NFR Day 9 Preview: 6 poised to win first world titles at NFR

Steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge from Elko, Nev., wrestles a steer to a time of 4.6 seconds during the 6th go-round of the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. (Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

By Todd Dewey
Las Vegas Review-Journal

With two rounds remaining at the National Finals Rodeo, five cowboys and a cowgirl are on track to win their first world titles.

If the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association season ended after Thursday's eighth round at the Thomas & Mack Center, Steven Peebles would claim the bareback riding gold buckle, Elko native Dakota Eldridge would win the steer wrestling world title, Jacobs Crawley would win in saddle bronc riding, Callie duPerier would win in barrel racing and JoJo LeMond and Junior Nogueira would win in team roping.

LeMond and Nogueira, who lead the NFR average race with eight runs totaling 45.50 seconds, had never roped together before the NFR. Nogueira's partner, seven-time world champion team roper Jake Barnes, was injured the week before the NFR and couldn't compete, which moved LeMond, the 16th qualifier, into the field.

Eldridge took second Thursday with a 3.6-second run that moved him to fifth in the world and first in the average with eight runs totaling 36.30 seconds. Eldridge is about $40,000 behind world standings leader Clayton Hass but he'd earn $67,269 for winning the NFR average title.

Peebles claimed his fourth round win in eight nights to pull within $9,000 of world standings leader Kaycee Feild, but Peebles leads the average and Feild fell to third, a difference of more than $23,000.

Rusty Wright won his second consecutive round and third in five nights in saddle bronc riding to take a $4,000 lead in the world standings over Cody DeMoss, a five-time world runner-up who was bucked off, hurting his chances for his first gold buckle. Crawley, third in the world, trails Wright by $6,000 but leads the average race over Wade Sundell and controls his own destiny in the quest for a gold buckle.

DuPerier tied for fourth place and is $11,000 behind leader Sarah Rose McDonald, but she leads the average and McDonald is in third.

The ageless Trevor Brazile already clinched his 13th all-around world title and 23rd career gold buckle here and now the Decatur, Texas, cowboy has No. 24 in his sights. Brazile collected his 63rd round win at the NFR with a 6.5-second tie-down roping run that tied the arena record and nearly gave him the lead in the world standings. Brazile trails brother-in-law Tuf Cooper by $537 and trails only Caleb Smidt in the average race. If the NFR ended after the eighth round, Brazile would win his fourth tie-down roping world title and first since 2010.

Bull rider Cody Teel continues to keep the pressure on defending bull riding world champ Sage Kimzey. Teel finished fourth to earn his seventh check in eight nights and cut his deficit to $33,000 behind Kimzey, who was bucked off his bull. Teel leads the average and Kimzey is in second, a difference of $13,000.