LAS VEGAS – Only two other bareback riders at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo have earned more money than Richmond Champion through the first four rounds.
Champion, 24, of The Woodlands, Texas, placed for the third time on Sunday with an 84-point ride, finishing in a tie for sixth place in the fourth go-round. He added another $2,115 to his bank account and has pushed his NFR earnings to $50,326.
More importantly, though, is that he has moved up four spots to No. 5 in the world standings with $157,524.
“I have traveled a lot further than I walked to the truck to drive here from the hotel for $600,” he said with a laugh. “To keep the ball rolling and get a couple grand is perfect. Those little checks add up. I’m happy, and I feel good. This is the best that I’ve probably ever felt here.”
This is Champion’s third qualification to the NFR. He first arrived in Las Vegas in 2014 and won $108,000 in 10 nights. He’s halfway there, and ProRodeo’s grand finale hasn’t even reached the halfway point.
“In my own mind frame of knowing that in 2014 it was, ‘Oh, man, I didn’t even mean to do that,’ and now it’s more purposeful,” he said. “I have a driving force behind me, and it feels good.”
It should. On Sunday night, he matched moves with Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Control Freak to place in the round. Though it was the first time he had ridden the strong bay horse, he know quite a bit about it.
“I’ve seen him a lot,” Champion said of Control Freak. “When I saw the draw, I knew he was solid. I knew Tanner (Aus) won the first round on him last year, so I knew there was an upside. He had a solid day, but the NFR is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. That’s a nice horse and a good score.”
He has had nice horses all year. In addition to qualifying for this week’s festivities in the City of Lights, he also qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the first time in his career. It was a great learning situation for the young cowboy, even though he didn’t have the best of luck in Edmonton, Alberta.
Still, he gained some things that are helping him this week.
“I had trouble finding my groove up there, but here you fall back into it,” Champion said. “It’s a different animal here. The energy of this place is unbelievable. This is my bread and butter; that’s awesome.”
So is Champion, who will have a shot to repeat history Monday night. He has a rematch with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket, the two-time Bareback Horse of the Year that Champion rode for 88 points to win the fifth go-round at the 2014 NFR.