NFR - Minor brothers

The Minor brothers, Riley and Brady, compete in the first round of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Thursday. The duo scored a 4.7.

It wasn’t a record, it wasn’t first place, but it was a clean run with a check for Ellensburg’s Minor brothers in team roping’s round one of the National Finals Rodeo Thursday in Las Vegas.

The brothers roped a 4.7-second steer, good to split the sixth and final spot with Luke Brown and Paul Eaves in the go-round payout. While it was a small check ($2,115), it is money and more importantly it begins their 10-round journey toward the lucrative average payout.

“I hate to sound like a complainer, but I wasn’t really happy,” Brady Minor said. “Riley did a pretty good job and I took an extra swing. It wasn’t a real clean catch, but it was a clean time.

“The heel loop wasn’t perfect,” he continued. “…but he got two feet,” Riley countered.

Riley, the header, remembered Thursday’s first round steer from Tuesday’s practice runs where all 15 teams got to run the cattle.

“I was a little late on the barrier tonight,” he said. “I ran that steer in practice and the steer turned his head and he was a bit slow out of the chute. I was a little bit worried about him leaving the chute tonight, so I gave him a little bit extra.”

While the “extra” probably moved a 4.3-second time to the eventual 4.7-second round, it cost the brothers some money while still ending with a clean run.

“It was OK,” Brady said. “It’s a good way to put it. Nothing great, but it wasn’t terribly disappointing. Got one run down. Just looking forward to the next one.”

That next one won’t be any easier considering the caliber of cowboys backing up in the box.

“I think the rounds are going to be tougher than ever this year,” Brady said. “The steers are really good and the competition is so good. You’ve just got to take a high percentage shot. Ideally you want to place in every round, but you dang sure want to stay in the average.”

The ropers are roping in their 10th NFR together (Brady has 11 NFRs total under his belt) and Thursday’s paycheck moved the pair to $109,764 in season earnings.

Tyler Wade and Cole Davison won the round with a 4-second steer for the $26,231 payday.

Another cowboy needed to wait an extra long time to earn his winning payday. Bareback rider Richmond Champion — a three-time Ellensburg average champ — rode his first horse to 70 points but earned the re-ride and the Texas cowboy took advantage of the opportunity. Champion rode Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Night Crawler to 91.5 points. The win moved the cowboy to fourth in the world with $167,060 in season earnings.

While it takes basically a year of rodeo stops all season to make the National Finals, it’s not uncommon for cowboys and barrel racers to double their season earnings in just 10 days. The go-rounds pay six places deep — from $26,231 to $4,231 — while the average payday is the crown jewel. The best on 10 in each event goes home with an additional $67,269, while eighth place earns $6,346.

Like Champion, tie-down roper Shane Hanchey isn’t in the top spot of his event, but a big payday on Thursday certainly got him closer. Hanchey bested the field by a half second as his 7.6-second run clearly set him apart from Taylor Santos in second with an 8.1.

“This builds a lot of confidence and momentum for me, and I’m looking forward to the next nine nights,” Hanchey said in a PRCA release.

PRCA and NFR rookie Haven Meged was third with an 8.3 for $15,654, which moved him into the top spot in the standings with $145,533, less than $4,000 ahead of two-time world champ Caleb Smidt.

While Hanchey is a 10-time NFR veteran, Stetson Wright rode like a veteran. The PRCA rookie bull rider narrowed the gap in the standings between he and five-time world champion Sage Kimzey when the Utah cowboy rode 4L & Diamond S Rodeo’s Monte Walsh for 92 points and $26,231. It also helped Wright extend his lead in the All-Around world standings over team roper Clay Smith.

Zeke Thurston mirrored Wright’s move, but this time in saddle bronc riding. Thurston is also second in his event, behind leader Ryder Wright, but Thurston’s 88 on Mo Betta Rodeo’s Sue City Sue (along with Wright’s buckoff) helped the Canadian bronc rider close the gap in the standings to $21,250. Both cowboys already have a Gold Buckle each in their careers.

Emily Miller has one NFR qualification under her belt, but the NFR rookie didn’t look the part of a nervous newbie. She and her horse, Chongo, ran the cloverleaf pattern in 13.63 seconds to win the round.

Dakota Eldridge had a great return to the Thomas and Mack Arena, turfing his steer in 3.6 seconds for the $26,231 winner’s payday. The check moved him into second place behind regular-season leader Ty Erickson. Erickson initially had a 3.4-second run, but a 10-second barrier penalty erased any chance at a check.

Tonight’s second round begins at 6:45.

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