Saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss from Heflin, La., waves to the crowd after riding to a first place score of 86.0 during the tenth go-round of the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. (Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review Journal)
Saddle bronc rider Cody "Hot Sauce" DeMoss continues to live on the edge at the National Finals Rodeo in his bid for his first world title after an event-record five second-place finishes.
DeMoss lost his lead in the world standings for the second time in three rounds Sunday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, where he missed him out and took a no score to fall to second place. DeMoss, sixth in the average, is less than $5,000 behind leader Jacobs Crawley, who finished fourth in the fourth round with an 83-point ride on J Bar J's Special Time and leads the average with 330 points on four head.
DeMoss lost his world standings lead Friday for the first time since Feb. 9, but bounced back with a big win Saturday to reclaim the lead.
There was also a lead change in tie-down roping, where defending world champ Tuf Cooper reclaimed the top spot by less than $5,000 over Timber Moore. Cooper, who hurt his bid for his fourth gold buckle in five years when he took a no time Saturday, tied for third place Sunday with a 7.4-second run. Moore didn't place.
In bareback riding, Steven Peebles continued his NFR hot streak by winning a share of his third straight round, tying Kaycee Feild with 84 points apiece. Peebles rode Pickett Pro Rodeo's Scarlet Belle and Feild rode J Bar J's Pass The Hat. Peebles, who leads the NFR with $95,356 in winnings, trails Feild by $6,330.
Feild, the four-time defending world champion and four-time defending NFR average champion, said he's enjoying the competition with Peebles.
"It's fun for me because this is what I do for a living and this is what I study every day," he said. "I want a world championship and I want to break some records this year and Steven has put pressure on me, which has made it fun. It makes you push your limits each night."
Solomon ropes way back into WNFR
In 2013 and 2014, tie-down roper Cory Solomon came agonizingly close to qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, finishing 16th in the world standings each year. In 2015, he found his way back to Las Vegas for the third time, finishing 11th in the regular season to punch his ticket among the top 15 ropers. PRCA PHOTO BY W.T. BRUCE
BY Patrick Everson Las Vegas Review-Journal
Only the best of the best make it to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The top 15 money winners in each of seven events during the regular season gain admittance to the 10-day bonanza at the Thomas & Mack Center.
So there's nothing worse than finishing 16th.
Check that. There is one thing worse than that: finishing 16th two years in a row, a fate that befell tie-down roper Cory Solomon in 2013 and 2014.
"My good horse in 2013 got hurt from July to October, when you really need him," Solomon said, lamenting that first missed opportunity. "When that happens once, you get tested. It's not an easy pill to swallow, to watch guys you know you can beat."
And when it happens twice?
"To come back in 2014 and have that happen again was an even bigger test. You see if you can really stand for what you believe," Solomon said. "I was a little bitter about rodeo. But I just told myself, if I can overcome this in my young career, then there won't be anything I can't overcome."
Consider the setback overcome. Solomon, who made a stellar run at his first WNFR in 2011 en route to finishing third in the world and made it back to the biggest rodeo in 2012, qualified in 11th for this year's WNFR with regular-season earnings of $92,483.
The 2015 resurgence came after not just the two-time disappointment, but the sadness of having his best horse die from an illness that set in late in the 2014 season.
"After last year's NFR, I went out for a couple days and said I was gonna refocus and just start fresh," Solomon said. "I was gonna attack early in the season, treat my first rodeo like it was the last calf I was ever gonna run. My good horse, Spook, was healthy and ready to go."
An early, big victory at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo — worth about a quarter of Solomon's season earnings — got the Prairie View, Texas, cowboy back on his way in a hurry.
"I kept attacking and attacking. I never let my foot off the gas," he said, while noting it took a little longer before he was sure he'd qualify for the WNFR. "Usually, when you get around $60,000, you start getting confident. But I didn't really feel confident this year until I got over $70,000."
Indeed, he had that pegged nearly spot-on. The 15th and final spot this year went to Shane Hanchey, who earned $70,456 in the regular season. As Solomon cracked $80,000, he had a cushion that allowed him to get a little rest for himself and his horse.
"I eased off the gas. At the end of the season, you're mostly drained," he said. "Just going into Omaha (his last big rodeo of the season) having the Finals made already was just a relief — a huge relief."
The regular season concluded at the end of September. So for the WNFR, Solomon has to get himself back into that mode he started 2015 with — chasing every calf as if it was his last. He hasn't cashed a check yet this week, but he knows there are still plenty of chances, so he's not backing off.
"I want to attack. With the increased go-round pay, it's anybody's year to win the championship," he said. "I want to go in there and rope smart. I don't have anything to guard. I only have a world title to gain."
He expects his WNFR experience, both good and bad, will help him. In 2011, as just a 21-year-old, he won the third go-round, placed in three other go-rounds and finished the year with $158,963, third in the world. But at the 2012 WNFR, there were no go-round wins and just two checks cashed, as he finished the year 11th at $110,584.
"Just being there a couple times, it shows me what to work for, what to get better at, what not to take for granted," Solomon said. "The NFR can be the funnest place, and it can be the most miserable 10 days. That second year, that's how it was for me.
"But that has helped me mentally, to go in with a humble mind and a hungry mind."
Solomon said he enjoys the atmosphere of the WNFR.
"It's the rodeo you dream of since you were a little kid. You've got the greatest fans in the world here," he said. "You don't treat it like a normal rodeo. I don't know if I'd call it nerves, but when you're in that tunnel (before the run), you find yourself doing things you don't normally do. You have to control yourself — treat it like it's just another rodeo, but with more money."
Easier said than done, with 18,000 fans at the Thomas & Mack every night, often screaming at a fever pitch. Solomon said the goal is to soak in that adulation — when the time is right.
"Make the run before you let the people and the excitement take over," he said. "It's very hard to do. You just have to make sure you don't get caught up in it. You just do your job, take care of business, and let the rest take care of itself."
After all, he's already done the most important work, finishing among that top 15.
"I've had a blessed year, and I'm thankful for that," Solomon said.