LAS VEGAS – Sometimes the littlest things end up making the biggest magic.
Take Winn Ratliff’s ride Sunday night during the fourth go-round of the National Finals Rodeo. The Leesville, La., bareback rider matched moves with Frontier Rodeo’s Times Up for 82 points. He placed fourth in the round and pocketed $11,000.
It was his first paycheck of this NFR, his third trip to the Nevada desert for ProRodeo’s grand championship. But it was significant. He already has moved up two spots to 13th in the world standings, and he has six more go-rounds to go.
This season, he has earned nearly $97,000 riding bucking horses. He won 11 rodeos, including top-dollar events in Nampa, Idaho, and Prescott, Ariz.; still, most of his earnings came from catching decent checks along the way.
“Winning the Snake River Stampede (in Nampa) during its 70th anniversary was really special,” said Ratliff, who lives in Leesville with his wife, Brittany, and their daughter, Maryclaire, who was born this past May. “Then to win Prescott, with all the history behind, was an accomplishment in itself.”
While Sunday’s earnings were nice, the goal each night in Las Vegas is to win the go-rounds. By doing so, cowboys will collect more than $26,000 a night. Ratliff likes his chances to do just that. Not only does the NFR feature the top 15 cowboys in the world standings, it also is the showcase for the very best bucking animals in the sport.
Ratliff finished just out of the money in the opening round, scoring 79 points. He knows he has some ground to make up in the final six nights of the season, but he’s up for the challenge.
On Monday night, for example, he is matched with Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet Fever, a horse that is considered one of the greatest in ProRodeo. If he continues to be matched with bucking horses of that caliber, he will be in a great position to add to his season earnings.
That is what competing at the NFR is all about.