LAS VEGAS – Nobody can wipe the smile off Richmond Champion’s face.
With just four more nights of the 2017 ProRodeo season on the horizon, the bareback rider from The Woodlands, Texas, doesn’t want it to end. Why should he?
Through six rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Champion has placed five times and pocketed $77,622. He has earned more money than any other bareback rider competing in the City of Lights this week, and he has four more nights to cash in.
“It has never been like this; it is so much fun,” said Champion, a three-time NFR qualifier who lives primarily in Stephenville, Texas, home of his alma mater, Tarleton State University.
“I’m not even thinking about the money. Every day is a new day, and literally every day is the biggest day of my life.
“I’m pretty sure my heart is going to bust one of these days. I’m loving every second of it.”
On Tuesday night, he rode Calgary Stampede’s You See Me for 84 points to finish in a tie for fifth place in the sixth go-round. That was worth $5,500 and pushed his season earnings to $178,212. He is second in the world standings.
Although he trails the world standings leader, reigning world champion Tim O’Connell, by just less than $93,000, he still has room to climb the charts and make a push for that prestigious gold buckle. Go-round winners earn more than $26,000 a day, and there are four more chances to get that money.
“I’m having fun, but this is also the most wound-up I’ve been in my own brain,” Champion said. “I feel like I’m the only one here sometimes. It happens 30 or 40 times a day before I get on. It’s something I’m not used to, but at the same time, when I get in the chute and get on that horse, it is a consistent thing – the bucking chute, the rigging and the horse.
“That’s what I have been relying on. You can feel however you want, but when you get on there, you don’t need to think about it, because you know how to do it.”
He has shown how well he does it. During his ride on You Can See Me, he was able to maintain control over the strong bucking horse. It was the second time this season the two have been matched together.
“He’s still young and trying to figure his tracks out, and I thought he was really good tonight,” he said. “I knew he wasn’t going to shine quite as well as a couple of the other horses, but I knew he was solid. You take every opportunity you can get, and I knew my job was to dominate.”
He’s been doing a pretty good job of that, and Las Vegas is the place to do it. Just like those at the blackjack and roulette tables, the NFR is where the money is great and the championship is lined with gold.
“If we could do this for 20 nights, I’d be stoked,” Champion said. “You don’t’ want to wish this away. It’s a dream come true, and there are so many things you can absorb and learn from here.”