LAS VEGAS – The bareback riders had their hands full Wednesday night during the seventh go-round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
It gets tougher Thursday.
“This is kind of a warm up for tomorrow,” said Richmond Champion, who spurred Calgary Stampede’s Trail Dust for 79 points to place fifth in the round. “No, the past three nights have been kind of rewarding. Everybody has had a smile on their faces, but tonight was a little more serious in the locker room.”
Trail Dust is in a group called “semi-eliminators,” meaning they buck off a lot of cowboys through the season but aren’t nearly as hard to ride as the “eliminators,” which will be featured in Round 8.
“I’ve seen him a lot,” Champion said, pointing out that several cowboys have posted high scores on the 8-year-old bay gelding over the last few years. “This was my first time to have him.
“I really wouldn’t change anything, and I’m pretty happy with it. Tomorrow is the big boy ponies, and I have my eye on a few in that pen. I just want to keep the ball rolling, because things are feeling good.”
Part of that has to do with his conditioning as he began the rugged 10-night competition. With his brother, Doug, being crossfit trainer and a former bareback rider, Champion has made a concerted effort to stay in top shape.
“He sends me a workout every day when we’re at home,” he said. “We’ve changed it a little while we’re here, but he told me to just do what I need to do to feel good.”
That’s important when cowboys are chasing the big money in Vegas. By adding $6,769 on Wednesday, he pushed his NFR earnings to $37,916. He is now 11th on the world standings money list with $106,246.
“The workouts started when I was coming back from surgery, and he started getting the gym going,” Champion said. “I didn’t know what I needed to do or how to do it, so I went down there and he kicked my butt for three workouts a day for a week. It’s just carried on, and it’s huge to have that in my back pocket.
“He’s been a huge part of this year, coming back late and having to grind it out the last four months to make it here.”
He’s strong and focused, and he’s ready for the big paydays to come his way the final three nights of the 2016 season.