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Richmond Champion leads bareback riding in Puyallup



PUYALLUP, Wash. – Richmond Champion is healthy and feeling good.

Other bareback riders should take notice of that about their colleague who finished second in the world standings in 2017 while earning nearly $170,000 at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

At this point in the regular season – about three weeks remain – being free of injuries, even small ones, can be unusual. And a confidence booster.

Champion showed just how good he feels Friday night when he went out and rode Korkow Rodeos’ Bambino Vold for 84.5 points to share the high score of the go-round with Jake Brown in the Justin Finale at the Washington State Fair Pro Rodeo in Puyallup. Brown's ride came on Bridwell Pro Rodeos' Tequila Talking.

More importantly, Champion finished with 170.0 points on two head, the highest score among the first dozen competitors. The next 12 will ride in back-to-back performances Saturday. Champion's performance has him in prime position to return to Sunday’s final eight with a chance to make the final round of four.

“I was excited (to come here),” said Champion, 25. “It had been a dry month until last week, when I won Ellensburg (Wash., Rodeo). I drew two good horses here and I knew that coming in, so I was looking forward to this. With the format this year there’s so much more money available. A guy can leave here with a pocketful. To go get that was the goal.”

A night earlier, the Woodlands, Texas, cowboy rode Bridwell Pro Rodeos’ Caddy Wagon for 85.5 points, good for second on the night to Steven Dent's 86-point ride on Bridwell Pro Rodeos' Southern Star.

Champion saw his draw before he got to Puyallup and knew he had a chance to score some points. He was ready to roll, though Bambino Vold shot out of the chute and threw Champion a curve.

“That felt really good,” Champion said. “It’s an older horse. Usually, he’ll leave there, take a little run and then start bucking. I got over to him today – and he’s pretty used to the situation – he was rightly ticked off. He was just kind of ornery.

“Then he left out of there really hard. I didn’t expect him to. Man, he was awesome. He gave me an opportunity to make a good spur ride, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Champion is trying to qualify for his fourth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and third in a row. He’s sitting in a good spot and has a great chance to do so. As of Sept. 4, Champion ranked 10th in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $94,923, owning a cushion of more than $30,000 of being outside the bubble.

The chance to win cash in Puyallup was just that, an opportunity to add more money and pad that cushion, and maybe creep up a little bit on the nine cowboys in front of him.

“Last week (in Ellensburg) was my week when I was like, OK, I need to do something because I’m a little nervous about being on the bubble,” Champion said. “Last week took care of that, and this week the pressure is off. The guys got a bunch of money on me at the top, so go get it while I can. That way when we get to (Las Vegas) we can duke it out.”

Champion likes how he’s feeling. Being healthy this late in the season is always a bonus.

“If you’re feeling good at this point of the season, that’s a plus,” Champion said. “And if you’re getting on good horses and being able to make the rides you want to make, it’s good for the head, it’s good for the soul. So, keep on going. … I’ve never felt this good this time of year.”

The Justin Finale continues with two performances Saturday afternoon before concluding Sunday with an eight-man round and the finals of a four-man round.

Catch all the action on prorodeotv.com.

 
 
 
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