Jake Pratt

Jake Pratt competes in the first day of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Ellensburg tie-down roper Jake Pratt nodded his head for the first time at the National Finals Rodeo Thursday night and wasted no time in picking up some cash as the NFR rookie earned fifth-place money in day one of the 10-day Finals in Las Vegas.

“It was outstanding, a little nerves, a lot of excitement, a lot of everything,” Pratt said by phone after his 8.2-second run for $6,769.

Pratt’s run started well, wrapping his rope around the calf’s neck within two seconds. However, the calf struggled against the pull of Pratt’s horse, Six, forcing Pratt to shift a bit while flanking before the tie.

“Everything just set up perfect, and I just had to shuffle in there and flank ‘em where he was,” Pratt said. “It worked out good though. If I get him flanked clean right there, we’re moving up a few spots in the round. You’d like to be seven-flat each night, but I’ll take a round that wins me money.”

While Pratt admitted to some nerves, it was more anticipation as the Pratt family arrived in town on Sunday.

“We got set up Sunday and a lot of anticipation waiting for tonight,” he said after Thursday night’s round. “Monday, we worked the calves. Tuesday was the back number ceremony and that was really cool. Wednesday was Grand Entry practice and group pictures. (Thursday) morning we roped the calves again.”

Pratt wasn’t overly concerned with earning $6,769 when go-round winners earn $26,231 a night.

“I’ve done a lot of work to get here. I’m not really worried with that,” he said of missing out on a bigger check in day one. “We’ll see what my roping gets me at the end of the week. We’ll see where it ends up on day 10. It sure would be great to be in contention next weekend, but I’m just going to focus on me and not worry about anything else.”

With the $10,000 Pratt earned from making the Finals, along with Thursday’s check, Pratt has $111,063 in season earnings and is sixth in the world standings. The top three ropers in the world — Shane Hanchey, Tuf Cooper and Tyson Durfey — all finished out of the pay window on Thursday but had qualified times. Caleb Smidt — the 2015 world champion — won the round with a 7.6-second calf.

MINOR BROTHERS NIGHT

In team roping, Ellensburg’s Minor brothers suffered a no-time as header Riley Minor missed the steer, before Brady Minor could try the steer’s heels. The brothers are in the top 12 of their respective standings with $91,000 in the bank. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira stopped the clock 4.2 seconds for the go-round win.

Another local was part of NFR’s first round. Daniel Beard, co-owner of Wyoming-based Summit Pro Rodeo, had a horse on display as Revolving Door took Richmond Champion for a 78.5-point ride, 12th place on the night. Wyatt Denny rode Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Night Crawler for the 87-point win on Thursday.

Bull rider Trey Benton bested Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Whiskey Hand for 88.5 points for the $26,231 check and held off four-time defending champ and current world leader Sage Kimzey who had an 88 on Big Stone’s Mortimer. Kimzey’s $10,000 NFR bonus and $20,731 go-round put him past $300,000 in season earnings with $327,756. He has a $132,300 lead over Parker Breding.

Similar to Kimzey adding to his world lead, so did barrel racer Hailey Kinsel. The Texas cowgirl won the round with a 13.51-second pattern with the $26,231 pushing her past $200,000 in season earnings. Kinsel was the NFR’s top money earner among barrel racers last year with $189,400 over the course of 10 days. In second was Salem, Oregon’s Amberleigh Moore, who finished in 13.65. Moore earned more than $187,000 at the 2016 NFR and more than $300,000 over the past two years in Las Vegas.

Columbia Circuit Cowboy Blake Knowles started off the steer wrestling with a 3.8-second round, but fell to second when 2016 world champion Tyler Waguespack finished with a 3.6. The Louisiana cowboy jumped from 10th to second in the world (behind Curtis Cassidy) in the notoriously tight bulldogging standings. Even more impressive is the fact that Waguespack has won three straight first rounds in Las Vegas.

“Man, that is awesome, and that is the round where you want to get things started and get everything going,” he said in a PRCA news release. “I’ve been lucky enough to do it the last three times.”

Ellensburg average champion Cort Scheer picked up the go-round win in saddle bronc with an 86.5 on Calgary Stampede’s Y U R Friskey.

Tonight’s second round begins at 7 p.m.

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