By Neal Reid
Wrangler NFR Rookie Recovers From Downed Barrel
to Win Round 5
LAS VEGAS – A night after knocking over her first barrel of the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Dona Kay Rule found her way again.
The 61-year-old Wrangler NFR rookie took advantage of being the first barrel racer down the alleyway, guiding her Purina Horse of the Year, High Valor, through the cloverleaf pattern in 13.56 seconds to win Round 5 in front of 16,827 energetic witnesses on Monday night. The speedy run was the fastest of the rodeo so far and put another $26,231 in Rule’s pocket.
The victory – her second go-round triumph of this year’s Finals – was great redemption for Rule, who was frustrated after making a mistake on Sunday night.
“I had a little bit of a tough time last night,” said Rule, who also won Round 2 and has earned $78,115 in Las Vegas. “I tipped the second barrel and just left the first barrel bad, and there’s no time to fix it. So, I tried to set him up as good as I could for barrel one tonight and felt like he really, really went in there.
“Being first on the ground and not having to go behind 15 of the toughest horses there are and have them power the dirt out was a good deal.”
Rule and Valor finished .07 of a second quicker than Amberleigh Moore and her horse, Paige, who have placed in four consecutive rounds. With her $20,731 check for second place, Moore became just the eighth barrel racer in WPRA history to cross the $1 million mark in career earnings, an impressive accomplishment considering she has only been a WPRA member since 2015.
Ivy Conrado-Saebens finished third in the round in 13.77 seconds, while defending World Champion Hailey Kinsel took fourth place at 13.86. Kinsel’s $11,000 check pulled her to within $2,163 of world standings leader Emily Miller ($196,991), who finished out of the money for the first time at this year’s Finals with a 13.95-second run from the bottom of the ground.
Moore is now third in the world with $181,752, with 13-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Lisa Lockhart ($181,313) fourth and 2017 World Champion Nellie Miller also in the hunt in fifth place with $175,611.
Emily Miller continues to lead the Wrangler NFR average with a five-run total of 68.59 seconds, while Kinsel is 10th in the average because of a downed barrel in the opening round. Emily Miller will enter Round 6 tied with tie-down roper Shane Hanchey for the RAM Top Gun Award with $98,846 despite not earning a check in Round 5, and Moore ($88,692) and Rule ($78,115) are also in the mix for the prestigious award.
Emily Miller and Rule, both competing at their first Wrangler NFR, have won four of first five rounds, and Rule has been enjoying every minute of her first experience at the $10 million rodeo because of her talented mount.
“I always thought he’d do well and do well in the average, but I had no idea he would excel like this,” said Rule, who is sixth in the world standings with $174,623. “I knew he could, but you don’t count on it. You hope for it.”
For Rule, her main goal for the second half of the rodeo will be staying locked in on the task at hand, no matter how many directions she’s pulled throughout the day in Las Vegas.
“Well, the key word is focus,” said Rule, the 2007 WPRA Pioneer Award winner. “You have to focus on your job and your horse and keep yourself together and keep him together. It’s a marathon, and there’s a lot more other things outside the arena that tear you apart (demand-wise).
“That’s been tough for me, because I usually stay by myself and just stay by my horse. That’s been a learning experience, too.”