Franks earns his 7th NFR check

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LAS VEGAS Through 18 rounds of the National Finals Rodeo, Cole Franks has been chomping at the bit in hopes of earning his first go-round victory.

He was within a whisker of it Thursday night, riding Bridwell Rodeo’s Girl Crush for 87 points to finish in a three-way tie for second place. Instead, Texan Leighton Berry took the round with an 88-point ride, but Franks came away with $17,410 for doing his part.

“I was getting pretty antsy toward the end,” Franks said as he watched the action; Berry was the third-to-last bareback rider to compete. “He rode good and had a really good horse. That’s part of the game. You can’t win everything. There are always better horses, better rides somewhere.”

Winning NFR go-rounds is tough business. Only the top 15 contestants in each event at the conclusion of the regular season advance to Las Vegas, and it’s difficult to beat all of them on a given night. For his part, Franks has ridden all of his horses and placed seven out of eight nights. He has pushed his NFR earnings to more than $80,000 and stands sixth in the world standings with just shy of $200,000.

“You just have to take them one at a time,” he said. “You keep nodding your head, keep getting on what you’re getting on that day and don’t worry about anything else.”

It’s working. He has scored 679 cumulative points on his eight rides and is in a tie with Californian R.C. Landingham for second in the aggregate race. They are 14 points behind the leader, Jess Pope, who travels the rodeo trail with Franks and Tim O’Connell. In fact, Pope and Landingham also scored 87 points to join Franks in the No. 2 position in the go-round.

“That horse is kind of a sleeper in that pen,” said Franks of Clarendon, Texas. “I was a little nervous going into this. Leighton Berry was helping me and said, ‘You know, this thing feels a lot better than people think.

“That horse feels really good. He is strong. He is all there, but he feels really good and is a lot of fun to get on.”

With two nights of the NFR left, his place in the aggregate race is valuable. If he were to finish alone in second place, it would be worth a bonus of $60,159 when Saturday’s 10th round comes to an end. Third place pays nearly $48,000.

“I’m still going for the round wins,” Franks said. “If that takes me out of the average, if I make a bobble, if I do get bucked off something, at least I know I was going for it.”


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