LAS VEGAS – Not even a previously unridden bull could phase Jordan Hansen on Canada Night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The 24-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., became the first cowboy to conquer Corey & Lange Rodeo’s prized bucker Tequila on Thursday night, scoring 86 points on the bratty bovine to win Round 8 and take home a cheque for $28,981. Hansen was one of only four bull riders to cover their bulls, so some of that cash was extra “ground money” for the Canuck.
Winning his first round on Canada Night was a dream come true for the Wrangler NFR rookie.
“I don’t think I could have picked a better night to win a round, with it being Canada Night and all of my family being up there (in the stands),” said Hansen, who moved to seventh in the PRCA World Standings and sixth in the Wrangler NFR average. “I knew that bull pretty good, so I was pretty excited about it. He almost had me around the corner, but as soon as he got through the spin, he felt awesome.”
Hansen has been red hot since making an equipment adjustment before Round 6, placing in three consecutive rounds.
“I made a rope change, and it turns out that was all I needed to do,” said Hansen, who rode Sutton Rodeos’ unridden bull High Roller for 84.5 points in Round 2. “It’s just a newer rope, and the other one was just getting a little worn out. Geez, I wish I had done it five rounds before I did, but I’m real happy with how everything’s going (now), that’s for sure.”
Clay Elliott picked a great time to earn his first cheque of the 2017 Finals.
The Nanton, Alta., saddle bronc rider broke through with an 87.5-point mark aboard Mo Betta Rodeo’s Sue City Sue to finish third in the round and pocket $15,654. He was thrilled to finally become the 15th and final contestant in his event to make it to the pay window in Las Vegas.
“It’s pretty special and it’s cool to be here for Canada,” Elliott said. “I knew it was a good horse and was a good chance, and I hadn’t had many of those so far this week, so to take advantage of that chance was a big step. I haven’t had the best week ever, but I’m happy to feel satisfied with the bronc ride I made.”
Ponoka, Alta., bareback rider Jake Vold couldn’t dodge bad luck on Canada Night, badly injuring his right knee aboard Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Redigo when the horse stumbled coming out of the chute. Vold, who spent the rest of the performance in the Justin SportsMedicine Room, was awarded a re-ride, but Dr. Tandy Freeman ruled him out for the remainder of the night.
That means his re-ride will have to wait until just before Round 9 on Friday night, if he’s healthy enough to go. Vold – who was leading the bareback riding average standings through seven rounds – said he will get an MRI on Friday and will make a decision about his ability to ride before the rodeo.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Vold, who would fall to 10th in the average without a successful re-ride. “I didn’t know the horse, and he didn’t even try and came around and got me. It’s been a good week, but it is what it is.
“I’ve been down this road before, and I’ll just try to heal up and come back strong.”
Another Vold, stock contractor Wayne Vold, was one of the top Canadian performers of the night. He sang yet another stirring rendition of “O Canada” during opening ceremonies to kick off an exciting night of rodeo in front of a sold-out crowd of 16,810.
Bareback rider Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, finished out of the money after a rough 75.5-point trip aboard Calgary Stampede’s Princess Warrior. It clearly wasn’t the way Larsen wanted his Canada Night to go.
“It’s an awesome thing that the NFR recognizes Canadian athletes coming down here year after year, and for them to recognize the Canadian talent is humbling and is a huge honour,” Larsen said. “That’s a horse I’ve been on a couple times, and she’s notorious for feeling pretty good until she hits the fence. She just hits you like a truck, and I just stubbed my toe and paid for it. I’ll just move on to tomorrow.”
Canadian steer wrestler Tanner Milan split fifth place with a 4.4-second run for a cheque worth $5,500. He fell from fourth to fifth place in the world standings with $156,266 and is eighth in the Wrangler NFR average heading into the ninth performance.
Wrangler NFR rookie bulldogger Scott Guenther’s 5.6-second time was not good enough for a cheque in Round 8 after his steer got caught up in the Thomas & Mack Center dirt during the throw. He stands 13th in the world standings and seventh in the average with two rounds remaining.
Saddle bronc riders Layton Green of Meeting Creek, Alta., and Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., didn’t make the eight-second whistle and will have to regroup on Friday. Thurston’s buck-off was his second of this year’s Finals, dropping him to fourth in the world standings and 11th in the average, while Green ranks eighth and 10th, respectively.
Reigning World Champion Heeler Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, Alta., continued to struggle with patchwork partner Tom Richards, as the duo had its sixth no-time of the rodeo. They are 15th in both the world standings and Wrangler NFR average through eight rounds.
Two-time CPRA Bareback Horse of the Year and reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year Virgil was at it again on Canada Night. Five nights after tying the arena record with world standings leader Tim O’Connell, the talented bucker from Vern McDonald’s Lac La Biche, Alta.-based C5 Rodeo Company was rated as the top bareback horse of Round 8 after carrying Jake Brown to a third-place finish with an 86.
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.