Trevor Brazile from Decatur, Texas, competes in tie down roping during the sixth go around at the National Finals Rodeo Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
By Todd Dewey
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Meet the new champs, same as the old champs.
Entering the 57th National Finals Rodeo, which opens its 31st annual 10-day run in Las Vegas today at the Thomas & Mack Center, six reigning world champions are poised to repeat as champs this year.
In fact, Trevor Brazile, aka the King of the Cowboys, already has repeated as steer roping world champ, winning the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in November in Kansas to push his record number of gold buckles to 22. With a lead of more than $140,000 over Tuf Cooper in the all-around standings, Brazile also is on track to win his 13th all-around title, and 10th straight, to become the sport's first $6 million man.
Cooper has won three of the last four tie-down roping titles and enters the NFR more than $18,000 ahead of Timber Moore.
Kaycee Feild has won an unprecedented four straight bareback riding world titles and four consecutive NFR average titles and leads Austin Foss by more than $19,000.
Jade Corkill of Fallon and partner Clay Tryan are the two-time defending team roping world champs and ride into town more than $34,000 ahead of their competition.
Sage Kimzey compiled one of the best seasons in rodeo history last year on his way to becoming only the second rookie bull rider to win the world title. With a lead of more than $52,000 over Parker Breding, the 21-year-old Kimzey is poised to become the first bull rider ever to win a gold buckle in each of his first two years as a pro.
Saddle bronc rider Cody "Hot Sauce" DeMoss has finished second in the world an event-record five times. He enters the NFR with a slim lead of less than $4,000 over Rusty Wright.
The tightest title race is in steer wrestling, where a little more than $30,000 separate leader Clayton Hass and the 15th qualifier, Blake Knowles. Hass leads Hunter Cure by less than $3,000 and Ty Erickson by a little more than $5,000.
In barrel racing, Callie Duperier leads Lisa Lockhart by more than $15,000.
This is the first year of a 10-year contract extension reached in 2014 between the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Las Vegas Events that will keep the NFR at the Thomas & Mack through 2024 and raise the prize money from $6.375 million to $10 million.
Each of the 120 contestants (top 15 in each event) receives $10,000 for qualifying for a total of $1.2 million, leaving $8.8 million up for grabs in the 10-day competition.