December 4, 2010 -- Bareback rider Steven Dent took the wish of his injured traveling partner and friend Ryan Gray to heart in Round 3 of the $5.875 million Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Saturday night. Reminiscent of a scene from the 1940 movie "Knute Rockne All American," Gray - the previous PRCA World Standings leader who is out for the rest of the Finals with a lacerated liver suffered in Round 2 - gave Dent a simple request when the two talked while Gray lay in a hospital bed.
"Last night, I asked him if there was anything I could do for him, and he said, 'Go win a gold buckle,'" Dent said.
Dent took a big step in that direction by winning the third round in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,207 with an 85-point ride on Carr Pro Rodeo's Big Lights, and the $17,512 first-place check he earned moved him past Gray into the No. 1 spot in the world standings. Dent, of Mullen, Neb., leads with $162,155, while Gray is second with $159,024. The next closest challenger is three-time and reigning World Champion Bobby Mote, who trails Dent by $45,090 heading into the fourth round.
The well-liked Gray had his hopes of a first gold buckle dashed when Beutler & Son Rodeo's Golden Dream stepped on him after he was bucked off the previous night at the Thomas & Mack Center. Dent will be riding in honor of his friend in the final seven rounds, with a golden goal in sight.
"He's going to be all right, and we were all wishing him the best," Dent said of Gray. "There's not a better guy in rodeo, so I'm glad to see he's going to be all right. It's tough to see anybody get hurt, especially this time of the year and in the position he was in. It's hard to see.
"I'm just going to try and win a round tomorrow night. I set the goal of winning a round, and I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to go at every horse like it's the 10th round and I have to win first. I'm going to try not to hold anything back, and hopefully it will all pan out."
Dent, who leads the average standings, finished a half-point ahead of Round 1 winner Joe Gunderson and 2008 World Champion Justin McDaniel for the round win.
For the second night in a row, the saddle bronc riding was a sibling rivalry between Cody and Jesse Wright. Cody, the eldest of the Wright brothers who won a world title in 2008, became the first repeat winner at this year's Wrangler NFR thanks to an 88-point ride aboard Kesler Championship Rodeo's Spanish Pair. That was just a half-point better than Jesse, who also finished second to his brother in Round 2.
"It's awesome anytime you can win a round, but it does feel different this year," said Cody Wright, who extended his world standings lead over Wade Sundell with the win. "For some reason, I don't feel as much pressure this year, maybe because I didn't come into the Finals in first place. I'm really proud of (Jesse) to come out here and do so well in his first NFR in front of all these people. He rode a tough horse tonight, and he handled it like the best of them."
Wright has earned $38,696 so far in Las Vegas and leads the average standings with 256.5 points on three head.
The only world title to elude 12-time World Champion Trevor Brazile is the team roping, but he and partner Patrick Smith are doing their best to remedy that. Brazile - who clinched his record eighth all-around gold buckle the night before - teamed with the 2005 World Champion Heeler Smith to win Round 3 in 4.2 seconds and pocket another $17,512 apiece.
Brazile and Smith, who won the 2008 Wrangler NFR average title, finished four-tenths of a second ahead of Brady Tryan and Jake Long and moved to second in the PRCA World Standings. They lead the Wrangler NFR average again and have won $41,803 in three days in Las Vegas.
Brazile said that clinching the all-time all-around record in Round 2 took some pressure off him going forward.
"It's definitely a relief," said Brazile, who came into this year's Finals ranked eighth in the heading standings. "It doesn't change the fact that they don't give you anything in this sport, you don't get anything for showing up, you have to go do your job every time, but it's definitely a relief. I don't feel like I have a lot left to prove, I just get to go do my job and do what I love every night. That part doesn't change."