Calgary Stampede Day 10 Rodeo & Chucks Roundup

Smart ride nets Thurston third-straight saddle bronc title at Stampede

More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 16, 2017 | Last Updated: July 16, 2017 6:33 PM MDT

2017 Calgary Stampede saddle bronc champion Zeke Thurston from Big Valley, AB, is presented with a cheque for $100,000 after winning the final day at the Stampede Rodeo. Sunday July 16, 2017 in Calgary DEAN PILLING/POSTMEDIA

Zeke Thurston didn’t get too wild on Saturday night.

He had a relatively quiet night celebrating his 23rd birthday with his wife, Jayne.

“We didn’t get too crazy yesterday,” said the affable Big Valley, Alta., cowboy shortly after winning the saddle-bronc competition on Championship Sunday at the Calgary Stampede rodeo for the third-straight year. “It was a pretty mild birthday party. I imagine tonight will be a heck of a time.”

Thanks to his impressive 92-point ride aboard Get Smart during Sunday’s final round, Thurston took home his third-straight cheque for $100,000 at the Stampede.

He’s the first ever saddle-bronc rider to accomplish that feat in the event’s history. Davey Shields Jr. won three straight titles from 2005-07, while Will Lowe duplicated that same feat from 2008-10.


“I still have no words for it,” said Thurston of his rare accomplishment. “That’s crazy to me. It’s amazing. A lot of guys will go their whole careers and maybe never win this rodeo, and to win it three years in a row, it’s unbelievable.”

After fellow Albertan – Layton Green, of Meeting Creek – scored 91.5 points atop Wild Cherry, Thurston knew what he had to do.

“That was pretty special to be riding against your buddy,” said Thurston, who managed to beat his good friend by the narrowest of margins. “I knew I was going to have to do something to set myself apart — just turns out I had the buckier horse.

“Every jump I thought I was going to get bucked off. That horse bucks so hard. He kind of moves ahead, and he really kicks hard. He’s probably only 800 lb., but that’s probably one of the strongest horses I’ve ever been on.”

Thurston qualified for the finals by virtue of a 90-point performance aboard Timely Delivery in the preliminary round, which was held earlier on Sunday afternoon. He also won the Ponoka Stampede title in early July with strong rides on the same two horses he drew on Sunday.

“Them two suckers have won me a lot of money this last 10 days,” said Thurston, who captured the National Finals Rodeo world title this past winter and is currently sitting second in this year’s PRCA world standings with $88,603.56 in earnings.

Like always, Zeke’s dad Skeeter, who also competed at the Stampede as a saddle-bronc rider, was behind him in the chutes. When the younger Thurston walked up on stage to accept his championship bronze trophy and $100,000 cheque, his father looked on with pride.

“You’re probably going to have to go stick a knife in his chest to deflate it,” said Zeke, whose mom, Lynda, was also smiling from ear to ear. “I bet he’s walking around here proud as a peacock.”

Thurston qualified for Sunday’s round of 10 by earning $10,000 over four days of competition from Tuesday to Friday in Pool B. Although he finished the round in fourth spot behind Cody DeMoss, of Heflin, La., Sterling Crawley, of Stephenville, Texas, and Jacobs Crawley of Boerne, Texas, he beat them all on Sunday when it counted the most.

“I was just grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “I was just tickled to death to be here, to be honest. Win, lose or draw, you can’t have a bad time at this rodeo. It’s awesome.”

And to have a $100,000 payday for the third straight year is something that he’s finding hard to comprehend.

“People work for two years or every day of the year to make half that amount of money,” he said. “To be able to ride one bucking horse for $100,000, whether you do it or not, that’s awesome. I wish there was more rodeos like this.”

Alberta's Thurston scores saddle bronc hat trick at Calgary Stampede

23-year-old becomes 1st man to win 3 straight saddle bronc titles

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press Posted: Jul 16, 2017 9:50 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 17, 2017 12:06 AM ET

Zeke Thurston, left, of Big Vlley, Alta., celebrates winning the saddle bronc rodeo finals for the third year in a row at the Calgary Stampede. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press) 

Hail bounced off Zeke Thurston's hat while he contemplated his place in rodeo history.

The 23-year-old from Big Valley, Alta., became the first man to win three straight saddle bronc titles at the Calgary Stampede when he completed the hat trick Sunday.

"They say great things and success happen when preparation and the opportunity meet and I guess that's just what that was today," the reigning world champion said.

Thurston scored 92 aboard Get Smart to just beat fellow Albertan Layton Green's 91.5 on Wild Cherry in the final showdown of the top four competitors.

"A lot of guys would go their whole careers and never win this rodeo," Thurston said. "To win it three years in a row is unbelievable."

Thurston was the lone Canadian victor in the $2-million Calgary Stampede rodeo, which dates back to 1905 and is one of the richest in the sport of rodeo.

The only other competitors to win three straight years at the Stampede were bareback riders Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas, (2008-10) and Davey Shields Jr., of Bashaw, Alta. (2005-07).

'I wish there were more rodeos like this'

The winners of the six rodeo events — bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing — plus the winner of the championship chuckwagon race each received a cheque for $100,000 on Sunday in addition to any day money they won during the 10-day rodeo.

Thurston got his winning ride in before the weather abruptly turned Sunday. What was a warm, sunny afternoon morphed into thunder and hail for the final two rodeo events — barrel racing and bull riding.

The Stampede doubled prize money for the winners from $50,000 to $100,000 in 2006.

"To have the opportunity to ride for that kind of money, people work every day of the year to make half that amount of money," Thurston said.

"To be able to ride one bucking horse for $100,000 whether you do it or not, that's awesome. I wish there were more rodeos like this."

Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., reclaimed the bull riding title he won in 2015. He scored 91 on Night Moves. The 22-year-old keeps a Canadian bank account for his winnings north of the border.

"I've actually left all my money up here because of the exchange rate," Kimzey said. "I checked the other day and I think it's like 78 cents to the dollar. I'm not taking a thirty-thousand dollar hit.

"It'll stay up here until it gets a little more even."

Kelly Sutherland races for last time

Cory Solomon of Prairie View, Texas, posted a time of 6.7 seconds to win a second tie-down roping championship after his first in 2012.

He used his previous Stampede winnings to buy cattle and says he'll start looking for land now.

"I did it in 2012 and thought 'it doesn't get much better than this,"' Solomon said. "To do it again, it's a dream come true. It's life-changing."

Tyler Waguespack of Gonzalez, La., won steer wrestling in a time of 3.8 seconds after finishing second in Calgary last year.

"I've never won a cheque this big," he said. "I just bought a house and stuff down home so a lot of it is going to go into that. Might have to get some more horses to play with."

Richmond Champion of Dublin, Texas, lived up to his surname claiming the bareback title with a 90.5 on Virgil.

"There's no other bucking horse like him," Champion said. "He's one of a kind. He's in there just twitching. He's not scared. He's just excited. Just excited as you.

"This is my fourth time coming here and it's always a dream of every cowboy that starts riding or roping, they want to come to the Calgary Stampede. To actually win it, thank god."

Tiany Schuster of Krum, Texas, was the barrel racing winner in 17.032 seconds on Showmance.

"I'm not normally at a loss for words," Schuster said. "I've never won a major event ever."

Kurt Bensmiller of Dewberry, Alta., won his third Rangeland Derby chuckwagon title in four years after victories in 2014 and 2015.

Kelly Sutherland, who owns a dozen career chuckwagon wins, raced for the last time at the Stampede on Sunday as the 65-year-old is retiring after 50 years in the sport.

© The Canadian Press, 2017

Waguespack wins steer wrestling at Calgary Stampede

More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

Published on: July 16, 2017 | Last Updated: July 16, 2017 7:04 PM MDT

2017 Calgary Stampede steer wrestling champion Tyler Waguespack from Gonzales, LA, is presented with a cheque for $100,000 after winning the final day at the Stampede Rodeo. Sunday July 16, 2017 in Calgary. DEAN PILLING/POSTMEDIA

Last year, Tyler Waguespack came to the Calgary Stampede on an invitation and finished second.

On Sunday, the good natured Gonzales, La., native had made it to the Greatest Oudoor Show on Earth by putting in the work and qualifying.

And it just keeps getting better.

Waguespack hoisted the winner’s $100,000 cheque after producing a 3.8-second run in the final four — the fastest time among Donalda’s Cody Cassidy and a pair of cowboys from Oklahoma: Stockton Graves of Alva and Riley Duvall of Checotah.

“I’m at a loss for words — it’s awesome. I’ve never won a cheque this big,” Waguespack said. “All I really wanted was one of those pretty Calgary bronze (statues) when I got that. The cheque was awesome too.

“I just bought a house at home, but a lot of that (prize money) is going to go into that. I might have to get some horses to play with.”

Truth be told, Waguespack arrived in Calgary with a few big cheques after winning the 2016 PRCA world championship at the National Finals Rodeo.

Currently, the 26-year-old is second in the world with a total earnings of $84,330.27.

In total, he walks away from Calgary with around $110,500 after qualifying for Sunday’s finals through Wild Card Saturday.

He had another shot at $100,000 when he finished top-four in Sunday’s opening round when he threw down his steer in 3.9-seconds — the third-fastest time of the top-four.

“I was really nervous about that 3.9 holding up,” Waguespack said. “It was crazy. But it wound up working out.”

Both JD Struxness of Milan, Minn., and Seth Brockman of Wheatland, Wyo., broke the barrier, while Ponoka’s Brock Butterfield and Jason Thomas of Benton, Ariz., both weren’t quite fast enough at 4.7 seconds.

Curtis Cassidy was momentarily in the top-four with a routine 4.2-second run, and it looked like he had a good chance of staying there when Tanner Milan couldn’t get ahold of his steer. But when Riley Duvall threw down his steer in 4.0 seconds, it set up Cody to potentially bump his brother out of the finals.

He did it — in fine fashion, too — with a 3.4-second performance, the quickest time in the go-round. In the final, however, Cassidy’s 4.0 seconds weren’t enough to catch Waguespack.

“I was actually expecting the guys to be faster than I was,” Waguespack said about the final. “They had great steers and stuff, but it all worked out.”


Schuster speeds to barrel racing victory at Calgary Stampede

More from Laurence Heinen, For the Calgary Herald

Published on: July 16, 2017 | Last Updated: July 16, 2017 7:39 PM MDT

Tiany Schuster of Krum, Texas, during her winning ride in barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede on Sunday July 16, 2017. LEAH HENNEL/POSTMEDIA

At first, Tiany Schuster didn’t think she’d won.

It was only when she heard her name over the loudspeaker on Sunday that she realized she just won the ladies barrel racing title at the Calgary Stampede.

“I turned around and saw the clock, and it still didn’t register until I heard him announce, ‘You just won Calgary,’ ” said Schuster, of Krum, Texas, who had a pair of fast runs en route to winning $100,000 and a shiny new bronze trophy. “I’m just shaking all over.

“I’m not normally at a loss for words. I’ve never won a major event ever … never.”

Schuster and Stevi Hillman, of Weatherford, Texas, both set the pace in the round of 10 with identical runs of 17.17 seconds to qualify for the finals along with Emily Miller of Weatherford, Okla. (17.21) and Nellie Miller, of Cottonwood, Calif. (17.23).

Shortly after Nellie Miller posted a time of 17.080 seconds, Schuster and her horse Showmance stopped the clock at 17.032.

“The rain started, and the wind was kind of coming in, and the horse just nailed that first barrel,” said Schuster, who commended Schuster for making up time after a little bit of a slip. “I think it made him madder. He just shot across there, and he just spun around that second barrel with such determination. I was just trying not to lose him.

“I kept my composure and said, ‘Just keep it together, girl,’ and he turned that third barrel. I really thought I was fighting for third place or second place because Nellie (Miller) made such a phenomenal run.”

Schuster was impressed that fans still stayed to watch her compete even though it was rainy and windy.

“They’re phenomenal fans, because they stuck it out through the rain and that thunder,” she said. “I think everybody was looking for the lightning strike. It was shady there for a minute. I probably would have hightailed it, because I’m a wimp.”


    Solomon does it again in tie-down roping

    More from Kristen Odland, Postmedia

    Published on: July 16, 2017 | Last Updated: July 16, 2017 8:39 PM MDT


    The memory showed up on Cory Solomon’s Facebook page on Sunday morning, reminding him of the exact moment that he’d won the 2012 Calgary Stampede.

    Five years ago — to the day — Fred Whitfield had run out into the middle of the infield and threw his arm around Solomon, then just 22-years-old.

    Following the final four, the two tie-down ropers had competed in a tie-breaking final in the mud with Solomon bundling a calf back in 7.7 seconds for the victory.

    Whitfield, the classy veteran rider.

    Solomon, the up-and-coming star.

    Nothing but respect between the two Texas cowboys.

    “I almost shared it (on Facebook), thinking it’d be pretty cool for it to happen again (Sunday)” said the Prairie View, Texsd, native who now is 27. “But I’m very thankful for how things turned out.”

    Whitfield wasn’t in the final four this time around, however he did compete with Solomon in the first round of Sunday’s championship. Solomon beat him out by the smallest of margins — 0.3-seconds — and advanced with a 7.5-second performance.

    Solomon tied his calf in 6.7-seconds on his 15-year-old horse named Twinkie, beating out Matt Shiozawa of Chubbuck, Idaho, Marty Yates of Stephenville, Texas, and Timber Moore of Aubrey, Texas.

    Afterwards, Whitfield was right there at the stage, congratulating his pal again.

    “We lived 11 miles away from each other,” Solomon said with a grin. “His rookie year was 1990, and I was born in 1990. My dad taught me and my brothers how to rope, but Fred was a big help to me. I’ve looked up to him my whole career. Not because he lived close to me but just what he went through to get to where he is.

    “I’ve looked up to him and been around him and learned to take care of business, taking care of your horse … you know, the business side of it. I looked up to him.”

    Solomon is currently sitting No. 13 in the PRCA standings with $52,119.32 in earnings, but after winning $9,500 in Pool A competition, he advanced right into Sunday’s final.

    But it’s never that easy.

    He roped for $1 million two years straight at The American and came up short a handful of times in the final four.

    Since winning Calgary in 2012, it’s been a learning experience for Solomon to continue making a living by roping calves.

    Whitfield, a three-time Calgary Stampede champion who’ll be 50-years-old in August, has plenty of advice about that.

    “Rodeo starts at 7 p.m., and he’s there at 5 p.m., looking at his calves and checking his horse,” Solomon said with a grin. “I’ve looked up in him that area . . . But I thought it would never get any sweeter than that (winning in 2012) to do it with him.”

    The victory on Sunday, however, was just as satisfying.

    “You can plan it all you want, but when God says it’s your turn, it’s your turn,” Solomon said. “To do it again is a dream come true.”


Bensmiller wins Calgary Stampede chuckwagon title

More from Wes Gilbertson

Published on: July 16, 2017 | Last Updated: July 16, 2017 11:07 PM MDT

Kurt Bensmiller salutes the crowd after winning the GMC Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede on Sunday July 16, 2017 and is hugged by the outriders. Leah Hennel/Postmedia 

Kurt Bensmiller completed the hat-trick.

The 34-year-old from Dewberry, Alta., is handy with a hockey stick, but he’s at his best in a chuckwagon box and proved it again in Sunday’s championship heat at the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby, winning the $100,000 showdown for the third time in a four-year span.

“This is our Stanley Cup,” Bensmiller said. “This is the one we want to win.”

This has all the makings of a Rangeland Derby dynasty.

Bensmiller, who won an Allan Cup — Canada’s senior-hockey crown — with the Bentley Generals in 2009, arrived on a wagon hot streak thanks to victories in both High River and Ponoka.

He cleaned up in Calgary, too, claiming the Richard Cosgrave Memorial Award as the aggregate leader, the Safety Award and then beating three other cowboys to the finish line in Sunday’s Dash for Cash.

“This is the first year that I come in and thought, ‘Oh man, if I didn’t win, then I really screwed up because it would be my fault,’ ” said Bensmiller, also Calgary’s champ in 2014 and 2015. “I’m glad we got lucky enough to hold it together.”

With West Industrial Ltd. sponsoring his wagon tarp and outriders Shawn Calf Robe and Rory Gervais on his tail, Bensmiller blazed around Barrel 2 and finished his business in 1:11.30 in Sunday’s must-see heat.

After collecting his six-figure cheque and shiny bronze and posing for a pile of photos, all that was left was a negotiation with his father, Buddy, himself a three-time champion of the Rangeland Derby.

You see, Kurt celebrated his mother Darlene’s birthday with a win in High River. Sunday was Buddy’s big day, with 62 candles on his cake and an undetermined amount of cash tucked in his card.

“That’s what I said earlier — he’ll probably want something,” Kurt said with a chuckle. “He said, ‘Well, it is my birthday. Probably half would be alright.’ But we’ll see what happens.”

Obrey Motowylo (Eagle Builders) settled for the second-place cheque of $25,000 after stopping the clock in 1:12.23 in Sunday’s showdown, while Chanse Vigen (Mavericks Racing Team) was third in 1:12.32 and Logan Gorst (BD&P Put the Boots to Hunger) was dinged for a five-second penalty after crunching a barrel and pulled up the rear in 1:16.42.


It was a farewell fit for a king.

The King, that is.

Chuckwagon racing legend Kelly Sutherland (Air Canada/Tervita) was treated to a standing ovation from fans — and then hugs from the outriders — after his final spin around the track at the Calgary Stampede, where he celebrated a record dozen Rangeland Derby titles during his incredible career.

With a mandatory retirement age of 65, this is Sutherland’s final season after a half-century in the sport.

The King would have preferred a fairytale finish in the Dash for Cash, but he didn’t disappoint in Sunday’s Heat 5, charging down the home-stretch to edge Doug Irvine in a photo finish. With a clocking of 1:12.24, he posted the sixth-fastest time of the night.

Other drivers have called it a career immediately after their final runs at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but Sutherland plans to finish the World Pro Chuckwagon Association schedule, which still includes stops in Bonnyville, Strathmore, Dawson Creek and Rocky Mountain House.

“I think I owe that to the fans, because without the fans, we don’t have racing,” Sutherland said. “I made my whole living and my whole life in chuckwagon racing, and without the fans, without the committees, without the venues, without the Calgary Stampedes or Dawson Creeks, I wouldn’t have been a chuckwagon racer.

“And I was blessed with enough skill to win.”

Longtime outrider Eddie Melville also received an emotional send-off. The 45-year-old Melville — the grandson of chuckwagon great Orville Strandquist and best known for his deck-of-cards helmet — retired after Sunday’s races. His final romp was on Chanse Vigen’s trail during the championship heat.


Dustin Gorst (Century Casinos) won the Orville Strandquist Award as the top rookie driver . . . Bensmiller’s wheelers — Slick on the left, Tenth Power on the right — headlined the Equine Outfit of Excellence. The four-legged all-star team also included John Walters’ left leader, Hawk, and Chanse Vigen’s right leader, Dancer, while Chad Harden’s Robert and Vern Nolin’s Bob were honoured as the top outriding horses . . . Vern Nolin (Dentons Canada LLP) ended his trip to Calgary on a high note. He whistled around the Half Mile of Hell in 1:11.47, Sunday’s fastest run by anybody other than Bensmiller.

Kurt Bensmiller Captures Third GMC Rangeland Derby In Four Years

2017 Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby Champions
West Industriual Ltd. Outfit

Track Announcer Les McIntyre Interviews 2017 Champion Kurt Bensmiller

Photo By Jamie Tiessen

It was a highly emotional night as the finals of the 2017 Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby were run on Sunday night. In a historic championship final, Kurt Bensmiller, driving the West Industrial Ltd. Outfit, and along with outriders Shawn Calf Robe and Rory Gervais won the championship final from barrel number 2 in heat number 9, by 93 one-hundredths of a second over Obrey Motowylo who placed 2nd from barrel number 4 in his first appearance in the GMC Rangeland Derby Championship. Chanse Vigen placed third from barrel position number 3, while Logan Gorst who had the favorable barrel position number 1, took a five second penalty for knocking a barrel and ended up placing fourth. It’s the third GMC Rangeland Derby Championship for Bensmiller in three years.

On the night, Kurt Bensmiller’s championship run of 1:11.30 was also the fastest time on the night, 17 one-hundredths of a second better than Vern Nolin who placed second, followed by Rick Fraser, Mitch Surtherland and Obrey Motowylo filling out the top five on the final night of competition.

Earlier in the night, Kurt Bensmiller also received the Calgary Stampede’s Safe Drive Award for the third time in his career for being the least penalized driver over the first 8 nights of the Rangeland Derby. Rory Gervais was named the Calgary Stampede’s Outstanding Outrider for the third consecutive year.

The Equine Outfit of Excellence was presented at the beginning of the evening. “DANCER” of John Walter’s outfit was named Champion Right Leader, “HAWK” of Vern Nolin’s outfit was named Champion Left Leader, “SLICK” of Chanse Vigen’s outfit was named Champion Right Wheeler, “TENTH POWER” of Kurt Bensmiller’s outfit was named Champion Left Wheeler, “ROBERT” of Chad Harden’s outfit and “BOB” of Gary Gorst’s outfit were named the Champion Outriding Horses.

It was an emotional night for twelve-time GMC Rangeland Derby Champion Kelly Sutherland who competed in his last GMC Rangeland Derby. Sutherland started as an outrider in 1967 and drove for the first time in 1969. As well, veteran outrider Eddie Melville rode his last race in the Championship Final for Chanse Vigen. A special presentation was made to Melville by the Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Committee.

The WPCA Pro Tour resumes in Bonnyville, Alberta July 27 – 30, 2017 for the Bonnyville Chuckwagon Championship. Live coverage can be heard starting at 8:30 eastern, 7:30 central and 6:20 mountain time on Thursday, July 21, 2016 on Rural Radio on SiriusXM Channel 147 and Country 99 at 99.7 FM out of Bonnyville.

Billy Melville