LAS VEGAS – Slowly but surely, bareback rider Richmond Champion is making his presence known at this year’s National Finals Rodeo.
On Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Texan found his way toward the top of the nightly standings with an 88.5-point ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Good Time Charlie to finish second in the fifth go-round, adding $20,731 to his annual paycheck.
“He’s so flashy,” Champion said of the powerful sorrel gelding. “He’s 16 years old; he’s just an old man that loves to buck. That’s the coolest thing. There’s nothing new to him. The fireworks go off in the opening, and he just hangs out there in the chute. Nothing is going to rattle him.”
Monday’s meeting marked the third time in his career that Champion has matched moves with Good Time Charlie. The first came in 2011, when was competing on his PRCA permit and just 19 years old.
“I was 89 points on him in Shreveport, La.,” said Champion, 25, of The Woodlands, Texas. I made the whistle, but right after the whistle, my hand came out, and he humped me ahead, took me for a flip, and I landed on my head and knocked myself out, so I don’t remember any of it.”
He also had the sorrel at The American and found that to his liking.
“There’s an opportunity when you see you’ve drawn him,” he said. “The week has been anti-climactic. To get on one where you know you’ve got a chance is nice. I was almost more calm because I didn’t need to do anything other than just make my ride on him. What he does is perfect.”
Through five night of ProRodeo’s grand finale, Champion has earned $37,500. While that’s still a good paycheck, it’s a far cry from where he wants to be. Part of that comes in the scores, and half that comes from the animal. When he’s been matched with a solid bronc, he’s proven to be in the money.
“I feel like I’m riding fine,” Champion said. “You find points in the summer where you draw these kinds of animals. You never hope to draw them here, because its under such a magnifying glass. Getting on horses and having bad days … that’s rodeo. I’m just trying to keep that mindset. Just because here doesn’t mean that rodeo stops. You just have to deal with it.”
While he didn’t have the biggest score of the night, Champion was excited to be on the back of the bucking chutes to watch Clayton Biglow’s record-breaking 93-point ride on the two-time horse of the year, Virgil. There is a kinship that happens among bareback riders, and it shows in everything they do.
“Clayton is bad to the bone,” Champion said. “You have that around you, and it’s cool. He just set the arena record, and he was just sitting there quiet hanging out. It was just another day. That’s why this sport is so special. I’m grateful that I’m in a sort that is like that.
“The engines are hot now. We just keep rolling. We’re exactly have way through the NFR. There is so much time to really make an impact.”