LAS VEGAS – The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is a showcase that draws tens of thousands of rodeo fans daily to the Nevada desert during its 10-day run in the City of Lights.
Each go-round features a sell-out performance, with more than 17,000 fans cheering on ProRodeo’s brightest stars in one of the most electric arenas in sport. It’s a showcase, and the roar of the crowd can be deafening when they like what they see.
Saturday night’s feature was celebrated by some of the fastest times in the game, notably in steer wrestling, where all six placers finished runs in less than 4 seconds.
“You could really sense that the place had electricity,” said Hunter Cure, a Holliday, Texas, bulldogger who was one of four cowboys to grapple their steers to the ground in 3.8 seconds. “Our job, though, is you need to block that out as much as you can.”
Cure did. He joined Wade Sumpter, Jule Hazen and Casey Martin in finishing second in the third go-round; each cowboy earned $9,615 for their work. For Cure, now in his second trip to the NFR, he has earned $20,733 over three nights in Las Vegas.
“It’s almost as much as I made at 2009’s Wrangler National Finals,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about the fact that we’re just this far along in the money this early in the week.”
He should be.
“I think that was, top to bottom, the best set of cattle that are here,” said Cure, who attended Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and Texas Tech University on rodeo scholarships. “I figured the winning time might even be faster than 3.6 (seconds).”
In fact, the quartet of bulldoggers had the fastest time of the go-round until the 14th cowboy to run, four-time world champion Luke Branquinho, snagged the victory. Fellow Texan Matt Reeves scored a 3.9 to round out the top 6.
“I think it makes it exciting not only for the fans, but also the cowboys, because you know you can’t make a mistake, and it needs to be a flawless run,” Cure said.
Flawless came with the assistance of hazer Riley Duvall and Cure’s horse, Charlie.
“Riley got that steer perfectly hazed right down the middle,” Cure said. “That gave my horse a great look at one, and it allowed me to get my feet in the right place to make that kind of run.”
With that formula in place, Cure has seven more nights to cash in all his chips in Vegas.