ARLINGTON, Texas – Richmond Champion has a pretty nice history of collecting cash in north Texas.
Raised in The Woodlands, Texas, and educated at Tarleton State University in nearby Stephenville, Texas, he was the first bareback riding champion at The American in 2014, worth $100,000; as the only qualifier to win, he earned the $1 million side pot.
He keeps adding Arlington money during the 2020 National Finals Rodeo. On Sunday night, he matched moves with Wayne Vold Rodeo’s True Grit for 85 points to finish in a three-way tie for fifth place in the fourth go-round.
“That is a great little horse out of one of my father-in-law’s studs back in the day,” said Champion of Stevensville, Montana. “He raised her, then another guy bought her, then ended up owning her and selling her to Wayne.
“I won Stathmore (Alberta) on her twice. I’ve been on her one other time in Canada, and it went really well. I was looking forward to it all day.”
His wife is the former Paige Lawrence, a retired Olympic figure skater from Saskatchewan whose father is a Canadian stock contractor. That’s just another reason why having the opportunity to ride True Grit at the NFR was special.
Through four nights of ProRodeo’s grand finale, Champion has placed three times and earned $55,551. He has increased his season earnings to $119,700 and sits fourth in the world standings with six nights remaining in the season.
Of course, he added just $3,667 Sunday night by finishing with the same score as two newcomers, Jess Pope and Cole Reiner. It was a close race to the finish, with five of the top seven scores being within a point and a half of each other.
“We do our best job to pick even horses,” Champion said, referring to the process of selecting the top 100 horses to perform at the NFR, then breaking them down into five pens to make for the most even matches possible. “We put them together and give guys an even shot. The guys did their jobs, and the judges have to decipher, within a half point sometimes.
“It’s all good stuff, and we got some money won. As long as you’re winning money here, it’s good.”
Sunday’s group of horses was set to allow a bit of a break for the cowboys after facing the toughest-to-ride horses in the game Saturday. Now the bareback riders will face the most electric horses in rodeo for Monday’s fifth round.
“That’s our TV pen, so let’s do it,” Champion said. “There’s not a bad one in there. The part that gets me is that we’re almost already halfway done, and I feel like we just got here. It doesn’t matter where you are – in Las Vegas or in Arlington – the NFR just flies by.”