Year in and year out since 2002, for the most part, there has been just one name at the top of the Crusher Rentals PRCA World All-Around Standings: Trevor Brazile.
Regardless of the time of year-winter, spring, summer or fall-and particularly after the first week of December (with one notable exception in 2005), Brazile's name is at the top of the list. He's won five all-around titles (and three others in individual events) and is the most consistent threat to win an all-around title at any rodeo he attends.
But after RodeoHouston this winter, his name was not at the top of that list. In fact, he was third. Sitting behind both multi-event hands Josh Peek and Steven Dent, who won Houston's $50,000 jackpot in their primary events (calf roping and bareback riding, respectively) he suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar position: third.
All his acquaintances who saw the world standings wondered what was going on. But as a guy who's been there and done that and is quite possibly in the prime of his career, the standings as of April 14 don't concern him nearly so much as they do around Dec. 13.
"It worried everybody that saw the standings," Brazile said. "They called me and wondered what was going on. As soon as they found out it was from one rodeo they understood you got to just wait it out. There's no other rodeo's that can lopside the standings that much. After those first few rodeos, there have been a lot of times I haven't been in the front out of the gate. But it's an endurance race, not the fastest out of the gate."
All spring, Brazile ran a steady race and closed the nearly $25,000 gap RodeoHouston left him with. Then, in one rodeo, Brazile restored the order rodeo fans have grown accustomed to by winning Redding (Calif.) Rodeo's all-around and tie-down roping crowns. Additionally, he finished third in the average in the team roping with partner Patrick Smith.
"My calf roping runs were pretty weak, but the calves were uneven," he said. "I didn't do anything special at all. In the team roping there wasn't anything special, either. Patrick borrowed Jade Corkill's horse on the first one and Brady Minor's on the second one."
In the tie-down roping, it took 18.5 seconds on two head to win the average and in the team roping he and Smith roped two in 10.9.
In sum, Brazile won $5,758 in the two events. What's more, he was riding borrowed horses.
"I just flew in and borrowed a head horse from Jay Adams and the calf horse from Clint Arvey," he said. "Luckily I've watched both of those horses go and they're real user friendly."
In fact, Brazile said, that may be a trend he continues-despite his reputation for quite possibly the best all-around horse herd in the business. When rodeos host back-to-back two headers-like Redding did for the first time this year-he can easily fly to and from the event, borrow a horse or two, and make the most of his time and money.
"With diesel prices and stuff
I may be doing that a little more than I normally do," he said.
"I usually don't mount out much. I think at some of those bigger rodeos, instead of not going, a guy just might fly over and take a chance on riding different horses, especially on rodeos I normally don't go to."
With Redding's change in format, Brazile and Smith decided to give the Northern California rodeo a shot. Brazile hadn't been since 1999.
"In my opinion, those rodeos that want to be two-head, if they're not back-to-back, they should just be big one-headers so guys don't have to make two trips to one rodeo," he said. "If they're back-to-back, everybody gets done in one day and the crowd gets to see them in the performance too. So it works out for everybody."
May is not the best month of the regular rodeo season to go on a hot streak, but Jake Stanley will take it. For whatever reason, there aren't as many high-paying rodeos in that month as the rest of the season. Nevertheless, Jake Stanley, along with temporary partner Cody Cowden, made the most of it.
"It's been steady," Stanley said. "Even the winter. I usually have a great winter or a horrible winter and never in between. This winter wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible. It was inbetween. We just kind of placed everywhere, which is good for your confidence. This spring was the same way. Usually about Redding time I start winning and it came on again, so that was perfect."
On the same weekend as Redding, Stanley and Cowden roped together at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, Calif.
"Marty Becker is who I'm roping with all year," the Hermiston, Ore., cowboy said. "That weekend, he couldn't get away, so I roped with Cody. He needed a run and I needed a run so it worked out good. I didn't really want to go to Hayward and Cody, he called me when we went to enter Redding and he told me, 'Man, we need to go to Hayward, I've won that the last two years.' He told me if we went there and I put it on one's head, I'd be guaranteed to win first place, so I said put me down. He was telling the truth. He's pretty boisterous, but a lot of times he backs it up."
He backed it up to the tune of a 4.7-second run in Hayward and the temp team tied with Wade Wheatley and Broc Cresta for the win.
The next day in Redding, the story played out nearly the same way.
"We made a really good run on our first one. The steer tried to run a little and he did a good job and got a good start," Cowden said of Stanley. "Then we luckily came back and had a very good steer. He just used his head real good and got out of the barrier, which is the main thing."
Cowden, an eight-time Wrangler NFR cowboy, rode a horse he calls Shot. Shot was literally shot as a colt while turned out in the pasture near his home in California, but has made a full recovery and is one of the best heel horses in the game. Stanley was aboard his 19-year-old bay gelding Getner.
"He's for sure the best scoring horse in the PRCA," Stanley said. "He might not be able to run like anything else and he's not as strong, but man that horse scores so good and he's honest every time. He gives you a chance to win on anything. Everything I've ever won has been on that horse. He's just a good horse.
"Our first steer was just supposed to be medium and stay straight. I might have missed the barrier just a little bit, but Cody picked him up right there and hazed over to me good and I just run right in there and stuck him. Cody got him on the first legal as fast as he could. He made up all the time on that steer. It was as good a heel shot as you can make."
The clock stopped at 5.4, which was good enough for a tie for fourth in the round.
"The second one was the best steer in our set and I got a good start on him. I needed to see him extra and that's where my bay horse paid off, he'll just stand there, and I let him out there and I reached out there and Cody roped him and we were five flat. That steer was so good the only thing we had to do was not screw him up to win that rodeo, I felt."
That put the team in a tie for the third spot in the round and the top spot in the average, narrowly edging Colter Todd and
Cesar de la Cruz by 0.1 seconds. In sum, the win was worth $4,465 for each roper.
Interestingly, Wheatley and Cresta were gunning for the win again and may have moved Stanley and Cowden out of the top spot, but Cresta lost his rope.
While the Redding win was sweet, both Stanley and Cowden are looking forward to bigger and better things for the rest of the season.
For the summer run, Stanley will reunite with Canadian Marty Becker-with whom he's already had considerable success.
"Marty's been good to rope with," Stanley said. "Last year I roped with Russell Cardoza, and I like roping with him, but we just didn't make the Finals so we both decided we needed to do something different. I didn't know what I was going to do, but then Dean Tuftin called me up and told me Marty needed a partner. I was kind of half-and-half on the deal, I wasn't sure that I wanted a calf roper. I knew he roped with Shane Schwenke, but I didn't pay much attention. Dean told me he'd have heel horses for him, so that was pretty intruiging. So I went and practiced with him. He's ain't no calf roper, he just ropes calves on the side it looks to me like. He heels phenomenal."
Becker's old Canadian crony Tuftin has kept him mounted. Primarily, Becker has used a fast bay horse Tuftin bought from Matt Kasner named Skeeter. There's another horse Tuftin bought from Cody Guess that Becker can use and if the team gets in a real pinch, Tuftin has said he'll let them use Chili Dog-the 2004-2005 PRCA/AQHA heeling horse of the year.
Stanley, who has finished 18th, 18th and 20th in the world standings the past three years, is hoping his $18,823 sum going into the summer run will help him get off the bubble and into his first Wrangler NFR.
"Last year I had $6,500 going into Reno so I'm in a little better position than I was last year and I only missed it by $4,000," he said. "So hopefully I have the same summer as I had last year. I'm hoping to make the Finals. I'm sick of not making it. It's starting to get costly not making it every year. So that's my game plan."
Meanwhile, Cowden also has a reason to look forward to the summer run since partnering with 10-time Wrangler NFR header Daniel Green.
"Dan's done real well out here all spring," he said. "He's got some tour points and some money built up. He normally stays home with his family and works with his dad doing construction. Unfortunately, out here in California there is no construction, everything is real tight. So, he's been forced to go back to rope to make money. He wants to provide for his family and that brought him back out of retirement.
"When he called me and asked me to rope he said, 'I'll tell you what, this mare is letting me win. I don't know what it is about her, but she's letting me win. If you want to do it, we'll give it a shot.' Well, you know I wanted to do it. I'm glad to have him. I'm very fortunate to get Daniel Green. He's probably in the top two or three headers in the world. I'm excited to get him. He probably doesn't want to rodeo, but he's been forced to. Hopefully we'll see you at the Finals."
In the bareback riding, Utah cowboy Jessy Davis, a two-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, rode Four Star Rodeo's mare Star Wars for 83 points to win $5,037.
"I'd seen that horse a couple weeks before at Springville [Calif.]," Davis said. "James Sursa had her and she's a pretty nice horse. I didn't know if she'd given me enough to win first, but it worked out all right. She just kind of dribbled around to the left and then she tightened up in a circle and stayed close to the chutes-which the judges like a lot-and I just did my part and it worked out. I was out in the first performance so I didn't think I'd win."
But the winter and spring has been exceptional for Davis, who set an arena record in San Antonio in February with a 92 on Flying Five's Miss Amerititle and then went on to win California rodeos in Sonora, Springville and Lakeside this spring.
"It's been good, I can't complain one bit," he said. "All those rodeos that I've won in previous years always work out for me later on."
At press time, he sat third in the world standings despite a rotator cuff injury that might require surgery.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "My shoulder is a little bunged up from wear and tear over the years. If I keep it loose and work out it helps. I need to get it worked on, I was going to do it after Houston, but that went pretty good so I'll just wait it out for the rest of the year. It takes a lot of time to heal up and it drops you out. I'll just go ahead and go like I have for the last
couple of years and rodeo hard to try and make as much money as I can while I'm young."
One way Davis has learned to keep his shoulder loose is by roping. When he's not at a rodeo, he's training and trading rope horses or working on his new home in Payson.
"I've just been around horses all my life," he said. "I try to trade around on horses and make a little bit of money. You don't get too far ahead. I sold my head horse, so I'm down to my heel horse so I've been heeling a lot. I bought a Heel-O-Matic so that's been fun."
Rounding out the winners in Redding were Stan Branco of Chowchilla, Calif., who threw two steers in 9.5 seconds to win the steer wrestling and $3,385. Scott Miller took top honors in the saddle bronc riding with an 82-point mark aboard Western Rodeo's Crooked Creek. The Hawaiian-turned-California cowboy took $5,137 out of Redding. Matt Clemons of Okeechobee, Fla., won the bull riding with a 90-point ride on Growney Brother's No. 423. Meanwhile, Canadian Deb Renger won $4,201 after taking home the barrel racing average title with a combined time of 34.88 seconds on two.