CHEYENNE – Stetson Wright didn’t know if he would ride in the finals of the 125th anniversary Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.
The Milford, Utah, cowboy got stepped on by a bull during Saturday afternoon’s semifinal round and had to be checked for concussion symptoms. He wanted to take his shot at winning the “Daddy of ’em All,” but he went to sleep unsure whether he would feel up to it.
“When I woke up, the thought that maybe I shouldn’t ride was gone,” Wright said. “I woke up feeling good, and I’m glad I showed up here.”
The 22-year-old completed two of the wildest rides at this year’s edition of CFD to walk away with the saddle bronc riding and all-around championship buckles. Wright was the CFD all-around and bull riding champion in 2019.
Wright scored 90 points on Championship Pro Rodeo’s Feather Fluffer to win the saddle bronc title. He spent a good portion of the ride trying to pull himself back into the saddle, and even looked like he might be tossed over the front end at one point.
“I just kept throwing my feet,” Wright said. “I don’t make it look as pretty as (older brothers) Rusty and Ryder do, but I guess that’s what the judges liked (Sunday). It was fun, and I knew every jump could be my last.”
Stetson bested Ryder for the title. Ryder scored 88.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Marquee.
“That horse is awesome every time, and I was super excited to have it,” Ryder said. “I had her a couple years ago in Clovis (California), and I knew she would go out there and buck, and it would work out if I did my part.”
While Stetson wanted to heap praise on his brothers for their riding ability, he deserves praise for how well he rode in the finals, Ryder said.
“She made him work for it and was worth every point,” Ryder said. “He was going for broke and going all or nothing. That’s what makes him as good as he is. He always gives it 100%.”
The Wright family has combined for more than 40 National Finals Rodeo qualifications and nine PRCA world championships, yet no member of that clan had walked away with a CFD saddle bronc buckle until Sunday.
“It’s pretty sweet to be the first to do it, but I dang sure ain’t going to be the last,” Stetson said.
Stetson finished fourth in bull riding with an 83.5-point ride on Dakota Rodeo’s Gambini. He clung to the side as the 8-second whistle sounded.
“That bull started out good and felt really good and gassy, then he stepped forward,” Stetson said. “I wanted him to keep going right, but he just about ended up bucking me off.”
He pocketed $18,502 total at CFD; $12,262 came from his saddle bronc win.
Ky Hamilton drew Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s No. 546 on Sunday, which provided a steady trip away from his hand for 89 points.
“It was a bit touch-and-go at the start, but I finished him off good,” said Hamilton, who hails from Mackay, Queensland, Australia. “He was kind of long-jumping forward out of the chute, but, out of nowhere, he hit a tight, fast corner and got my inside foot.
“I had to whack it back down and move. After that, I got in time with him, and it went pretty good.”
All five qualified rides during Sunday’s finals went for at least 82.5 points. Six-time world champion Sage Kimzey of Salado, Texas, was second at 86.5, while Parker Breding of Edgar, Montana, was third with an 85.
Hamilton is No. 20 in the most recent world standings with more than $37,000 in earnings. He picked up $10,369 for the win in his first appearance at CFD.
The 21-year-old missed three-and-a-half months of the season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum, bone spurs and an impingement in the right side of his hips.
“The first few weeks back were a little rough, but I have it together now, and I’m starting to feel like my old self again,” he said. “I feel a lot better than I did.”
Bareback bronc riding
Sunday wasn’t supposed to be Tim O’Connell’s first meeting with MLW’s Irish Eyes from Sankey Pro Rodeo. That matchup was supposed to come July 25 in Salt Lake City, but O’Connell turned out of that rodeo to rest a broken rib he suffered at the Calgary Stampede.
The broken rib impacted his riding after he left the treatment Calgary’s doctors were giving him, so his wife, Sami, suggested he take some time off.
“She told me, ‘You need to go home, spend three days at the house and recharge,” the Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy said. “’Go see (their son) Hazen, see the house, sleep in your own bed, and give it the time you need. You’re not riding up to par, and that’s affecting your head.’”
O’Connell reluctantly followed Sami’s advice and spent a few days at home. The time off did him good, as he scored 89 points on Irish Eyes to claim his second CFD title. O’Connell also won the crown in 2017 in an aggregate format.
Irish Eyes left the chute straight before turning right and incorporating a side-to-side wiggle into its trip.
“She really got high in the air, from what it felt like, and she allowed me to come back with my spur stroke and really open up and beat her back to the ground,” O’Connell said. “She just kept firing the entire time. When they’re turning back and firing like that 10 feet from the bucking chute, it’s hard not to mark them.”
O’Connell is the top-ranked bareback rider in the PRCA standings this week. He added $13,623 to his total for the year.
Tilden Hooper of Carthage, Texas, is currently No. 2 in the world and added $6,385 to his total by finishing second with an 86.5 Sunday.
Newt Novich had earned just shy of $3,700 this season and was outside the PRCA world standings entering CFD. That will all change after Sunday.
The 28-year-old from Twin Bridges, Montana, stopped the clock in 5.1 seconds to win the title at the “Daddy of ’em All.” That time ties the Frontier Park Arena record set by Rick Myhre in 2000. However, Myhre’s time came when CFD gave steers a 30-foot head start. The rodeo dialed that back to 20 feet this summer.
“My horse worked outstanding. He has been a rock star through all of this, giving me great goes,” Novich said. “I drew the right steer, and everything came together and worked out for me.”
Novich earned $11,846 for his win.
“This year is huge for me, so we’re doing to keep going as hard as we can,” Novich said.