Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo News Roundup


CFD - Zeke Thurston

Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alb., Can., hangs on during saddle bronc competition Tuesday afternoon at Frontier Park Arena. Michael Smith/Special to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle


Zeke Thurston takes aggregate lead in saddle bronc

By Sisco Molina, WyoSports 

CHEYENNE – Zeke Thurston let out a sigh of relief when he saw the horse he drew for his second run in the saddle bronc riding competition Tuesday in the fourth performance of the 120th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

The Big Valley, Alberta, Canada, cowboy saw the Salt River Rodeo bronc named Smoke Ring carry other cowboys to high-scoring rides on numerous occasions. Thurston knew if he ever got his chance, he’d have to make the most of it.

And that’s exactly what he did.

One day after winning the first go-round with an 84-point ride, Thurston went out and won the second go as well – posting an 87 on his second run to take the aggregate lead with a two-run total of 171.

“You’ve got to draw right, but you also have to do your part. I was just blessed to have both rides go my way,” Thurston said.

He knew he had some stiff competition going into the day with the likes of Samuel Kelts and Tyrell J. Smith making their respective second runs as well. Kelts finished second behind Thurston in the first go with an 82, while Smith was in fourth place with an 80.

And the two kept the pressure on with the runs they turned in during the second go as well.

Before Thurston’s second run, Kelts held the aggregate lead after a score of 79 gave him a two-run total of 161. Smith was right behind in second place with 160 after his second consecutive 80-point ride.

But the two were soon bumped down a notch after Thurston’s electrifying 87-point ride wowed the crowd.

“(Kelts and Smith) are going to ride good all the time, so you’ve always got to be on your game – especially when you’re going up against the best in the world,” Thurston said.

Thurston now holds a 10-point lead heading into the finals Sunday, where he will chase his first-ever CFD buckle.

“I came out last year and didn’t have any luck, but to be doing good at the ‘Daddy of ’em All,’ as they call it, it’s great, it’s pretty cool,” Thurston said.

Bull riding

Tyler Smith knows success doesn’t come easy at CFD – especially as a bull rider.

They’ve been having the toughest time of all the competitors, as only 10 out of the field of 44 have come away with scoring rides.

Of those 10, only five scored in each go-round and posted an aggregate score.

Four of those happened Tuesday.

Smith was one of those four, scoring the best ride of the day with an 80.5 to reserve himself a spot in the short go Sunday with an aggregate score of 158.5.

“This is one of the toughest rodeos we go to all year. You’ve got to get on three bulls to win a good check here,” the Fruita, Colorado, cowboy said. “You just have to do the best with what you’ve got drawn, and so far it’s been going my way.

“We’ll see what happens in the short round.”

Ty Wallace (73.5), Freeman Yoder (75) and Jordan Hansen (79) were the other three cowboys to post their second score of the rodeo, and currently sit second, third and fifth in the aggregate.

For Yoder, it’s a complete contrast to his first showing last year at CFD, when he failed to reach the horn in each of his two rides.

“It means the world to me to come out here and ride two bulls, even though my second ride wasn’t the best score I’ve ever had,” Yoder said. “Last year I came out and didn’t have any success, but this year it’s a complete turnaround, and I’m grateful.”

Bareback riding

Tanner Aus showed just how badly he wants a repeat title at CFD.

After posting a score of 78 to put himself ninth in the first go, the Granite Falls, Minnesota, cowboy went out Tuesday to not only win the second go-round with an 84.5, but also to jump all the way up to third place in the aggregate with a two-run score of 162.5.

Now he’s just one high-scoring run away from his second consecutive CFD buckle.

“You’ve just got to take it one horse at a time here. The best guys in the world come to this rodeo, and everybody’s gunning for a piece of it,” Aus said. “Having a repeat victory in Cheyenne would be awesome, but the competition is so tough.

“We’ll see how it goes.”

Aus currently sits behind Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, in first place with an aggregate score of 169 and Grant Denny of Minden, Nevada, in second with 164.

Wyatt Denny, also of Minden, Nevada, and Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, took advantage of re-rides in the second go, scoring 76- and 78-point rides, respectively.

Wyatt Denny now sits in fourth in the aggregate with 160, while Champion is right behind in fifth with 159.5.

Barrel racing

Jana Bean watched as Kathy Korell-Rach made her barrel racing run during Tuesday’s second go action. Korell-Rach finished the pattern in 17.29 seconds, the fastest time of any run at CFD. Bean thought Korell-Rach had easily won the go.

Moments later, Bean proved herself wrong.

The Fort Hancock, Texas, cowgirl posted a time of 17.16 seconds to take the go and aggregate lead in the competition with an aggregate of 35.39.

“My horse is really young, and it’s his first time ever being in this arena, so honestly I didn’t have any expectations,” Bean said. “I know he has the potential to do it, but he’s young and I had no idea what he would do. I just went out there and kind of let him do his job, and he did really well and went really fast today.”

Bean knocked defending CFD champ Lisa Lockhart out of the top spot, as she now sits in second with an aggregate of 35.43 seconds.

Tyra Kane of Dublin, Texas, had a time of 17.46 on Tuesday and sits in third (35.57) while Korell-Rach sits fourth (35.58).

Larsen finds success once again with Black Tie at Frontier Days

Orin Larsen


Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, Canada, competes in the second section of the bareback riding event during the first day of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Saturday afternoon at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne. Blaine McCartney/Wyoming Tribune Eagle


Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2016 6:00 am

By Jeremiah Johnke | 0 comments

CHEYENNE – It’s hard to say who was more excited about the horse Orin Larsen had drawn for the first go-round of the 120th Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo – Larsen or his girlfriend.

“My girlfriend knew that horse before I even knew what the stock was here,” the Inglis, Manitoba, bareback rider said. “She was pretty excited when I had that one.”

There was good reason for the pair to be excited. Larsen had scored no less than 83 points in his two previous efforts on the Sankey Pro Rodeo horse known as Black Tie.

That trend continued Saturday afternoon at Frontier Park Arena. Larsen scored 87 points and leads the first go.

“It’s just a nice horse that you can get on in Cheyenne and show your talent on,” Larsen said. “… She was kind of leaning on the gate and not wanting to give me a fair shot out there.

“As soon as she gave me a chance, I took it. She reared out, jumped high and kicked hard. She was just a really fun horse.”

Larsen’s best ride on Black Tie was an 88-pointer on Sept. 4, 2015, at the Magic Valley Stampede in Filer, Idaho. He also scored 83 points on Black Tie on April 10 at the Clark County Fair and Rodeo in Logandale, Nevada.

“The 88 was a little bit better, but I’ll take the 87,” Larsen said.

Larsen sits third in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings with nearly $77,000 in winnings. The 25-year-old is a little more than $10,000 out of first place.

“I’m having fun and not rodeoing my tail off,” said Larsen, who made his first National Finals Rodeo appearance last year. “I’m going to the good (rodeos) and getting on the good horses and just having fun.”

Bull riding

Trevor Reiste had his hands full with Dakota Rodeo’s After Party.

The bull pulled Reiste to the inside of its spin, but the Linden, Iowa, cowboy was able to avoid the well and record an 86.5-point ride.

“I was really scratching to get back to the outside,” Reiste said. “It was all about hustling and not quitting.”

Only three cowboys recorded scores on the first day. Jeff Bertus of Avon, South Dakota, notched 81 points, while Roscoe Jarboe of New Plymouth, Idaho, scored 80.

Tie-down roping

Chase Williams of Stephenville, Texas, didn’t arrive until 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Cheyenne.

He was competing Friday night at California Rodeo Salinas and caught a red-eye flight from there.

He made sure he could get some rest by posting a 10.3-second tie-down roping run to take the first round lead.

“I left my horse with Troy Pruitt all week in Gering (Nebraska) and got him tuned up for me, and he worked really good for me. He really saved me,” Williams said. “My horse really pulled and kept my rope tight, and that helped because I set myself up badly.

“I didn’t get my slack where I wanted. I got it right down his back, and that stood him up instead of spinning him around. Luckily my horse pulled backward and kept the calf where I needed it.”

Steer wrestling

JD Struxness’ steer tried to cut in front of his horse and to the fence, but a little horsemanship kept the steer in position to be tipped.

Struxness finished his run in 8.9 seconds, which sits first in the first go.

“I let my horse go to that steer a little too early, and it started moving to the left,” the Appleton, Minnesota, cowboy said. “My horse did a good job of getting to the fence, zipping on by the steer and giving me a chance to throw him down.”

Struxness placed second in the first round of CFD in 2015 with a time of 7.0 seconds. He didn’t record a time in the second go and is looking to change that.

“I was really looking forward to coming back here and turning it around,” Struxness said.

Smidt staying the course for another National Finals Rodeo berth

Caleb Smidt


Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas, ropes his calf in the tie-down roping event Monday during the third day of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Blaine McCartney/Wyoming Tribune Eagle


Smidt file

Age: 26

Hometown: Bellville, Texas

National Finals berths: 3

2015 finish: 1st

2015 earnings: $242,354

2016 ranking: 7th

2016 earnings: $50,683

Career earnings: $436,585

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 6:00 am

By Jeremiah Johnke, WyoSports 


CHEYENNE – Caleb Smidt has experienced highs, lows and everything in between during the past four rodeo seasons.

During that stretch, the Bellville, Texas, tie-down roper has:

• Qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo.

• Experienced a devastating injury that cost him most of the 2014 season.

• Won his first world championship.

• Had to borrow horses because his primary horse suffered an injury.

• Put himself in line for another NFR berth.

“I’m not mad about how this year is going,” said Smidt, who sits seventh in this week’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings.

“I’ve won some good rodeos, but I have also messed up a lot of chances to do better.”

That’s the sort of perspective you’d expect from someone who has experienced the highs and lows Smidt has.

The 26-year-old missed all but a few months of the 2014 season when he suffered a broken leg while practicing steer wrestling.

The dummy he was practicing on was being dragged by a four-wheeler. Smidt landed on the dummy, and it broke free from the four-wheeler.

The dummy shot off to the right. Smidt’s body fell to the left. His right foot stayed planted and ended up under his body. The entirety of his weight rolled over the foot and shattered his leg halfway up his shin.

The compound fracture required two surgeries, three plates and 27 screws to fix. It sidelined him for eight months.

It wasn’t until last summer that Smidt fully trusted his surgically repaired right leg.

“It wasn’t until the summer that I finally got the confidence to get off my horse and do everything I could before,” he said.

Smidt qualified for the 2015 NFR by finishing sixth during the regular season.

He caught fire in Las Vegas.

He placed no worse than sixth in any of the 10 rounds and split first place in the third round with Tyson Durfey.

Finding consistency at the right time yielded Smidt the NFR’s aggregate title and $144,904. That was $18,827 more than 13-time all-around world champ Trevor Brazile.

Smidt also won his first world title, topping Brazile by nearly $14,300.

“I drew well, and my horse was good all 10 nights,” Smidt said about his NFR run. “Everything fell into place. I didn’t win many rounds, but I placed in eight of 10.”

Smidt credits his horse, Pocketful of Light – or Pockets – with his success last season.

Smidt bought the horse from Buffalo, Wyoming, resident Ian Wells. It only took the pair a short time to establish chemistry, but Smidt didn’t start winning consistently until early summer, when he regained confidence in his leg.

“He was awesome almost from the start,” Smidt said. “He hadn’t been hauled around like I hauled him around, but he took to it well and did awesome.

“It took me a minute to figure out how to rope on him, but I changed some things up, and we got it all figured out.”

Pockets is the one dealing with a leg injury this summer. The bay horse has been sidelined with fluid on the navicular bone in one of his lower legs.

Smidt will return to Texas next week to get Pockets back into the arena for some exercise.

Smidt has been borrowing horses ever since Pockets suffered his injury. He has gotten on horses owned by Justin Maass and Rhen Richard the most. But the lack of chemistry has resulted in sporadic paychecks.

“I’ve missed a lot of chances,” Smidt said. “Some horses you just click with right when you get on them, and there are some others where it takes a while. Then there are others you just don’t get along with.

“I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep trying because I know I’ll get it figured out.”