ARLINGTON, Texas – Let’s face it; Clayton Biglow got a little bit spoiled at the 2019 National Finals Rodeo.
The Clements, California, bareback rider won at least a share of five go-rounds, including four outright, and pocketed $243,891 – that was the most of any contestant at last year’s championship event. On Thursday night, he started off the 2020 finale strong by riding Flying U Rodeo’s Lil Red Hawk for 85 points to finish in a tie for fourth in the opening round.
“I was damn sure happy to win a check,” said Biglow, 24, a five-time NFR qualifier. “I am going for round wins, but if you’re in the money, you better be happy.”
Every dollar can add up, and he knows as well as anyone. He pocketed $8,885 Thursday but has nine rounds remaining to make up ground. He remains fifth in the world standings with just shy of $90,000.
The match-up with Lil Red Hawk featured two elite athletes from California. Flying U Rodeo Co. is based in Marysville, California, which is just 82 miles north of Biglow’s home in the northern part of the state.
“That was the third time I’d been on her, but the first time at the NFR,” he said. “She’s an old campaigner, but she’s still good. She’s a solid pick. I was excited to see I’d drawn her. I’ve been wanting to draw her. She got me to the NFR the first year I qualified, after I won Reno (Nevada) on her.
“She had a better trip today; she was better than me.”
That’s an athlete getting hyper critical of his performance, but only the top six in each go-round make money. With 15 cowboys in the field, that means he must have a better score than the majority of the bareback riders.
This was a much different season than any before because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. There fewer rodeos and fewer opportunities. Biglow competed at 40 less rodeos than he did the season before. Plus, the NFR has a traditional home in Las Vegas, but it was moved this year because of limitations in Nevada because of COVID.
Globe Life Field is home to the Texas Rangers, and it features a unique setting for ProRodeo’s grand finale. It’s just across the road from AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys and The American, a unique event that offers incredible payouts and became part of ProRodeo’s regular season in 2019.
“This arena is awesome, but it’s got more of an American vibe than a Las Vegas NFR vibe,” Biglow said. “With everything going on, you just glad that we’re having an NFR. It’s still great. You’re still surrounded by the best guys in the world.
“When you’re behind the bucking chutes, you still feel at home. It’s still a great setup.”
Of course, another world championship is on the line, so he should feel quite comfortable.