Bennett secures 2nd trip to NFR

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Caleb Bennett wiped the sweat off his face, smiled and sighed.

He’s been waiting on this moment for several weeks, and it finally happened Saturday afternoon during the second performance of the American Royal Rodeo. He rode Three Hills Rodeo’s Spoony for 84 points to take the bareback riding lead.

His place on the leaderboard is key, because it means he should collect a nice check for placing well inside Hale Arena this weekend. He’ll await results from the final performance, which begins at 7:30 tonight, to see how it all shakes out.

Caleb Bennett
Caleb Bennett

But this money, alongside earnings he’ll get for a solid score on Friday night in Stephenville, Texas, guarantee the Bennett his second straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I’ve got one more rodeo to go, and I’ve got a really good horse there,” said Bennett, 24, of Morgan, Utah, referring to the rodeo in San Bernadino, Calif., which concludes Sunday.

Two weeks ago was on the outside looking in, sitting 18th in the world standings with $55,156 – only the top 15 on the money list earn the right to compete at ProRodeo’s grand championship. Heading into this weekend’s run of rodeos, Bennett had moved to 15th, adding $8,236 at four rodeos last week – he collected nice checks in Amarillo, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M., Pasadena, Texas, and Bowman, N.D.

He also is the No. 1 bareback rider in Stephenville this weekend, so he’s looking at solid earnings there. He’s taken the roller-coaster ride that has been his 2013 and overcome the obstacles that hindered him.

“I’m learning that it’s a little bit harder and a little more humbling to get back there a second time,” he said of the NFR. “I’ve had a hit-and-miss year. I had to work for it a little bit more. It made me realize a few things and that there are guys out there working at it as hard as me, if not harder. I need to step up my game next year if I want to make it again.

“The last few weeks, I’ve been working pretty hard and trying to get there, and things have been paying off for me. Hopefully it seals the deal after this weekend.”

It does. Oregon cowboy R.C. Landingham sits 16th in the world standings, and he won’t have a chance to move past Bennett for that coveted spot in the field.

“The last couple weeks, I’ve rode with more of a clear mind,” Bennett said. “I’ve just been putting my hand in my rigging and riding bucking horses. I’ve been having fun doing it and drawing good horses. The last couple weeks, I feel like I’ve been riding better than I have all year long.”

That’s saying something. Bennett won the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede in July, collecting more than $100,000 in the process. While that money doesn’t count toward the NFR – Calgary is not sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, so earnings at that large rodeo are not included – it has been an asset in paving the way to Vegas.

“It’s given me a lot of comfort,” he said of the money. “I know I can enter, and I can go where I need to go to make the finals, and I don’t have to worry about funding for travel. I’m flying everywhere. My pocketbook’s pretty padded, so I don’t have to worry about debt or credit card problems trying to get from A to B.”

When A and B are added together, it equals NFR. That’s all that matters to Bennett.

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 27-28
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. Caleb Bennett, 84 points on points on Three Hills Rodeo’s Spoony; 2. Taylor Price, 83; 3. R.C. Landingham, 79; 4. (tie) A.J. Yocham and Joel Schlagel, 78; 6. (tie) Kyle Brennecke and Bo Casper, 77; 8. Naudy Exposito, 65.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Jacob Burks, 4.0 seconds; 2. (tie) Jeff Miller, Bray Armes and Clayton Moore, 4.2; 5. (tie) Kyle Whitaker and Matt Reeves, 4.3 each; 7. Olin Hannum, 4.4; 8. (tie) K.C. Jones, Kody Wooddward and Clayton Hass, 4.5.

Team roping leaders: 1. Trevor Brazile/Patrick Smith, 4.7 seconds; 2. Drew Horner/Buddy Hawkins II, 4.8; 3. Ty Blasingame/Chase Tryan, 5.4; 4. Turtle Powell/Dugan Kelly, 5.6; 5. Tyler Johnson/Dawson McMaster, 7.1; 6. Derrick Begay/Cesar de la Cruz, 9.8; 7. Aaron Tsinigine/Clay O’Brien Cooper, 14.0; 8. Will George/Chad Day, 16.0.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Tyler Corrington, 84 points on Three Hills Rodeo’s Almost Heaven; 2. Sam Spreadborough, 81; 3. Hardy Braden, 80; 4. Jade Blackwell, 78; 5. (tie) Louie Brunson and Wyatt Barstow, 77; 7. (tie) Travis Nelson and Logan Allen, 72.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Justin Maass, 8.4 seconds; 2. (tie) Shane Slack and Paul David Tierney, 8.5; 4. Randall Carlisle, 8.6; 5. Cody Ohl, 8.7; 6. Shane Hanchey, 9.7; 7. Caleb Smidt, 9.8; 8. Cory Solomon, 10.4.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Natalie Foutch, 14.57 seconds; 2. Sabrina Ketcham, 14.68; 3. Jeanne Anderson 14.71; 4. (tie) Shada Brazile and Fallon Taylor, 14.78; 6. Karissa Gipple, 14.80; 7. Mary Walker, 14.83; 8. (tie) Emily Miller and Kaley Bass, 14.85; 10. (tie) June Holeman and Haley Sheldon, 14.86.

Bull riding: 1. Tim Bingham, 88 points on Wild Card Rodeo’s 822; 2. Garrett Smith, 85; 3. Sage Kimzey, 84; 4. Scottie Knapp, 82; 5. Dusty Green, 80; 6. (tie) Trevor Reiste, Dusty Elkinton and Tate Stratton, 79.


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