Ellensburg Rodeo Finale

Rhen Richards competes in tie down roping at the Ellensburg Rodeo finale Monday. Richards finished in first place.

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Ellensburg is the biggest show of the week. Known for decades as the largest Labor Day weekend rodeo in the world, the purse continues to grow year after year. Last year’s record of $341,885 is noticeably shadowed by this year’s $370,040, a difference of $28,155. The rodeo board announced earlier this year it was adding more money to the purse. That along with an increase in entries, and a slight increase in fees, generated the rodeo’s highest payout of all time. The Xtreme Bulls World Finals paid out $101,520 as well, more than $7,000 than last year’s purse.

Money to win all weekend

Too many athletes to count earned money at Ellensburg. Ellensburg’s Riley and Brady Minor — winners of the average here last year — snuck into the short round in the 12th and final spot. Their 5.5-second run in the short round earned them a few hundred bucks, but it also placed them fifth in the average. They left their home arena with $2,729. The duo is fifth in the world standings.

Another local cowboy, tie-down roper Jake Pratt, had no luck in Ellensburg, but he did win $1,132 in Lakeview, Ore, won the second round in Walla Walla for $2,164 and split second in Filer for $3,700 for a week that nearly hit $7,000. Pratt is $5,100 out of the top 15 in the world standings. The top 15 at the end of this month earn a trip to the National Finals Rodeo in December.

It was an even better weekend for Stevi Hillman. Barrel racing’s No. 9 cowgirl added to her season earnings in a big way. The Texas barrel racer picked up $5,746 by placing in each round and the average here. But she also won Walla Walla for $3,682 and another $3,504 for doing the same in Filer, Idaho. The $12,932 puts her more than $101,000 in season earnings and should seal her fourth straight trip to the NFR.

Tilden Hooper’s had his NFR plans wrapped up for some time now, but the No. 5 bareback rider in the world helped his cause with good money in Ellensburg. Hooper split eighth place three ways (81 points) in the long go for a measly $140. However, his 86 in the short round was good for second place money ($1,250) and it also pushed him to second in the average for another $3,209 for a $4,299 check from Ellensburg. He won third place money in Walla Walla’s one header for another $2,577.

Jordan Spears won big during Saturday’s Xtreme Bulls with a $27,410 check. He also split the win with Trey Benton III in Walla Walla for $3,587 and also won Filer outright for another $4,667. His weekend netted him $35,664 in bullriding earnings.

Five-time defending world champion Sage Kimzey is no slouch, though. Kimzey placed second in Saturday’s Xtreme Bulls final round and average for $21,015. He also split fifth in Ellensburg’s long go and split sixth in the average on Monday for three-figure checks in each. He added $22,202 to his season total that crossed $220,000 this past weekend.

Taking a look at the All-Around

Rhen Richard won more than $9,900 in Ellensburg between tie-down and team roping. Tuf Cooper picked up more than $4,800 in tie-down and steer tripping. Clay Smith earned $2,018 between team roping and steer tripping. Those three are all ranked in the top six in the world All-Around standings. All of them are chasing Stetson Wright, who with $168,000 won has a $25,000 lead over Smith. Wright has made most of his money in bull riding but hasn’t ridden a bull since he broke his jaw in multiple places in late July. His saddle bronc rides this past weekend in Ellensburg was his first competition since the injury. He won $4,656 in Ellensburg.

Where to now?

Now that Ellensburg has settled into the sunset for another year, cowboys and barrel racers head to different places this week. The two primary rodeos this coming weekend are Puyallup to the west and Lewiston, Idaho, to the east. Athletes might hit up Spokane as well. Othello, another smaller circuit rodeo is the final stop in Washington in mid-September, but the biggest rodeo of the Columbia River Circuit is Pendleton, which goes from Sept. 11-14.


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