Editor’s Note: Now in our seventh year attempting to pick the PRCA world champions in each event, sadly we must admit that we’re not getting any better at it. Last year, we only predicted four of the nine world champions, and one was a gimmie: Trevor Brazile in the All-Around. Still, that doesn’t keep us from trying, because, hey, it’s fun.
With so much money and so many variables at play in Las Vegas, anything is possible. It seems that the cowboys and cowgirls able to most effectively control what they can while most adroitly dealing with the variables are the ones who win world championships. With that in mind, we’ll jump in with both feet to pick this year’s champs. As usual, we asked for your help on Facebook and tried to provide you with some fantasy value picks—not necessarily the world champion picks, but cowboys coming in near the bottom of the back that we think will win some serious cash. –Bob Welch
Total Payoff: $6,375,000
Per Go: $490,385
Per Go, Per Event: $61,298
Average, Per Event: $183,894
Total Payoff Per Event: $796,875
Average Payoff, Per Event
Placing Payoff, Per Go Round, Per Event
Total Payoff per Event: $61,298
Make it an Even Dozen
Death, taxes, and Trevor Brazile winning the All-Around. There’s no risk in predicting Trevor will earn his 12th PRCA World All-Around Cowboy title this year. Once again, he’s entering the post season in three events: steer roping (which occurs after this magazine goes to print, but before the Wrangler NFR), team roping and tie-down roping. Plus, he’s sitting on a $100,000 lead over his brother-in-law Tuf Cooper. Cooper is capable of closing that gap in one event, but for him to have any hope of winning the buckle Brazile would have to not earn a cent. Barring injury, that won’t happen.
Records Brazile could potentially threaten are his own: the highest single-year earnings of $507,921 he set in 2010 when he won his Las Vegas triple crown (AA, TD, TR). Also in play would be the most money won at a rodeo (Brazile, NFR, 2010, $211,509) or most money won in national finals championship events (Brazile, NFR/NFSR, 2010, $239,586).
It may not be a compelling race in the narrow view of a year, but a step back to look at what Brazile has done year-in and year-out since the turn of the century is simply amazing.
Key Word: Redemption
For the second year in a row, eight-time world champion and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo color analyst for the CBS Sports broadcast Joe Beaver is picking Casey Martin to win his first world title.
Last year, when Hunter Cure won it all, he wrestled the title away from the stranglehold Luke Branquinho, Lee Graves and Dean Gorsuch had on it for almost a decade.
With Graves semi-retired, Branquinho out of the top five and Gorsuch sidelined by injury, the door for a new name on the gold buckle remains open. Martin led the pack last year, and stumbled.
“I’m going to go with Casey Martin this year,” Beaver said. “I think he had a chance last year and had hell. I think that showed him what can happen at the Finals if you back off any or things go wrong. He’s got a good catch and I think he’s as good a bet as any to catch all 10. Trevor Knowles has been hot all year, but I’m going to go with Martin.”
On paper, Knowles is the favorite. In his 10 consecutive NFR trips he’s had breakout performances and disappointing performances. He seems like he’s certainly due, and it would be no surprise to see him don the buckle after 10 days.
Last year’s champion, Hunter Cure, came from $45,000 and seven places down to win the title. This year, Branquinho is only $25,000 down. While he’s certainly left the door open for his competitors, it’s not shut for him, either. In fact, all 15 cowboys are within $40,000 of one another. So while it’s anybody’s race, don’t look at us to stray from Joe Beaver’s expertise on this one.
Tryan and Corkill
Key Word: Repetition
The team roping is stacked from top to bottom. There are only four NFR rookies competing alongside 33 gold buckles among the 30 qualifiers. Unlike most years, a legitimate case can be made for every team who backs in the box this year. It will be a 10-day knife fight.
What’s more, the top five teams are only separated by just under $30,000. It’s really anybody’s game.
Horses, raw talent and the ability to mitigate the variables will determine who wins this one. For us, there’s a reason Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill have been the virtual wire-to-wire regular season standings leaders. They’ve got what it takes.
Our expert, however, sees a twist this year.
“I’m going to go with Trevor and Travis,” eight-time World Champion Joe Beaver said. “I think Clay Tryan is the best header in the business right now and Jade Corkill is the heelingest guy that there is, but I think Trevor will win the steer roping and the team roping this year. Trevor and Travis will be the champion team. Travis never has won one, and if he gets in that position he’ll be ready and Trevor will get him there.”
It’s our contention that argument could be made for nearly all the teams entered this year. Beaver may know something we don’t, but we’re breaking from his pick to stay with the defending champs.
His comments about Tryan and Corkill simply ring too true. They are in their prime—individually and as a team. We think they hold a slight advantage over the field: not just in money earned coming in, but in horses, talent and experience. To be sure, it’s not a huge advantage and seeing any two names from the above list engraved on the buckles after 10 days of roping will be no surprise, but Tryan and Corkill just have too many of the tools to pick against.
Key Word: Logic
Last year, Tuf Cooper had a $38,000 lead headed into the Finals. This year, he’s got around a $37,000 lead. Last year, things didn’t go his way and Shane Hanchey came from over $60,000 down to win his first world title. This year… it’s still seems foolish to pick against Tuf.
“There’s no way in the world anybody should beat Tuf if he’s just $20,000 ahead,” said tie-down roping legend Joe Beaver. “But Matt Shiozawa won $45,000 in just one month at the end of the regular season in Texas at jackpots, match ropings and rodeos. I’m going to have to go with Matt. There’s no way Tuf shoudn’t win it, he’s roping good, he’s got $37,000 on him, but I’m going with Shiozawa.”
The logic may be hard to follow, but Joe Beaver’s instincts when it comes to tie-down roping should never be doubted. With last year as historical precedent, we’re inclined to trust the eight-time world champion.
Beaver’s pick of Shiozawa brings to mind 2011, Cooper’s first world title, when Shiozawa won the average. He placed in five of the first six rounds (winning Rounds 4 and 5), put himself in the driver’s seat for the average, but got tight and played things too safely down the stretch.
If Joe tells us he believes in Shiozawa in 2014, we’ll sign off on that pick, too.
Kaley Bass and Fallon Taylor sit atop the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s World Standings with $155,280 and $131,471 earned, respectively. Bass won almost $70,000 last year in the Thomas & Mack, while Taylor struggled and only took home $15,925. On both of their heels, though, is Lisa Lockhart, and we’re thinking that it is her year. Here’s why.
Lockhart has already won $121,617 this year, and last year she took home a massive $102,163 from the Finals alone. Her great horse, Louie, on which she won the American this year, was hurt but will be back for the Finals, and her other great horse, Chism, has won his fair share in the Thomas & Mack as well. She won three rounds at the Finals in 2013, and she placed in four others. If Lockhart has her usual go-round-winning, leave-the-barrels-standing showing, she’s our pick.
But the last two Ram Top Gun Award winners—Sherry Cervi and Mary Walker—are within striking distance of the leaders at seventh and ninth, respectively. (The Top Gun Award means they won more than any other contestant in any event at the NFR. Cervi won $155,899 in 2013, and Walker won $146,941 in 2012.) They’ve proven that they can dominate in the Thomas & Mack, and both Cervi and Walker will be aboard their world-champion, average-winning mounts in Stingray and Latte. Don’t count them out yet.