December 6, 2010 -- Saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright has been walking with a noticeable limp in Las Vegas - all the way to the pay window. The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rookie, riding with a broken bone in his left ankle, finished in the money for the fourth consecutive night by winning Round 5 in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,008 at the Thomas & Mack Center with an 89.5-point ride aboard Burch Rodeo's Lunitic Fringe.
His score - the highest-marked saddle bronc ride at this year's rodeo - was a point better than Cody DeMoss' mark on Frontier Rodeo's Medicine Woman and moved him past the $100,000 mark in season earnings with $107,749.
"It felt really good," Wright said of his winning ride. "That horse is awesome. I haven't been on him, but my brother (Cody) and a lot of my friends have. They all said they wished everybody would have a go at him, and they were right. The horse is like a rocking chair. He's awesome. Anybody could get in time with him. He's just a sweet horse."
Wright, the younger brother of 2008 World Champion Cody Wright, finished the season ranked 16th in the world, but got a spot in the 52nd Wrangler NFR after an injured Rod Hay withdrew. He has made the most of his opportunity, banking $50,841 - the same amount as his older brother.
Jesse Wright is still getting used to the idea that he's actually competing in the Wrangler NFR after Hay's withdrawal.
"It is still sinking in," said Wright, who suffered the ankle injury in Round 1. "I'm on Cloud 9 right now. This feels really good, and I hope this continues. I hope I can keep coming every year now. I don't want to finish 16th (place in the PRCA World Standings) anymore."
The team of JoJo LeMond and Cory Petska won the fifth round with a 3.6-second run, one-tenth of a second faster than Keven Daniel and Caleb Twisselman. It is their first check of the 10-day rodeo and put $17,512 into each of their wallets.
"I've just scored terrible (at the barrier) so far this week and gotten us in a bad position," said LeMond, a three-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. "Tonight, I realized it. I went and watched the videos of our first four runs, and I was missing the barrier by a foot. I don't care if you're here or Reno or Cheyenne. Wherever you are, if you miss the barrier by a foot, you're not going to win anything."
Petska, roping in his eighth Wrangler NFR, was happy to finally make it to the pay window with the victory.
"We finally got it back on the right track," Petska said. "I don't think it was JoJo's fault like he was saying. I had made up my mind coming in here that I was going to take a swing over them and make sure I didn't mess up, and then I was taking one more than I normally take, and tonight I decided I was going to take my normal shot. JoJo did a great job, and that was the run we made all year to get here.
"We had changed our game plan, and you can't do that. You have to rope the same way you always do."
Brazile and 2005 World Champion Header Patrick Smith finished third with a 3.8-second run and have a whopping 11.2-second lead in the average with a 21.4-second total time on five head. At their current clip, they are on pace to break the Wrangler NFR average record of 59.1 seconds set by Jake Barnes and Clay O'Brien Cooper in 1994 by nearly 17 seconds.
Brazile stayed red hot by tying five-time World Champion Tie-Down Roper Cody Ohl for the Round 5 victory with a 6.9-second run. In what became a battle of world champs, 2008 World Champion Stran Smith finished third in 7.4 seconds.
"Any time you can double dip, it's a great night in Vegas," said Brazile, who also tied Ohl for the Round 5 win at last year's Wrangler NFR. "In the team roping, I left a little early, pulled, got off balance, reached, my steer checked off, and my partner got by.
"In the calf roping, it felt like I'd been roping well all week; I just didn't get anything going. I got the ball rolling tonight. I'd been threatening that I was going to throw a wrap and a hooey on, and this was the first time I got a chance."