Wrangler NFR Live

Wrangler NFR Live in Las Vegas officially underway.LAS VEGAS The 60th annual National Finals Rodeo is this month at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus.The $10 million Wrangler NFR, which was scheduled for Dec. 6-15, will help determine the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 2018 world champions.


Defending world all-around champion Tuf Cooper, who has residences in the North Texas communities of Decatur and Weatherford, entered the NFR ranked No.1 in the 2018 world all-around title race with $239,857. Brazile, a 23-time world champion, is ranked No. 2 with $234,154. Both Cooper and Brazile have qualified for the WNFR in tie-down roping.

Brazile said he will attempt to rope solid throughout the NFR. In other words, if Brazile draws a difficult calf, he will not take too big of a risk, which could result in a no time or a very sluggish time that could be detrimental in the long run. But if he draws a calf that apparently can help him place in a round, he will aggressively attempt to take advantage of the situation.

“I’m not going to try to win day monies, but I’m not going to miss an opportunity to win that much money every night either,” he said. “It will be whatever the situation allows me to do.”

Each of 10 rounds will offer competitors in every event $26,231 for a first place finish. The average winner in each event, the competitor who finishes with the best aggregate time or score after competing in 10 rounds, will earn $67,269.

For Cooper and Brazile, rodeo is a family affair. Cooper is the son of Hobbs, N.M., native Roy Cooper, an eight-time world champion, lives in Decatur. His mother is Shari Cooper who is a daughter of Clifton Smith of Childress who qualified for the National Finals in tie-down roping in 1960 and 1962, and is the father of 2008 PRCA world champion tie-down roper Stran Smith of Childress.

Tuf Cooper and Brazile have a brother-in-law relationship. Brazile is married to Cooper’s sister, Shada Brazile, who qualified for the 2013 National Finals in barrel racing.

Trevor Brazile announced he will semi-retire from pro rodeo and will greatly reduce his traveling schedule next year, according to a Dec. 4 news story on prorodeo.com.

Trevor and Shada Brazile have three children (Treston, 11, and daughters, Style, 8, and Swayi, 3). Brazile said a much lighter rodeo schedule will allow him to spend more time with his family.

Jeff Askey of Athens has earned his second NFR berth in bull riding. He also qualified in 2016. Askey entered the NFR ranked No. 6 in the PRCA’s title race with $117,387. Defending PRCA champion Sage Kimzey entered the WNFR ranked No. 1 in the title race with $307,026.

Eli Vastbinder, a former Athens resident who lives in Union Grove, N.C., has earned his first NFR berth in bull riding. He entered the Las Vegas championships ranked No. 14 in the PRCA title race with $105,114.

Hashtags, a blue roan colored stallion, became a big hit last year on the National Cutting Horse Association’s aged event circuit, which features horses ages three through six.

Hashtags grabbed attention when he and rider Tatum Rice won the NCHA Super Stakes open division title in April 2017 and other aged events last year. When horses are on the aged event circuit, they might compete only once a month and make three or four runs during a show.

But this year, Hashtags has won big on another important NCHA circuit: weekend shows. On the weekend circuit, world title contenders compete more frequently and Hashtags was up for the challenge.  The stallion was crowned as the NCHA’s 2018 open division world champion horse on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Fort Worth’s W.R. Watt Arena after competing in the NCHA World Finals, the sport’s equivalent of the World Series for weekend warriors.

Rice said he began showing Hashtags at numerous weekend shows last spring in addition to aged events. He said the stallion fared so well on the weekend circuit that the decision was made to make a run for the world title.

Rice and Hashtags clinched the world title after earning $134,960 throughout 2018. Hashtags earned $21,967 after competing in four World Finals performances. Dont Stopp Believin and rider Phil Rapp of Weatherford finished second in the open division world race with $81,214 after earning $19,553 at the World Finals.

In the non-pro division, Elizabeth Quirk, who rode a horse named Cat Sheree during the World Finals, clinched the world title after earning $100,551 throughout 2018.

Hashtags competed in the open division, which mostly is comprised of pro riders. Rice said Hashtags consistently wins because he’s so determined.

“He’s just so strong and so cowy and tries so hard every single time,” Rice said. “He’s got a lot of endurance and he’s extremely athletic.”

On the Professional Bull Riders circuit, 2008 world champion Guilherme Marchi, a Brazilian who lives in the Decatur area, is entering into retirement after winning the 2018 PBR Brazil Monster Energy Tour event in Goiania, Brazil, on Saturday night (Dec. 1), according to pbr.com. The 36-year-old cowboy stayed on all three bulls he faced in Goiania and turned in a commendable score of 87 during the final round.

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