OMAHA, Neb. – The Justin Boots Championships kicked off Thursday night, as dozens of cowboys looked to punch their tickets to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – or improve their spots in the world standings.
It was a family affair in the bareback riding, as brothers Steven and David Peebles split the high score of the night with 84 points each.
Steven, who’s hoping to clinch his seven straight WNFR bid while in Omaha, entered the week 15th in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings.
He rode The Cervi Brothers’ Sugar Daddy, and put himself in good position to earn a chunk of the $21,900 up for grabs in the go-round.
“I was really needing this after missing July and August with an injury,” said Steven, 26. “I’m on the bubble, and to be leading after tonight is awesome. I’ve been trying not to overthink anything and stick to the basics and have fun. This is my seventh year in Omaha, but now that my brother is here with me it’s something that’s really cool.”
Younger brother David, 21, entered the weekend a career-best 22nd in the world. While he won’t be making it to his first WNFR this season, competing in Omaha and tying his brother was a big deal.
“This is my first time in Omaha, and it was awesome to be able to share the lead with Steven tonight,” said David, who rode Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Bad Moon. “My brother always helps me out and makes sure I’m doing what I need to be. I’m real fortunate to have someone like him whose footsteps I can follow.”
On Thursday night, 14 of the 24 competitors in each event took to the dirt at the CenturyLink Arena. The final 10 qualifiers will compete Friday night, with the top four overall competing in the final round later that night.
With their 84s Thursday night, both of the Peebles brothers gave themselves a solid chance at making it into the final round. For Steven, that would mean another chance for more money toward a WNFR qualification.
“I’m not going to stress over what happens tomorrow night,” Steven said. “I’m going to go out there and have as good of a time as I can and hopefully it ends up with a chance for me to go back to the NFR and win a gold buckle.”
Another man who may have helped his cause to get off the bubble and into the WNFR Thursday is team roping heeler Dugan Kelly. The six-time WNFR qualifier partnered with 18-year-old rookie Cody Snow for a time of 4.1 seconds, and the lead.
Kelly entered the week 18th in the world standings – just $5,229 behind 15th-place Quinn Kesler.
“This is huge for us,” Kelly said. “I told Cody before we roped that if we could win here and win in Stephenville and Amarillo (Texas) this weekend that we’d both have a real good chance.”
Snow, who didn’t buy his PRCA card until April, was 23rd in the heading world standings with an outside chance at his first WNFR. But a win in Omaha is imperative.
“My main goal right now is to help get Dugan into the NFR, and then if I can get in too, that would be a bonus,” said Snow, who has the PRCA/Resistol Rookie of the Year award all but sewn up on the heading side. “I want to keep winning money to give him a good chance.”
Other top scores and times at CenturyLink Arena Thursday night were steer wrestlers Bray Armes and Josh Clark (3.6 seconds each), saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell (86 points on Sutton Rodeos’ Surprise Party), tie-down roper Trevor Brazile (7.3 seconds), barrel racer Jana Bean (14.93 seconds) and bull rider Jacob O’Mara (88 points on J Bar J’s Twisted Tea).