By Neal Reid
Moore Continues Rebound From Rough Start With Round 3 Victory
Amberleigh Moore’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo redemption reached another level on Saturday night.
After turfing two barrels in the opening round, Moore and her 10-year-old mare, Paige, cashed a check in Round 2 and then took it a step further by claiming the third performance buckle in front of 16,831 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Moore and Paige stopped the clock in 13.62 seconds to edge Wrangler NFR average leader Emily Miller and her gelding, Chongo, by .01 of a second to earn the victory lap.
Moore, of Salem, Ore., guided Paige to a fourth-place finish in the second round and was thrilled to continue their resurgence and pocket the $26,231 first-place winner’s check on Saturday night.
“Paige just loves this arena so much,” said Moore, who is competing in her fourth consecutive Wrangler NFR. “She came in the first night, and she was so excited to be here that I think she got too excited. She over-worked and lost me.
“She came back last night and played it safe, which was fine because we picked up a check. Then tonight, I knew she’d come back and tighten it up and I just had to be ready to let it roll.”
Miller, a Wrangler NFR rookie, continued her torrid start by earning another $20,731 to push her season total to $170,760 and close the gap on the top three in the world standings. Those three spots remained unchanged after money leader Lisa Lockhart ($181,313), second-place Hailey Kinsel ($179,597) and Nellie Miller ($175,611) all finished out of the money in Round 3.
Miller has earned a whopping $72,615 in Las Vegas the first three nights and leads the RAM Top Gun Award standings heading into Sunday’s fourth performance. Round 2 winner Dona Kay Rule finished third on Saturday in 13.68 seconds, with Jessica Routier (13.84) and Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi (13.88) rounding out the top five.
Saturday’s winner’s payout moved Moore to sixth in the WPRA World Standings with $140,290, but she remained 15th in the average. Even despite the rough start, Miller has moved up six spots in the standings through three rounds and has her eyes on a big-time career earnings mark.
She entered the $10 million rodeo less than $80,000 away from $1 million in career earnings, and Moore admitted it is a goal of hers while she’s in Las Vegas.
“I can’t lie, I want to get it done here, and I’m hoping and praying everything goes that direction,” said Moore, who is just $31,955 away from the seven-digit mark. “It’s a bucket-list goal, and I think we’re going to get it done.”
In order to get there, the 2016 WPRA reserve world champion said she’s going to keep her approach simple the next seven rounds.
“Just one run at a time, that’s always been my motto,” said Moore, who bought Paige from Cody Hyde when the mare was 3 years old. “I just want to take one run at a time, let her do her job and stay out of her way. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, like in Round 1, but that’s what we’re going to go with.”
Moore also said if she and Paige hit the million-dollar mark, barrel racing fans could see her other Wrangler NFR horse – 9-year-old bay gelding named Ducky – at this year’s Finals.
“Let’s put it this way, if we get it done early enough, you’ll get to see Ducky run,” Moore said. “He helped me get here, and he deserves it.”
Experience is a valued asset for Moore as she competes at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Being that it’s my fourth year here and it was Paige’s 33rd run in that arena, we both know every inch of that arena, and I just have to be ready for it every step of the way,” Moore said.