Calgary Stampede Day 1 Rodeo Roundup

Utah cowboy Caleb Bennett on a horse named Shadow Warrior during the bareback event at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

Caleb Bennett has won it all before at the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

And he would like nothing more than to do it all over again.

Bennett, of Tremonton, Utah, was first out of the gates in the bareback competition on the opening afternoon of the world-renowned rodeo and posted a score of 87.5 aboard Shadow Warrior.

“Me, I don’t mind it,” said Bennett of going first. “That’s the way I look at it – alright, I’ll set the bar for these guys, set the bar for the rest of the week, whatever I’ve got to do. I’m here to play and here to stay. Heck, I’m just glad to be back in Calgary doing what I love.”

The 2013 Stampede champion held on to edge out R.C. Landingham, of Hat Creek, Calif., who the judges awarded 86.5 points after his stellar ride atop Special Delivery.

“I actually feel more confident and better this year than that year (in 2013),” said Bennett, whose recent accomplishments include winning the bareback competition at the Ponoka Stampede on July 3. “I wanna win it again, so I’m gonna dang sure say I’m going to try. There’s pretty tough competitors to just come out and bluntly say a guy’s going to do it, but in my mind, yeah, I’m gonna at least try and do it.”

To do so, the 27-year-old cowboy will have to outperform the likes of two-time Calgary Stampede champion Kaycee Feild, of Elk Ridge, Utah, who placed third on Friday with a ride of 84.5 on Copper Cat.

“That’s a guy I look forward to competing against at any rodeo,” said Bennett. “He kind of fuels my fire. I’m glad to be in this pool with him here because it makes me step up to the plate a little bit.”

Bennett will also keep an eye on two-time Canadian champion Jake Vold, of Airdrie, who had a solid fifth-place showing after an 81.5-point ride atop Up Ur Alley.

“Then you throw my arch enemy, but my good buddy from up here, Jake Vold, into that mix, this is a good pool to be in,” Bennett said. “I think this is probably one of the best pools of bareback riders I’ve been in up here as far as competitors, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week.”

Bennett was happy to have a solid ride on Shadow Warrior, who’s the son of legendary Calgary Stampede horse Grated Coconut.

“He’s another stud, too, and he sure loves his game,” Bennett said. “I don’t know if they showed it. In the bucking chutes he’s in there snorting and throwing his head around. He sure loves what he does.”

Although he hails from south of the border, Bennett considers himself as an adopted Canadian and even wears the red and white Maple Leaf flag on his vest.

“I come up here so much and love it so much, I started wearing the Canadian flag and before that (three-time Canadian champ) Kyle Bowers and them all called me the Canadian transplant. I figured I’ve been wearing the American flag, so I might as well sport the Canadian flag, I’m up here enough.

Top prize money softens hard fall for Kindersly bull rider

LAURENCE HEINEN, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 7:36 PM MDT

Kindersley,Saskatchewan bullrider Dakota Buttar rides a bull named Houdini Magic at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

Dakota Buttar’s Calgary Stampede rodeo didn’t start the way he planned.

That being said, he won $5,500 for finishing first in Friday’s bull riding competition after an 87-point ride aboard Houdini Magic.

“That’s not really how I wanted my first one to go here,” said Buttar, of Kindersley, Sask., who was bucked off Houdini Magic after his eight seconds were up and took a hard fall to the ground. “Yeah, I’m not complaining.”

Buttar did enough to record the top score of the day before hitting the turf hard.

“As the ride went on, the bull kept getting stronger,” explained Buttar, who has won back-to-back Canadian Finals Rodeo titles in saddle bronc. “At the end, he finally kind of got me and whipped me down pretty hard.”

Earlier this season on the Professional Bull Riders circuit, Buttar suffered a dislocated right shoulder and then he sustained a concussion while competing at the Ponoka Stampede in early July.

“I haven’t been really lucky,” said Buttar, adding that his shoulder’s feeling a lot better. “Sports med has got me feeling 100 per cent now. It’s just my noggin I have to keep looking after.”

Buttar had one of only three successful rides on Friday. Ryan Dirteater, of Hulbert, Okla., finished second thanks to an 85-point ride aboard All Fired Up, while Brazilian bull rider Joao Ricardo Vieira rode Wounded Warrior to a score of 80.5.

“The bulls are really bucking this year,” Buttar said. “I haven’t seen too many bulls that you wouldn’t want to get on.”

With already a pair of CFR titles under his belt buckle, Buttar has high hopes of continuing to have solid rides in order to contend for his first Calgary Stampede title.

“It would be a childhood dream to win this,” he said.

Scott Cruickshank: Bareback star Kaycee Feild turns unsettling winter into a positive

SCOTT CRUICKSHANK, CALGARY HERALD
More from Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Herald

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 6:42 PM MDT

Kaycee Feild, of Elk Ridge, Utah, competes in the bareback event during rodeo action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alta., Friday, July 8, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh ORG XMIT: JMC130 JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS

This is postcard pretty. All blue skies and snow-smothered mountains.

In the foreground, the subject, bundled up and smiling broad, looks at ease aboard a horse.

But it’s more than a nice snapshot.

This – a frosty ride on Valentine’s Day at his Elk Ridge, Utah, ranch – serves as Lewis Feild’s farewell. The following day, the rodeo legend died after a five-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

But those 10 minutes in the saddle provided a measure of comfort. To the man, to the family.

In fact, it was perfect.

“Like he was waiting to be horse-back (before he passed away),” Kaycee, his son, says Friday after competing at the Calgary Stampede. “He wasn’t doing very good at all that last week. We got him horse-back and he was happy as could be.”

He chokes up, apologizes, continues.

“It was meant to be.”

Kaycee posted the photo on Instagram.

Caption: “What an amazing day … he did not want to get off!” (Hashtags: #longlivecowboys #buckcancer)

“I don’t want anybody feeling bad for me,” says Kaycee. “He doesn’t want anybody feeling bad for him. It’s part of life. Everyone knows our relationship.”

Heck, even their rodeo resumes are tight – Lewis five times won world championships, Kaycee four times.

Less than a month after the funeral, Kaycee triumphed in Houston. The bareback star hadn’t bothered with elaborate bucking-chute tributes.

Nor tattoos on his body. Nor initials on his chaps.

The father-son bond is spiritual, which is to say enough.

“He loved watching me ride bucking horses,” says Kaycee. “And he loves it more now – he’s there with me every time, instead of only when I’m at Utah rodeos or in Vegas (for the National Finals Rodeo). I think he loved watching me more than when he was riding.”

Saying goodbye to his dad was only part of the 29-year-old’s emotional winter.

Kaycee, along with more than 80 fellow competitors, was on the ground floor of the Elite Rodeo Athletes tour. Which meant being front and centre for a cantankerous legal back-and-forth with the established Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Asked about what must have been a draining off-season, personally and professionally, he shrugs.

“It’s actually been a blessing,” he says. “Everything that’s been happening with the ERA, with my career, with my dad getting sick … I was at home for the right reason. Everything slowed down for me. God’s had His hand in everything I’ve done.”

Kaycee refuses to bad-mouth the rival organization, but he wants to see a priority shift – more money, more television coverage, more fan friendly … and fewer events.

Their push can be summed up in four words.

“Higher purse. Less road,” says Kaycee. “With the PRCA, I’m going to 80 rodeos and I’m gone 250 days out of the year.”

The ERA circuit started this year. The PRCA responded sharply, barring from its shows competitors who own a stake in the breakaway league.

The young man is undaunted.

“It’s to help our sport get to the next level – an A-league for the entire industry,” says Kaycee. “A rodeo cowboy is lucky to break even or make $50,000 at the end of the year. The 20th guy on the PGA Tour is making (three) million bucks. Why would a kid want to get on a bucking horse when he can go cruise around on a golf cart on green grass?

“I’m not saying the PRCA has done a bad job – they’ve done an excellent job – but there’s always room for growth.”

Less dates, however, do create gaps.

Kaycee had not been bronco-top since mid-May. But there didn’t appear to be much rust Friday afternoon.

Perched on Copper Cat, he posted 84.5 points, shy of Caleb Bennett’s pace-setting trip of 87.5.

“Sort of good,” says the two-time Stampede kingpin. “I got here and I was just so excited … so I muscled through it too much, instead of having some finesse and feeling that horse and going with that horse. It’s a blast to be here in Calgary, and I let emotions get the best of me.”

Kaycee, of course, knows how it’s supposed to look.

At four years of age, he watched Dad compete at the 1991 NFR.

“I just remember that he was so calm – everything looked so easy,” says Kaycee. “He made it look just simple – even his body. He didn’t strain with his body. He got off, didn’t have a sweat. He was smiling ear to ear, like nothing even happened.

“(His advice) was always to go with the flow, always have fun. He always stressed to me, ‘If you’re treating it like a job, then it’s going to become a job and you’re going to treat it like a 9-to-5. Treat it like you’re going to do an extreme sport. Get on bucking horses. There’s nothing better.’ ”

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Stampede rookie Waguespack wins steer wrestling

KRISTEN ODLAND, POSTMEDIA
More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 6:27 PM MDT

Texas bulldogger K.C. Jones during the steer wrestling event at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. Tyler Waguespack had the fastest time on the day. AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

This is, literally, Tyler Waguespack’s first rodeo.

Calgary Stampede rodeo, that is.

And, truth be told, qualifying for the richest outdoor rodeo on the planet came as a bit of a surprise to the 24-year-old Gonzales, La., native who competed at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last winter in Las Vegas and finished 11th. 

“I got the call at the end of January and it was kind of out of the blue,” Waguespack said. “A random number came up on my phone and I was like, ‘Oh.’ They said they were calling from the Calgary Stampede and I said, ‘No, I didn’t make it this year.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, you did.’ I had to call my mom and dad.”

He also had to get a passport.

“Yes ma’am,” Waguespack said. “We got it that week and we were ready to go.”

His father Michael is a former steer wrestler who competed on the Southeast Circuit in the 90’s and still hazes for Waguespack but never had the chance to compete at the Calgary Stampede.

“This is a pretty prestigious one,” Waguespack said. “This is definitely one on the list. I was excited to call everyone and tell them I was going to the Calgary Stampede.” 

Waguespack set the tone in the best way possible with a 4.3-second run — good enough for a first-placed payday of $5,500 on Day 1 of Pool A competition.

“They were great,” he said of the steers. “Nobody was mad about what they drew. We all had a game plan.”

kodland@postmedia.com

Twitter/Kristen_Odland

Wild ride carries Utah rider to top of saddle bronc competition

LAURENCE HEINEN, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 6:23 PM MDT

Utah cowboy Rusty Wright rides Wild Cherry at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

 

Rusty Wright had a wild ride on Friday and it paid off.

After 2013 Calgary Stampede saddle bronc champion Cort Sheer, of Elsmere, Neb., posted a score of 86.5 atop Mystic River, Wright knew he could beat that mark if he had a solid ride aboard Wild Cherry.

“I was excited, but I was really nervous at the same time, because I knew that horse really bucked,” said Wright, who hails from Milford, Utah. “I’ve never been on him. I’ve seen him a handful of times. He just looked like something you could get a lot of points on.

“You always get a little bit nervous when you see them kind of horses, but it worked out. I’m not complaining at all.”

Sheer wound up in second spot, while a pair of cowboys from South Dakota – Chuck Schmidt of Keldron and Chad Ferley of Oelrichs – placed third and fourth with rides of 85 and 84.5 respectively.

Wright didn’t have too far to look for guidance leading into this year’s Stampede. The day before the 10-day show, the 22-year-old cowboy solicited advice from his dad Cody, who won his first saddle bronc title in Calgary in 2006 and then duplicated the feat two years later.

“Actually, on my way up here yesterday I looked at the draw and seen what I had and I called him,” explained Rusty, who won the novice saddle bronc championship at the Stampede in 2013. “He called some guys and got some information for me about the horse. He was a big help today, really, because I was so nervous about getting on the horse. He called me and he just told me to keep it simple, don’t do nothing different, ride the horse the best you can … like I know how to.

“I know that I can do it. It was just a matter of staying calm and so he really helped calm my nerves. I’m always grateful to have him in my corner.”

Well, so to speak.

Cody is actually on the road with Rusty’s 18-year-old brother Ryder, who’s in his first year competing on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tour.

“They’re down hitting some PRCA rodeos,” said Rusty, who would like nothing more than to advance to Showdown Sunday to compete against his uncles Spencer and Jake Wright as well as Coburn Bradshaw, who married his aunt Rebecca.

He’ll have to keep having solid rides to finish among the top four, after four days of competition in Pool B, while hoping his three uncles can emerge from Pool B or out of Wildcard Saturday.

“I hope that … somebody can take home the big cheque,” said Rusty, who’s hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps to win his first Calgary Stampede title. “Just make good rides consistently throughout the week and I think that’s what it’s going to take. You’ve just got to do the best with the horse you’ve got. Just let the cards fall where they may.”

Close call for popular barrel racer

KRISTEN ODLAND, POSTMEDIA
More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 6:18 PM MDT

Fallon Taylor of Collinsville, TX, during the barrel racing event at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

Around this time of the year, Fallon Taylor is somewhat of a local celebrity in Calgary.

So, you can imagine the concern of the Calgary Stampede grandstand when the auburn-haired cowgirl admitted she’d been up all night with food poisoning.

And the added concern after patrons saw her horse, the equally famous Babyflo, stumble over the second barrel and limp out of the infield without finishing her run.

“The medics have been taking care of me all morning so I’ve had an I.V. in me over at the (first-aid area),” Taylor said. “They’ve been treating me really good and, obviously, it’s no easier having that happen to me at the second barrel … I don’t know what I ate but my main concern is Babyflo and her well-being. 

“My focus will shift to her for a while.”

Gingerly, the two slowly exited the premises as Taylor continued to lead her around the Chuckwagon track.

A few minutes later, Taylor reported that Babyflo would be fine.

A close call, for sure.

“I was first out on the ground and, every year, you ride a certain way,” she explained. “This year, they made some changes to the ground so I rode more aggressive. I think that might have put her in a bit of bad shape so I might be at fault a bit … I’ll definitely ask her to be more conservative (Saturday). 

“But she does seem OK.”

And, thankfully, so does Taylor who is a fan-favourite and is well-known for her flashy and colourful costumes. 

The 33-year-old native of Collinsville, Tex., has ridden Babyflo for the last four years she’s competed at the Calgary Stampede and has placed second, third, and fourth in the past three years. 

She hasn’t been riding much this summer and is more focused on running clinics for young riders. 

But the Stampede has been circled on her calendar and the 2014 world champion has been training specifically for the 10-day competition. 

“This is my favourite rodeo of the year,” Taylor said. “I’m thrilled to be back and can’t wait to come back (Saturday) and make something amazing happen.”

Taylor, the first rider out of the gates, did not record a time on the opening day of Pool A competition.

Instead, it was 67-year-old Mary Burger that staked claim.

The Pauls Valley, Okla., native set the tone with a 17.46-second run on her horse Moe to cash in the day’s top paycheque of $5,500. 

“I just rode him how he thought he would work,” she said. “He’s got a little bit of a different style … I just let him do his thing. My horse is pretty good at standing up but you never know.”

Burger joined the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 1985 and is a former WPRA world champion. Her last appearance at the Calgary Stampede was in 2010 and was invited back after winning RodeoHouston.

“It’s awesome to run for this kind of money (at the Stampede),” Burger said. “Great people. Big crowds. There’s a lot of prestige here.”

kodland@postmedia.com
Twitter/Kristen_Odland

New dad Robinson claims tie-down roping

KRISTEN ODLAND, POSTMEDIA
More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: July 8, 2016 6:09 PM MDT

Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, UT, with the victory lap after winning the day money in the tie-down-roping event at the Calgary Stampede rodeo on Friday, July 8, 2016. AL CHAREST / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

Clint Robinson, a native of Spanish Fork, Ut., decided to team up with a local tie-down roping horse named TJ during last year’s Calgary Stampede.

The horse, owned by Nanton’s Logan Bird, is experienced, reliable, and helped qualify him for the final four of championship Sunday.

But what happened in that round — a frustrating bobble of his tie costing him $100,000 — was no fault of TJ’s and was, as Robinson admits, 100 per cent human error.

“Nothing to do with him, that was all on me,” the 33-year-old lamented with a sigh. “You’re always going to have mistakes in rodeo and it always sucks when it’s that much money. But you just have to prepare yourself a little bit better and work harder next year.”

A man of his word, Robinson has placed his trust in TJ again for another go-round at the richest outdoor rodeo on the planet. 

And Friday — Day 1 of the 2016 Calgary Stampede’s Pool A competition — the horse came through and helped carry him to a 7.6-second tie-down time, the fastest of the day.

“The horse was awesome and I just feel like I made a smooth run and it worked out,” Robinson said. “The Fourth of July was terrible for me, I didn’t win a dollar … so it’s fun to come up and have a little fun.”

He hopes to continue that fun all week at the Calgary Stampede and, hopefully, another trip to Sunday’s finals. Regardless if he makes it to the final outright or if he needs to come back to compete in Wildcard Saturday, Robinson plans to head to local rodeos in Benalto and Taber to make a little extra cash.

Meanwhile, back home in Utah, his wife Robin was watching Friday’s action and tending to the couple’s third child — a baby girl named Kya.

“They were going to come but (Kya) was too young so she stayed home,” he said “She was watching (Friday) so she knows how I did.”

While Robinson gave credit to TJ for Friday’s successful performance, the pen of particularly meaty calves played a role.

“They always come from Ponoka and they’re a little stronger this year,” he said. “There’s usually a lot of (times in the) seven (second range) and there wasn’t. They’re weighing 220, 240-(pounds) right now and are much stronger so it makes for good roping.”

The bigger, the better as far as Robinson is concerned.

“I’m a bigger guy so, yeah, I enjoy the big ones,” he said with a chuckle. “Other guys can’t handle them as good so it kind of goes on my side a little better.”

Robinson’s Day 1 payout was $5,500 while TJ also helped Shane Hanchey to the day’s second-fastest time of 8.3-seconds and a cheque worth $4,500. 

“He’s a neat little horse,” Robinson said. “Me and Shane Hanchey rode him up here last year. Shane won the Canadian title on him and rode him in Vegas. He’s just a winner … I feel confident on him. You have to have confidence in your horse.”

kodland@postmedia.com

Twitter/Kristen_Odland