ARLINGTON, Texas – Richmond Champion has done something no other cowboy has ever done.
He became the first person to make a National Finals Rodeo victory lap at Globe Life Field, which is hosting ProRodeo’s grand finale because of COVID-19 limitations at the event’s typical home in Las Vegas.
“Nothing’s sweeter than starting off with a W,” said Champion of Stevensville, Montana, who rode J Bar J Rodeo’s Blessed Assurance for 87.5 points to win the first go-round and pocket $26,231. “I was stoked when I saw that I had that horse. She’s been a great horse for a long time. She’s been here a bunch of times, and they’ve won a bunch of rounds on her.”
Add another one to the mix.
“When you have a horse like that, you don’t want to mess her up,” he said, noting that he had ridden the powerful bucking horse one time before. “It was three years ago, I think. She was just what I needed then, and she’s just what I needed now.”
As the first event of each round of the NFR, the winner of Thursday’s bareback riding was going to make history. It helps that Champion graduated high school in The Woodlands, Texas, and attended Tarleton State University in nearby Stephenville, Texas. He even lived near Stephenville for several years before moving to Montana in 2019.
“It’s pretty cool, and I’ll have something I can look back on,” he said. “Putting these memories down, especially in the year we’ve had, is something nice.”
Now a six-time NFR qualifier, he entered the championship seventh in the world standings with $64,149. On opening night of ProRodeo’s marquee event, he moved up to third with $100,380 – each contestant pocketed a $10,000 bonus just by qualifying.
Doing it in Texas at this new baseball arena is just icing on the cake.
“The Thomas & Mack (in Las Vegas) and this place are two completely different animals,” said Champion, who won $1 million in the inaugural The American at AT&T Stadium in 2017; it’s just across the road from Globe Life Field. “Wherever they put those gold buckles, it makes me (excited). To have the opportunity to have a finals when so many sports didn’t on a year like this means something.
“To have the great state of Texas welcome rodeo and give us this opportunity is a huge blessing.”