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Zeke Thurston has third world saddle bronc title in sight at National Finals Rodeo

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2015 Cheyenne Frontier Days, Saturday

Zeke Thurston  competes in the saddle bronc event Saturday, July 18, 2015 during the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. Thurston maintains his lead in the average at the National Finals Rodeo and is aiming for his third world title.

LAS VEGAS — Saddle bronc riders took the competition at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to another level Friday night.

Canadian Dawson Hay tied the Round 9 record with a 92.0-point ride on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s BDM Mud’s Killer Bee to the delight of a packed house at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I’m not sure it’s even sunk in yet,” Hay told the PRCA. “It’s such an incredible feeling. Going through that ride, I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a horse that feels quite like that. That’s a ride that’s going to stick with me forever. It’s a special moment and the kind of thing we’ve always dreamed of since we were little.”

Adding to the moment was the fact that it marked the final out of Killer Bee’s illustrious career. She was the top saddle bronc horse at the 2013 and ‘14 NFRs and the top NFR bareback horse in 2018 and ‘20 and the 2019 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bareback Horse of the Year in 2019.

Lefty Holman was second with an 89.5 and former Sheridan College cowboy Zeke Thurston was third with an 88.5. Thurston was given a re-ride after his initial horse stalled out of the chute and the two-time world champ took advantage aboard Bridwell Pro Rodeo’s Indian Burn.

Thurston maintained his lead in the average with 787.0 points on nine head. He is fourth in the world standings with $302,759 but is less than $6,000 back of leader Sage Newman. Holman is second with in the world with more than $306,000 and defending world champion Stetson Wright is third with more than $304,550.

Wyoming saddle bronc riders Tanner Butner (81.5) and Brody Cress (64.0) both finished out of the money.

Buffalo bareback bronc rider Cole Reiner scored 88.5 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Painted Smoke to tie for fourth in the round. It was Reiner’s highest-marked ride since he won Round 4 with an 89.0. Former Central Wyoming College bronc rider Ty Hreuer had a 75.0,

Tim O’Connell won the round with an 88.0. It was the three-time world champ’s first win at the NFR since he won Round 4 in 2020.

“It feels great,” O’Connell said. “I’m beat up but I love this. At the end of the day I love being a bareback rider.”

Trey Holston, competing in his first NFR, won the bull riding with an 89.5.

In the timed events, tie-down roper Marty Yates and steer wrestler Hunter Cure both got to take victory laps for the third time at this year’s NFR.

Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel posted the fastest run of the week (13.34 seconds) on Sister to not only win the round but move to first in the world standings.

“Winning definitely never gets old,” the three-time world champ said.

Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler won the team roping with a 3.8-second run to take over the lead in the world standings.

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN


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Sports editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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