By Jolee Lautaret
Calgary, Alberta Canada — There is a lot to be gained at the 2015 Calgary Stampede for the 20 WPRA barrel racers competing here. Prestige, money and something even bigger for some... a possible berth to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas in December.
For the WPRA barrel racers, the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" is approved for WPRA World standings. With the huge payout—a total of $2 million for the entire rodeo, $330,800 to the barrel racers—the Calgary Stampede will have a big impact on the chase for the 2015 Wrangler NFR as well as the 2015 WPRA World title.
Three years ago, the first time Calgary was approved since moving to the tournament style format, Jean Winters shocked the field with her big win, clinching her first trip to Vegas. A year ago, it was Kaley Bass taking the win, catapulting to the top of the standings where she would stay until nearly the final day of the season.
In 2015 there are several cowgirls hoping to put their names on a similar story. Ranging from current WPRA World leader Sarah Rose McDonald to 541st ranked Tara Muldoon, they all come to Calgary with the same opportunity and the same path to get it done. Only one—four-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi—knows what it's like to win a title here.
Twenty cowgirls are invited to compete, qualifying from both 2014 and 2015 WPRA World standings as well as the 2014 WPRA Tour standings and 2014 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association standings. A spot is also reserved for the Ram National Circuit Finals Champion cowgirl—this year, Carmel Wright—as well as the reigning champion of the Calgary Stampede. The final spot would have gone to last year's winner Bass but passed to current WPRA World standings leader McDonald when Bass declined the invite as she is pregnant with her first child.
The competitors are divided into two pools of 10 contestants each. Each pool makes four runs in four days and money is paid out for each day's competition to fifth place. The top four money winners—no averages are paid—advance to Showdown Sunday's Semi-Final round on July 12.
The six in each pool who do not advance are given one more shot, running in the sudden death Wild Card Round on Saturday. The two fastest in that round also move on to Sunday.
The field of 10 then competes in the Semi-Finals, again sudden death with no previous times carrying forward. The four fastest advance to the Showdown, held only about an hour later. All four ladies negotiate the cloverleaf again with the fastest time in that round determining the Calgary Stampede Championship and $100,000 - of which $50,000 count to the world standings.
Competition for Pool A began on July 3. Reigning WPRA World Champion Fallon Taylor wasted no time in working for a third straight trip to Showdown Sunday. Riding her great mare Babyflo, Taylor nabbed the win on an opening day that saw many horse struggle to find their footing. Babyflo had no trouble, posting 17.65 seconds for the win.
Mary Walker and Wright were hot on her heels, a theme that played out in rounds two and three as well. Wright took the win on the Fourth of July with her run of 17.72 aboard Tweety while Walker and Latte won day three with a 17.77 second run. Only Nancy Hunter was able to break the trio's lock on 1-2-3, earning second on day two.
The foursome had their spots for Showdown Sunday guaranteed by the final day on Monday, July 6, making the final day of Pool A a bit anti-climatic. Three cowgirls that had struggled in previous runs bounced back on the final day, however, setting themselves up with a bit of confidence going into Saturday's Wild Card round.
Kassidy Dennison and Eagle made the biggest comeback; after falling down and taking a no-time in round one, Dennison smoked the field on Monday afternoon with the fastest time of the rodeo so far. Her 17.41 second effort earned her a nice check.
Walker and Taylor were both in the money once again with Walker second at 17.59—second best of the rodeo thus far—and Taylor fourth. Canadian cowgirl Julie Leggett took third, adding to her fourth place finish on day one while Michele McLeod picked up her first check at fifth.
Walker was the high money winner of Pool A with $17,000 in earnings while Taylor was close behind with $16,000. The money is huge for Walker who entered Calgary ranked 13th and looking to secure a fourth trip to the Wrangler NFR. Meanwhile, Taylor is working on a repeat in the WPRA World title, already ranked fifth but looking for the top of the heap.
Wright made a big move with her $12,500 in pool earnings, jumping way up from 47th in the standings as the former New Zealand barrel racing champion chases her dream of a Wrangler NFR qualification. Hunter had led the WPRA World standings since winning RodeoHouston in March but lost the lead in recent weeks to McDonald. Her $8,500 thus far may help keep the race close as the Stampede continues.
For more information on the Calgary Stampede, visit them on-line at www.calgarystampede.com and watch daily webcasts at www.cbc.ca. Stay tuned to www.wpra.com for continuing coverage.
(Name, Horse, How Qualified, Time, Money Won)
1. Fallon Taylor, Flos Heiress, 2014 WPRA World, 17.65 seconds, $5,500
2. Mary Walker, Perculatin, 2014 WPRA World, 17.87, $4,500
3. Carmel Wright, Sweet Heart Special, 2015 RNCFR Champ, 17.88, $3,500
4. Julie Leggett, FDI Cash to Burn, 2014 CPRA, 17.98, $2,500
5. Nancy Hunter, Flit N Fizz, 2015 WPRA World, 18.21, $1,500
Wright, 17.72, $5,500
Hunter, 17.77, $4,500
Taylor, 17.97, $3,500
Walker, 18.07, $2,500
Sydney Daines, Honor before Fame, 2014 CPRA, 18.24, $1,500
Walker, 17.77, $5,500
Taylor, 17.86, $4,500
Wright, 17.90, $3,500
Hunter, 18.06, $2,500
Stephanie Mather, Siksikas Buck, 2014 CPRA, $1,500
Kassidy Dennison, Sierra Hall of Fame, 2014 WPRA Tour, 17.41 seconds, $5,500
Walker, 17.59, $4,500
Leggett, 17.67, $3,500
Taylor, 17.70, $2,500
Michele McLeod, Slick by Design, 17.73, $1,500
Total Money Won