Vold stays red hot as Canada goes 1-2 in Wrangler NFR bareback riding
By Neal Reid
LAS VEGAS – To say that Jake Vold has been hot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo recently would be a vast understatement.
The 30-year-old from Ponoka, Alta., rode Canadian stock contractor Kesler Rodeo’s bucker Oakridge for 87.5 points to win the opening round of the Wrangler NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday night. Vold entered the $10 million “Super Bowl of Rodeo” in eighth place in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings, but vaulted to third after hauling in the $26,231 winner’s check.
It was Vold’s fourth Wrangler NFR go-round victory in his last eight rounds in Las Vegas.
“I’m still at a loss for words about how it all panned out tonight,” said Vold, who is competing at his third career Finals. “This is a hell of a place to be this time of year. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Vold – last year’s runner-up to World Champion Tim O’Connell – had never drawn the Canadian horse before, but knew he was in for a treat when he nodded his head in front of a crowd of 16,885.
“I talked to Duane (Kesler) late in the summer, and he said he had a new horse he’d been hauling around that he was excited about. That happened to be Oakridge,” said Vold, who is a third cousin of ProRodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor Wayne Vold and six-time Canadian Finals Rodeo qualifier Doug Vold. “A few guys had seen him this year and said he was phenomenal, and he went to the Canadian Finals and was really good. He was fantastic tonight.”
Fellow Canadian bareback rider Orin Larsen scored 86.5 points aboard Frontier Rodeo’s Night Fist to make it a 1-2 Canuck sweep.
“To see two Canadian guys come in 1-2 is pretty special and pretty awesome, and I hope we keep that going the rest of the week, for sure,” said Larsen, of Inglis, Man. “I was really fortunate to have the horse I drew tonight and to capitalize on that. Everyone in the locker room said he was one of the ones to have, for sure.”
Vold moved from 10th to second after winning three rounds at last year’s Wrangler NFR, and he cut O’Connell’s lead by nearly $13,000 with his Round 1 triumph. He knows he’ll have his hands full trying to chase down O’Connell, who remains $86,851 ahead going into the second round.
“I need to win a lot of money to have a chance at a world title,” said Vold, who won seven rodeos north of the border this season. “I had my best summer ever and still came in $100,000 behind Tim O’Connell. Tim’s turned into a machine physically and mentally, so a guy’s going to have to come out and win quite a few rounds to give him a run for his money in the world title race.
“He’s kind of become the master of no mistakes. Hopefully, a guy can keep it rolling and see what happens after 10 days.”
In other action, Wrangler NFR rookie steer wrestler Scott Guenthner of Provost, Alta., split third place with four other bulldoggers after stopping the clock in 4.3 seconds to add $7,531 to his 2017 earnings total. Guenther kept his No. 5 position in the world standings and trails leader Ty Erickson by $56,120 heading into Round 2.
Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., remains second in the saddle bronc riding world standings behind Jacobs Crawley after sharing fifth place with two others thanks to an 85-point ride on Calgary Stampede’s Timely Delivery. He had the honour of carrying the Canadian flag in the grand entry, and it was an experience that got his adrenaline pumping.
“There’s nothing like riding in there carrying that flag when there’s 20,000 people sitting on top of your head cheering and screaming,” said Thurston, who trails Crawley by $9,805. “It’s a pretty cool feeling. I don’t really have any words to describe it.”
Other Canadians struggled in the opening round, including reigning World Champion Team Roping Heeler Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, Alta., Buhler – who is roping without partner Levi Simpson after Simpson failed to qualify for the event – finished out of the money with temporary heading partner Tom Richards after a penalty left them with a time of 9.3 seconds.
Saddle bronc riders Layton Green of Meeting Creek, Alta., and Clay Elliott of Nanton, Alta., failed to make it to the pay window after 79-point scores, and Cochrane, Alta., steer wrestler Tanner Milan’s 6.6-second run was not enough to earn him a check. Bull rider Jordan Hansen of Okotoks, Alta., was unable to improve on his 13th-place ranking in the world standings after being bucked off Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Lumberjack before the eight-second whistle.
The 2017 PRCA Media Award winner for Excellence in Print Journalism, Neal Reid spent five years as editor of the ProRodeo Sports News and is covering his 14th consecutive Wrangler NFR this year. He has written for USA Today, ESPN, ESPNW, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Las Vegas Review-Journal, as well as Western Horseman, American Cowboy, The Ketchpen and Persimmon Hill. A journalism graduate from Auburn University, Reid spent nine weeks in Russia in 2014 covering the Sochi Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games for the Olympic News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @NealReid21.