LAS VEGAS – Hi-Lo Pro Rodeo’s Garden City Gal was raised in western Kansas, just like the town for which she’s named.
Saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden didn’t know that much about the gray mare, but he made it work to the tune 88 points to win Wednesday’s seventh round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He added $26,231 to push his NFR earnings to $83,404.
“I called a few guys that had been on her that had some zeroes beside their name,” said Braden, who moved to No. 6 in the world standings with $171,009. “They said that she feels good, but she really wants you over her head the way she hits the ground, sucks back and has some moves to her.
“But they said I should be just fine on her.”
They were right, and it guided the Welch, Okla., cowboy to his second go-round victory of this year’s NFR – he also won the first round. There are many veterans that have never earned a round title; Sterling Crawley, a four-time NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, earned his first this past Monday.
“Sterling named off how many rounds it had been (34 rounds without a win), and it was crazy,” Braden said. “It’s an exciting feeling to win two your first time out.”
The 2017 season has been, by far, Braden’s best in his eight years in ProRodeo. In fact, his previous best season was 2016, when he pocketed $34,511.
“And I was ecstatic about that,” he said with a laugh.
Braden has laughed a lot this week. He has reason to do so. It would be hard to suppress the giddiness of earning more than $80,000 in seven days of work.
“This whole year has been the most fun I’ve ever had,” Braden said. “The NFR is just to top it off, a celebration. It’s been incredible this year.
“I never dreamed, in my wildest dreams, that it would go this good.”