’em All and the first time the winnings counted toward the ProRodeo standings. Only four other participants were able to record a qualifying time and none went faster than 5.1 seconds.
Before Sunday’s finale, Gilbert was sitting 19th in the world standings with a little over $10,000 for the season. Thanks to her win at CFD, she added more than $17,525 to her winnings for the season.
“It really makes me feel like I’ve got a chance. That what I’m doing out here isn’t a waste of time,” Gilbert said. “To have this much money, it’s exciting.”
The championship effort will even the bragging rights for Gilbert with travel partner Jordan Fabrizio as the pair are the only winners of the breakaway title at CFD since the rodeo added the event in 2019.
“It’s kind of cool to say we’re the only ones to have ever won Cheyenne in breakaway roping,” Gilbert said with a laugh.