ARLINGTON, Texas – This is the Tim O’Connell know about.
With a somewhat hard-to-track bucking horse, the three-time world champion proved why he owns so many Montana Silversmiths gold buckles by matching move for move with Brookman Rodeo’s Famous Dex for 87 points to finish fourth in Monday’s fifth round of the National Finals Rodeo.
“I figured he would throw those moves at me,” said O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa. “I didn’t open up, because I didn’t want to expose myself too much and get into trouble. I watched it back, and it looked a lot better than it felt.”
The ride earned him $11,000 and extended his lead in the world standings by $32,000 over the No. 2 man, four-time world champion Kaycee Feild. O’Connell has pocketed $63,036 through five nights of this year’s NFR, the second highest total among bareback riders.
Of course, some of that comes with being a veteran of the game. This is his seventh straight NFR. He took a solid game plan into his fifth-round ride, and it paid off. By staying close to the vest and not exposing himself, O’Connell allowed the horse and the spur ride to be solid.
“I didn’t know where the next jump was going to be with him,” he said. “I thought he was going to turn back just by the way he felt, but he never did. This was way better than when I him in Deadwood (South Dakota).
“I feel like I made a good, aggressive ride. I don’t normally get to mad at myself for making mistakes, but I made one mistake in the end. I tell my traveling partners to never get mad about spurring over one’s neck, because you’re being aggressive. For everything that was going on in that ride, when you have a horse like that and you’re trying to make the best ride you can, making that kind of a mistake is understandable. For me to make only one mistake and it was at the end of the ride, I’m super pleased with that.”
He should be. He’s also sitting second in the average race with 427.5 cumulative points on five rides. He’s won the NFR average three times – the same three years he won world titles in 2016-18 – and finished second last year. The aggregate champion will earn $67,269 when Saturday’s 10th round concludes; second place is worth $54,577.
He will have another shot to cash in and increase his average chances Tuesday night, where he will be matched with J Bar J Rodeo’s Blessed Assurance, the horse that led Richmond Champion to the first-round victory last Thursday.
“I’m really excited,” O’Connell said. “I’ve been wanting to get on that horse for a long time. She’s a veteran, I’m a veteran; it’s just time.”
Yes, it is.