TB 3 made his first trip to Ponoka worthwhile.
Trey Benton III made a statement at last year’s National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where he finished runner-up to the four-time World Champion Bull Rider Sage Kimzey. And he showed that winning form Sunday during the sixth performance of the 82nd Ponoka Stampede. He matched moves with the big Outlaw Buckers bull called Tennessee Whiskey for 88.75 points, to finish with the highest score of the regular action.
“I actually rode the bull at Kennewick at the pro rodeo last year and was 89.5 on him,” explained the Texas bull rider. “So I was very excited to have him, especially coming off an injury. It gave me a little extra confidence and being here with the fans and everybody. It’s ecstatic around here.”
“I was pretty excited about getting here. I’ve heard a lot about it. Now I’m living the moment!”
Benton had intentions of pursuing a berth to the Canadian Finals in Red Deer this season. But a torn groin kept him out of action for six weeks and changed his plans. However, he didn’t want to miss Ponoka, and was able to get on a few bulls last week before making the journey north.
“I went one for four last week, so I wasn’t real happy with myself. So coming up here, I had to change my mindset a little bit, and I made it work for me.”
Benton was relieved and encouraged to get through this ride intact.
“Your groin and knees are everything, to ride a bull. If it’s not ready, you’re going to know it. Yea, he tested it. He’s a little bit thicker bull too, so he spread my legs a lot more, but he was just right. I was happy to have him.”
Benton was also happy to be able to stuff $4650 in his jeans for being first in the long round, and now he’s got a chance at a whole lot more. There were two other bull rides Sunday, so Lonnie West of Cadogan and Ponoka’s own Zane Lambert make it eleven qualified rides to take to Monday’s Finals.
Manitoba’s Orin Larsen staked his claim on second place in the bareback riding for the opening round, after he spurred to 87 points on the Outlaw Buckers horse Vee Bar Nine.
“I got on that horse last year at Armstrong, and he kind of got the better of me,” said Larsen. “So I was glad to have the upper hand on him today.”
“This was the first place this week I’ve done any good. So let’s keep this rolling. To get a win here would be something special.”
Canadian champion Seth Hardwick also notched a Finals nod, just a quarter point behind Larsen. His 86.75 point ride came on board Northcott-Macza’s Coors Original.
“He had a lot of moves and was kind of difficult to ride but it worked for me today,” smiled the Wyoming man. “I’m glad to have another one tomorrow.”
“Last year was my first time in the four-man (Showdown). I messed up last year. In rodeo you’ve got to have a short memory, BUT….”
“This one would be a good one to win, it’s very prestigious.”
Jake Vold wound up with the highest bareback mark heading into the Finals, with his 88.75.
A trio of contenders roped and wrestled their way to Monday’s Finals in each of those timed events Sunday.
Scott Guenthner equaled the fast time posted this year in the steer wrestling at the Stampede, when he got his draw turned over in four seconds flat. That’s no small accomplishment, given the famous Ponoka long score set-up.
“Yea, it’s a real good time here,” agreed the Provost bulldogger, who was 8.1 seconds on his first steer. “I didn’t think I was going to be that fast. I thought actually it was going to go the opposite direction and the steer was going to fall the wrong way. But I got lucky and he went the right way.”
“You’re going so fast, with so much speed anything can happen.”
Guenthner, who qualified for his first NFR last year, admitted Ponoka hasn’t been a place where he’s had a lot of luck in the past.
“I usually don’t do well on my first one here, usually break the barrier or take a hard knocker. I was just trying to make a solid statement on the barrier this year. Then I just came with the heat today. I thought ‘well there’s nothing to lose, might as well try to get to the short round’.”
“I’ve been quick here (4.2) before but I’ve never put two together. I’ve never been in the short round before.”
Guenthner’s total of 12.1 seconds put him in fourth overall, with Stephen Culling the fastest at 10.1 seconds.
“A good cheque out of here would be real nice, that’s for sure. It would help with my staying in the top fifteen in the world right now.”
Montana’s Luke Gee also cracked the top twelve ranks Sunday, with his tally of 12.8; along with Jeremy Krywcun of Langdon and his 13.8 seconds.
The three who will return Monday in tie-down roping after Sunday’s action included the legendary Trevor Brazile (18.3 seconds on two); Jake Hannum of Utah (18.4); and past champion Tuf Cooper, who edged out Rimbey’s Dean Edge by a mere tenth of a second, with his time of 19.2 seconds. Rhen Richard had the best total time with his 17.7.
Brazile also managed to qualify for the Ponoka Stampede Finals in his other event, after he and his partner Patrick Smith put together two smooth runs for a tally of 13.2 seconds. That put them fifth overall. Coming in just behind them were Steele Depaoli of Longview and Chase Simpson of Claresholm, at 13.3; while Troy Fischer of Mayerthorpe and Clark McCarroll of Daysland also get another steer for their 13.8 second performance. No team was able to bump leaders Tristen Woolsey and Denver Johnson from their spot, so they have the fastest time heading to the Finals at 12.6 seconds.
The best saddle bronc ride of the day was turned in by Sam Kelts on Lady Bug. His 82.75 tied for the last qualifying spot. There were three cowboys with that mark, but the tie-breaker this year was the cowboy’s spur score, so Kelts and Zeke Thurston rounded out the top twelve, while Colt Gordon was left in the crying hole.
There were no changes to the barrel racing leaderboard. Tiany Schuster came the closest with her time of 18.036, but all the qualifying times were faster than 17.86 seconds. Best of the bunch came opening day from Texan Stevi Hillman, with her 17.560.
The Ponoka Stampede buckles were handed out for the youth events Sunday. Chett Deitz of Milo won the novice bareback for a 72.25 mark; Lucas Macza of High River took the novice saddle bronc with a 74.50; while boys steer riding went to Dusty Golden of Mayerthorpe for an 80.75 point ride.