LAS VEGAS – It took Richmond Champion four go-rounds to find a match-up that worked well for him at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Since then, it’s all worked out pretty good for the 21-year-old cowboy from The Woodlands, Texas. He has placed in five of nine rounds, two of which were wins. On Friday night, he matched moves with J Bar J Rodeo’s Painted Brush for 83 points to finish in a ninth-round tie with four-time world champion Bobby Mote.
Both men added $9,654. More importantly for the young Texan, he sits second in the average race with 729.5 cumulative points on nine rides. He trails three-time reigning champion Kaycee Feild by just three points heading into Saturday night’s 10th go-round. Feild has a fairly solid grasp of his fourth straight gold buckle, but it will come down to the final night of the season to confirm it.
Champion has had a phenomenal season. He has earned more than $1.25 million riding bareback horses – he won The American in March, which paid him $1.1 million, and has added more than $150,000 in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association earnings. Of that, more than $60,000 has come over the last nine nights in Sin City.
More importantly, he has a big chance to make more. Should he remain second in the average when the NFR concludes Saturday night, he will add $39,537 in the average payout. Should he scoot past Field, the average champion will earn $48,732.
Of course, there’s also the chance to win $19,000 for winning the go-round. The 10th round features the very best bareback horses in the sport. The blind draw has matched Champion with Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet Fever, so the opportunity is there. Champion won the fifth round, which also featured this same group of horses, when he rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket for an 88.5-point score, the highest marking in bareback riding at this year’s NFR.
Just a few days shy of his 22nd birthday, Champion will close out the greatest earnings season in the sport’s history. He just hopes to gift-wrap his own present in Round 10.