Pro rodeo competitors will fill their saddle bags with big money this weekend at AT&T Stadium.
The highest-paying show is RFD-TV’s The American, the record $2 million, single-performance rodeo that’s scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, March 2.
In saddle bronc riding, for example, fans will watch a field of 16 credentialed riders. Ten have qualified by high finishes in the 2013 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings. Another five qualified from The American Semifinals (Feb. 21-23) in Mesquite. The 16th competitor is a name cowboy who was given an exemption, which meant he didn’t have to earn a berth through qualifying shows within the past six months.
Two-time world champion Cody Wright, 36, advanced to The American as the result of finishing third in the PRCA’s world standings last year. But his 18-year-old son, Rusty, made the cut after finishing third at last weekend’s semifinals qualifying event in Mesquite. Six-time world champion Dan Mortensen, 45, who is coming out of retirement, was given the right to compete by exemption.
Out of the $2 million purse, $1 million has been set aside for a winning competitor who came in through last weekend’s qualifier event in Mesquite or by exemption. If more than one competitor who came in through those two avenues wins a title, the $1 million will be divided.
If Cody Wright, for example, wins The American saddle bronc riding title, he will receive $100,000. But if either Rusty Wright or Mortensen win, they could earn either all the $1 million (side pot), or they would divide the seven-figure paycheck between one other winning competitor in another event or two or more winning competitors who earned a berth in The American like they did. If either Rusty Wright or Mortensen solely win $1 million, they additionally would earn the $100,000 that’s set aside for the No. l finisher in every event.
RC Landingham of Huntsville qualified for The American in bareback riding as the result of finishing in the top five at the semifinals qualifier show in Mesquite. If Landingham wins The American title this weekend, he also could earn up to $1.1 million.
A lucrative Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series show is scheduled for (6 p.m.), Saturday, March. 1 The No. 1 bull rider at the Dr. Pepper Iron Cowboy V will receive $50,000. After that, he will take on Bushwacker, a two-time world champion bull.
If he makes a qualified ride, he will receive a $1 million bonus. Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 world champion who is ranked No. l in the 2013 BFTS world title race after tying for second at the Kansas City, Mo., tour stop last weekend, is among the field of competitors.
It’s the second time that the PBR has featured a seven-figure match ride in its 21-year history. In 2003, World Champion Bull Rider Chris Shivers faced World Champion Bull Little Yellow Jacket for $1 million in Colorado Springs, Colo. Shivers was bucked off in 1.8 seconds.
During The American Semifinals in Mesquite on Sunday, Feb. 23, Fred Whitfield defeated Joe Beaver (of Huntsville) in a tie-down roping match, and Jake Barnes edged Speed Williams and Clay O’Brien Cooper in a team roping match. It was initially announced that the winners of each match would advance to The American in the exemption slots. But after the matches, Randy Bernard, the key organizer of The American, invited all five former world champions to compete in the $2 million rodeo.
On the PRCA circuit, Steven Peebles of Redmond, Ore., earned $21,770 after clinching the bareback riding title at the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo on Saturday, Feb. 22. Peebles also won the bareback riding title at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo on Feb. 8.
Other winners were tie-down roper Jesse Clark of Portales, N.M., ($17,174), saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell ($18,090), steer wrestler Wyatt Smith ($19,007), team ropers Erich Rogers and Cory Petska ($21,129 each), barrel racer Sabrina Ketcham ($20,840), steer roper Cody Lee ($19,584), and bull rider Sage Kimzey ($18,029).
According to the PRCA, it was the second consecutive year that a bull rider – Josh Koschel did it a year ago – won both the rodeo and the San Antonio Xtreme Bulls on the same day. Kimzey earned $40,307 from the two events.
The San Antonio Rodeo offered competitors $1,269,235. It is expected to finish as the PRCA’s highest paying regular season, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier show of the year.
Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has written a rodeo column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the past quarter-century. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org.