LAS VEGAS – Slowly but surely, bareback rider Richmond Champion is getting to where he wants. He just wanted to do it a bit faster.
After all, the National Finals Rodeo has a payout of more than $10 million, and he wanted his fair share of it.
“I’ve just been building,” said Champion, 28, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Stevensville, Montana. “I feel really good. My body feels good. They just need to keep putting good horses under me. I’ve been happy with all my rides so far, so that’s a good thing. I’ll just keep plugging away. There are three rounds left, and there’s a lot of money left out there.”
He collected another bit of cash with an 87-point ride on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez to finish third in Wednesday’s seventh go-round. He pocketed $16,111 and moved his NFR payday to $57,136. He is eighth in the world standings with $156,081 in earnings.
“It is my third time on her here,” Champion said of Wilson Sanchez. “It’s kind of funny: The last three rounds in a row, I’ve drawn my third trip at the NFR on all three of them. I was equally excited for all of them.
“Wilson Sanchez had a better trip than we’ve ever had. When I went out there and put my rigging on, she was pretty amped up and jittery, and I was like, ‘OK, she might really do it today.’ Back in the day, she was the one. She was a ‘TV Pen’ horse. I got on her in the 10th round and the fifth round. She’s gotten a little harder as she’s gotten older.”
That’s why she’s not mixed with the most electric horses at the NFR and fits more into the “Bucker Pen,” which bucks in the second and seventh rounds.
With just three nights remaining in the 2021 ProRodeo season, Champion has worked through the soreness that comes with riding bareback horses for 10 straight nights in December. He’s developed a routine over the years, and that has served him well.
“You constantly adapt as the rounds go on,” he said. “You might get sore; you wake up sore in a place you weren’t sore the night before. You’ve just got to pay attention to that and listen to your body. This is probably the best I’ve ever felt out here.
“You get whipped back into bareback riding shape, and when they put you on the buckers, they stretch you out a little bit and you’re fine.”
He seems fine now, and he has an extra $16 grand to account for that.