While it was pretty much a foregone conclusion after he won the first three rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and followed it up with two more victories in the rounds that followed, Kaycee Feild officially joined his ProRodeo Hall of Fame father, Lewis, in the world champions club during Round 9 on Friday.
Feild split fourth-place money with Ryan Gray and Wes Stevenson in front of 17,822 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center to push his Wrangler NFR earnings to $115,577. He still leads the bareback riding average standings heading into the rodeo's final round on Saturday and continues to lead the Ram Top Gun Award standings - so there's plenty on the line going into the final round. He just won't have to worry about the gold buckle.
"I didn't realize I'd won it, actually," said Feild, who picks up the gold buckle in just his fourth trip to the Wrangler NFR. "I knew I had to do good tonight to win it. I wished I could have done a little better tonight, but I'm just as happy as I can be."
Feild has already tied Bobby Mote for the most round wins in a single Wrangler NFR with five and could break both the bareback earnings records for an entire season and the Wrangler NFR - both set by Bobby Mote in 2009. He's also needs an 86-point ride in Round 10 to break Justin McDaniel's average record of 859 points on 10 rides - set in 2008.
The celebration will have to wait, however, for Kaycee.
"I went out last night (Thursday) and said, ?Hi,' to some friends, but was back in bed at a decent time," Feild said. "I'll probably do the same thing tonight. I think I'll wait until I get home for the real celebration."
Lewis Feild was happy to join a select list of father-son world champions. There have been five such previous combinations: Deb (saddle bronc riding) and Jeff Copenhaver (tie-down roping); John W. and John W. Jones Jr. (steer wrestling); John and Clark McEntire (steer roping); Butch and Rope Myers (steer wrestling), and Bobby (bull riding) and Sid Steiner (steer wrestling).
"It's a dream come true," said Kaycee's dad, Lewis, who won two world titles in bareback riding and three in the all-around in the 1980s. "I've gone through those same things myself, and to watch my son do it, I don't know how it could get any better. I guess I could have a grandson do it, but that's a little ways down the road."
Wrangler NFR rookie Casey Colletti picked up his seventh check of the week and his first Finals round victory with an 87.5-point ride on Smith, Harper and Morgan's Jessie's Girl.
"Seen that horse two or three times and dreamed of getting on her," Colletti said. "When Royce (Ford) texted me last night and said I had her, I was up at 7 o'clock this morning and couldn't sleep I was so fired up. You dream of getting on horses like that."
Another second-generation cowboy looking to claim his first world championship moved a step closer in Round 9. Tuf Cooper - the son of eight-time World Champion Roy Cooper - appeared to have locked up his gold buckle when he stopped the clock in 6.8 seconds to move to the lead in the round. However, he broke the barrier and the 10-second penalty put him out of the money in the round and prevented him from mathematically eliminating the rest of the field.
Cooper leads the world standings with $181,368, but as of Round 9 doesn't figure to get an average check. Fellow Texan and six-time World Champion Cody Ohl had been his most serious challenger for the gold buckle. Ohl led the average going into Round 9, but missed with his first loop and took a no-time to drop to 10th in the average standings.
Louisiana cowboy Shane Hanchey won the round with a 7.6-second run after a difficult week in which he'd placed just once.
"When you're winning, you can do no wrong, it seems like," Hanchey said. "But when you're losing, you can't put your socks on right."
Saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright won his fourth round of the week and pushed his Wrangler NFR earnings to $115,096 as he sits second in the world standings behind world standings leader Taos Muncy. Wright topped Beutler & Son's Cimmaron Jack for 87 points in a round in which only five of 14 bronc riders made the eight-second whistle.
"Last year, I had a pretty good run here and got quite a few checks and had fun," Wright said. "This year has also been good to me; I love this rodeo."
With $195,509 won on the season, Wright trails Muncy by $14,309 going into Round 10 of his second Wrangler NFR.
"I'm not worried about anything (Taos) is doing, I'm worried about myself and my horse. I'm just going to try to come in and win the round (on Saturday) like I've been trying to every night."
For the third time this week, there was a three-way tie atop the leader board in an event. On Friday, it was the steer wrestlers who split up the first-place check. Luke Branquinho, Casey Martin and Jake Rinehart all claimed a share of first with 3.6-second runs in Round 9.The $14,231 payday for each cowboy helped keep Branquinho in the race for his third world championship.
He leads the world standings with $185,768 but sits third in the average going into the final round, while Jason Miller is second in both and Shawn Greenfield is first in the average and third in the world. The event continues to be the closest race from top to bottom after nine rounds.
"Oh, it's an awesome feeling," Branquinho said. "It just shows you all the talent bulldogging has in it. That's what's kind of neat about the deal. Jason Miller and I, after I run my steer, I was in the box and I said, ?Well, it's a one-header.' He shook his head. We're the best of friends, and it's going to be a lot of fun going into it."
Rinehart picked up his second round win of the week, but neither he nor Martin is a factor in the race for the world title. The two - who have a listed total combined weight of 495 pounds - rode double on a single horse during the victory lap.
"Well, I knew if I was going off, he was coming off with me," Rinehart said of the ride around Thomas & Mack. "It wasn't too bad, really, except for that first little corner. I knew I didn't want to jump on there with Luke. I knew Casey and I could at least wrap our legs around him a little bit."
Martin shared Rinehart's concerns.
"Jake was on the back, and he's a little bigger than I am," Martin said. "I was scared we were both going to end up on the ground for a second."
Bull rider Cody Whitney earned just his second check of the week with a 90.5-point ride aboard Robinson Pro Rodeo's RMEF Bugle in Round 9. Chandler Bownds also won a round on the bull, scoring 91 points in Round 2.
"I knew I had a chance to win the go-round if I stayed on him and did my part," Whitney said of the bull. "Luckily, I got all my bugs worked out during the week and got a chance to stay on one."
It was the first Wrangler NFR round win for the three-time Finals qualifier.
"Three years ago, I won a couple of seconds and then last year I won three or four second places. To finally get a go-round buckle sure makes it worthwhile."
The bull riding race is still a two-man affair between world standings leader Shane Proctor and three-time World Champion J.W. Harris. Proctor took sixth place in Round 9 with a 69-point ride on Growney Brothers' War God, while Harris failed to make the eight-second whistle. Proctor has earned $216,614 this season and sits third in the average race heading into the final round. Harris is one spot back in both the world and average standings.
Chad Masters, the 2007 world champion header, and heeler Jade Corkill had won just two fourth-place checks at the Wrangler NFR this year, but finally righted the ship with a 3.6-second run in Round 9. The two are capable of big things, as they proved in setting the Wrangler NFR record with a 3.3-second run in 2009.
"Round 9 has been pretty good to me here, and tonight we doubled what we've won all week," Masters said. "I knew we were fast tonight, but not like that other run."
Corkill summed up the week for many a cowboy when he said, "It doesn't seem like anybody has a mediocre rodeo here. It seems like you're either doing really well or having a really disappointing week. We've been on the wrong end of that this year."
Clay Tryan and Travis Graves took second in the round with a 3.7-second run that moved Graves back into the lead in the heeler world standings. Tryan continues to lead the header standings. The pair is fourth in the average, however, while Turtle Powell and Jhett Johnson moved to first in the average with a 5.0-second run that placed sixth in the round. Powell is second in the heading world standings, while Johnson is third in the heeling standings.
South Dakota barrel racer Lisa Lockhart won her second round of the week with a 13.79-second run on Friday. She sits fourth in the world standings, but is ninth in the average race after nine rounds.
"I'm just thrilled to have won as much as I have with those downed barrels," said Lockhart, who has won $79,038 despite hitting a barrel in Round 1 and Round 7. "I knew we had to get tapped off on that first one. By the end of the week, horses are starting to get little tricks up their sleeves, and things start going awry."
Canadian Lindsay Sears has the inside track on her second world title (the first came in 2008). She placed sixth the round on Friday, is second in the world standings and leads the average race. World standings leader Brittany Pozzi hit a barrel in Round 8 and has dropped to eighth in the average. Three-time World Champion Sherry Cervi is third in the world and fourth in the average.