By Jolee Jordan
San Antonio, Texas — Better than a million and a half dollars were divvied out during the 20 performances of tournament rodeo that is the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. The biggest payoff came during the Championships on Saturday night, Feb. 27, when the 10 ladies who made the cut through bracket competition and semifinals action made one final run for the title and all the prizes and glory that go with it.
The final five spots into the finals were filled during two nights of semifinal action Thursday and Friday. Carmel Wright and Michele McLeod were the big winners—each lady placed in both semifinal rounds to earn more than $9,000. Wright actually placed in every payoff of this year’s event, the only cowgirl to do so.
The rest of the finalists to advance through SemiFinal II were Kelly Schnaufer, Morgan Breaux and Jackie Ganter.
With the finalists finally set, the field held an interesting mix of cowgirls. Three were in Las Vegas last December for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) (McLeod, Ganter and Cassidy Kruse) while three others have knocked on the door in recent years but haven’t made their first trips yet (Kimmie Wall, Wright and Sammi Bessert).
Three were rookies in 2016 (Ganter, Ivy Conrado and Morgan Breaux), meaning this is their first trip to the Alamo City to rodeo. Three are in the current top five of the WPRA World standings (Conrado, Kelly Tovar and McLeod).
With a stacked line-up and a ton of money on the line, the Championship began with McLeod drawing the first position, the one to set the pace.
Boy, what a pace she set. Riding Slick by Design, McLeod posted the second best run of the entire 20 performances of rodeo at 13.80 seconds.
There was plenty of talent left to challenge and McLeod had to wait through each run with breathe held to see if she could claim her first San Antonio buckle and the $5,000 gas card that is almost worth gold for a cowgirl on the rodeo road.
Colorado’s Bessert was second to run and she and her gelding Tommy have been running solidly throughout the 2016 edition of the San Antonio rodeo. In fact, she had placed on all but one previous run and her 14.07 placed her in the money again.
Likewise, Kruse put up a top run of 14.09 to land in the money for her fourth check while another Colorado cowgirl, Kelly Schnaufer stopped the clock at 14.23 seconds. Schnaufer and Jess Undeniable had placed in four rounds before the finals but came up a little short on the final night.
Wall and Foxy are enjoying their best winter and though their 14.13 second run ended up fifth and just out of the final round dough, they still walked out of San Antonio as the fourth high money winners with nearly $11,000 in earnings.
Ganter and Jet ran the rodeo’s fastest time, a 13.78 set way back in the second performance, and their run of 14.22 in the finals was not in the money. Still, Ganter has won nearly $30,000 this winter and added to that while in San Antonio.
Next on the draw had to be one of the favorites, the hottest team in pro rodeo at the moment, Ivy Conrado and Tibbie. Conrado has already dominated stock show season, winning second in Denver and first in Fort Worth. She came into the finals here with nearly $10,000 in earnings and she gave McLeod a good scare with another pretty run. The clock stopped at 13.99 seconds, good enough for second with three ladies to run.
Kelly Tovar took a costly penalty and Carmel Wright and Tweety put up 14.15 seconds, leaving just Breaux, who won the final round of the semi-finals aboard Harley. Running tenth, the pair ran a 14.40, sending the title to Whitesboro with McLeod.
Slick is by Designer Red out of Dreams of Blue and is owned by High Point Performance Horses. The black stallion and McLeod have been running hot since returning to form last fall just in time to win a pair of go rounds at the 2015 WNFR.
After suffering an injury on their final run in Las Vegas, Slick had time off through the winter to recoup and to see to his other job in the breeding shed. His runs in San Antonio during the fifth and final bracket on February 21-22 were actually his first since the WNFR.
Clearly no rust grows on a “Slick” surface. McLeod placed in two rounds of her bracket, including a go round win, and in both semifinal runs. She ran a 14.15, 14.26 and 13.92 during bracket competition and a 14.14 and 14.10 in the semis.
With the big win in the final round, McLeod added $14,476 to her previous San Antonio earnings to push the total to an impressive $23,529, just $3,263 better than Conrado. Since the Championship is based on total money won, McLeod took the victory lap, the gas card, the buckle and the bragging rights for 2016.
McLeod has already enjoyed a profitable winter riding several other horses and the big San Antonio winnings will move her right near the top of the standings with Conado and Ganter. In fact, the new WPRA World standings should find all the top winners from San Antonio in the top 10.
For more information on the San Antonio Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.sarodeo.com.
1. Carmel Wright, SweetHeart Special, 13.91, $4,277
2. Kelly Schnaufer, Jess Undeniable, 14.03, $3,208
3. Michele McLeod, Slick by Design, 14.14, $2,139
4. Jackie Ganter, Guys French Jet, 14.19, $1,069
1. Morgan Breaux, SS Streakers R Us, 14.06, $4,277
2. McLeod, 14.10, $3,208
3. Katelyn McLeod, Apt to Be Special, 14.14, $2,139
4. Wright, 14.20, $1,069
1. McLeod, 13.80, $14,476
2. Ivy Conrado, CFour Tibbie Stinson, 13.99, $10,857
3. Sammi Bessert, Terrible Tommy Twist, 14.07, $7,238
4. Cassidy Kruse, Dash to Tim, 14.09, $3,619
Total Money Won
Kimmie Wall, $10,942
Kelly Tovar, $3,992