LAS VEGAS, Nev. Heith DeMoss, the younger brother of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo veteran Cody DeMoss and a Wrangler NFR rookie, rode Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Big Jet for 86.5 points in Round 4 at the Thomas & Mack Center before a crowd of 17,303 Sunday night. And then he danced.
The 21-year-old from Crowville, La., danced his way back to the chutes following the explosive ride, and for good reason. His score was the highest among saddle bronc riders and put $16,394 in his pocket and a huge grin on his face. He finished 2.5 points ahead of second-place Cody Wright, who spurred Beutler & Son Rodeo's Black Gold for 84 points.
Immediately after his ride, and of course the dance too, Heith looked for his older brother, who had not yet ridden.
"He looked over at me, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. He's proud of me," said Heith DeMoss, who is four years younger than Cody.
It is an understatement to say that Heith DeMoss was ecstatic after the victory.
"It's unexplainable," Heith DeMoss said. "For a kid who has wanted this his whole life, I don't know what to say. It's a dream come true."
Big Jet was a challenge for the younger DeMoss, but he got some advice from other cowboys, including his brother.
"They told me to lean back, but I didn't do a very good job of that. He wants to bring you forward, but I just kept spurring. I was just thinking, 'Keep going,' because, if you even stop and think a little bit, you're gone, so I just kept going."
Bobby Mote, the 2002 World Champion Bareback Rider, broke through in Round 4, winning with an 85.5-point ride on Cervi Championship Rodeo's Multi-Chem Hostage.
Mote, of Culver, Ore., was the last of 15 bareback riders to ride, and made the most of his draw to steal the round from 2004 World Champion Kelly Timberman and Scott Montague, who posted a pair of 85-point rides.
With the win and $16,394 first-place check, Mote increased his lead in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings over Round 3 winner Justin McDaniel to more than $45,000. He drew a horse in Multi-Chem Hostage that carried Wes Stevenson to the win in Round 1 of the 2005 Wrangler NFR, and Mote was able to erase a less-than-pleasant memory from earlier in the year.
"I had that horse in San Antonio this year, and I didn't get along with him as well then," Mote said. "I just didn't bring it and didn't make as good a ride as I could have. I had a little better game plan today.
"On the first three nights, all three of those horses are obviously supposed to be really good horses, but all three of them weakened at the end. I felt like I was doing my part, and it's frustrating. So, having one stay hooked for eight seconds that lets you do your stuff is cool."
Timberman's 85-pointer came on Korkow Rodeo's Anchor Bay, and Montague posted his 85 on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Size Matters. It was Timberman's second straight runner-up finish and moved him into the average lead with 339 points on four head.
Steer wrestling ended in a tie, with 2005 World Champion Lee Graves and Sean Mulligan posting matching 3.7-second runs to each pocket $14,675. The first-place tie put Graves within a round victory of Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings leader Shawn Greenfield, who leads Wade Sumpter by less than $3,000 heading into Round 5.
Graves credited his horse, the 2007 AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year Jesse, for his success.
"The horse is 75 percent of the game, and I've had this horse for two years," Graves said. "He was kind of on a downward slope, and I turned him around and now he's doing awesome."
For Mulligan, who is competing in his third career Wrangler NFR (2000, 2004), the share of first place marked his first-ever round victory in Las Vegas.
"I think they're a great set of steers, and I probably had the best one of them," Mulligan, of Coleman, Okla., said. "I took a chance on the barrier tonight. It was probably the closest I've been on the barrier since I've been here. I'm not thinking about the average. I've been winning it here before and gone out in the ninth round, so anything can happen."
Simply put, Trevor Brazile is beginning to heat up. The night after pocketing a total of $12,957 in team roping and tie-down roping, Brazile and partner Patrick Smith won the team roping in Round 4. Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, and Smith, the 2005 World Champion Heeler from Midland, Texas, posted a 4.0-second time to finish four-tenths of a second ahead of the teams of Clay Tryan/Walt Woodard and Colter Todd/Cesar de la Cruz.
Brazile and Smith each added $16,394 to their bottom lines, with Brazile further distancing himself from Josh Peek in the all-around race. He gave credit to his horse, Sic 'em.
"He's a horse I trained, and he's the best horse I've ever ridden. He just makes it easy," Brazile said. "I think the secret here is scoring well and trying to keep everything tight so everything stays moving and finishes without getting into that wall."
Smith, who won his world title with Clay Tryan, was excited to return to the winner's circle.
"Last night, we talked about it and decided to change up our run a little bit and be more aggressive, and so far it's worked out great," Smith said. "You've got to start with one in a row, and now we've made two good runs in a row and we'd just like to keep it rolling this week."
With the tie for second place, Woodard, who finished as runner-up to the heeling world title a year ago, moved into the top spot in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings with $117,373. With a lead of less than $3,000 and six rounds remaining, Woodard will have to continue his consistency in order to claim his first gold buckle since 1981.
Tie-down roper Matt Shiozawa has made a habit out of winning rounds at the Wrangler NFR. The Chubbuck, Idaho, cowboy won a total of five rounds in his first two Wrangler NFRs in 2005 and 2006 and added number six to his resume in Round 4 this year.
Shiozawa stopped the clock in 7.7 seconds to finish one-tenth of a second ahead of Houston Hutto and Round 3 winner Hunter Herrin and cross the $100,000 mark in season earnings with the $16,394 first-place check. Shiozawa just seems to thrive in the Thomas & Mack Center.
"I took a very aggressive approach tonight, and that was the game plan from the start, not only because I was first out, but because I needed to get a quick start and needed to be on the barrier," Shiozawa said. "As far as I knew, the calf was so-so. I watched the calf on TiVo and made mental notes. With Tyson Durfey, the calf was OK, but tonight he was excellent."
Brazile wasn't as lucky in the tie-down roping, posting a 12.5-second run after his calf gave him trouble on the ground and finishing out of the money in Round 4. Herrin's second-place finish gave him $11,370 and brought him to within $7,283 of Brazile's lead in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings.
Brazile is attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner in the PRCA since Roy Cooper in 1983 and needs a world title in the tie-down roping or team roping to do so. Brazile is just $4,055 away from his PRCA single-season earnings record of $329,924 set a year ago and has a chance to raise the earnings bar much higher in the next six days.
"I just like to know I'm winning the same amount or better than I did the year before," Brazile said of his earnings exploits. "As long as I keep up that pace, we'll just try to keep up with inflation."
It took four nights, but Terra Bynum made her first check at the 2007 Wrangler NFR count. The Colorado City, Texas, cowgirl made the quickest barrel racing run of this year's event, stopping the clock in 13.87 seconds on her 8-year-old horse, Maverick. Bynum, who earned $16,394 for the win, guided Maverick through the cloverleaf pattern with efficiency and finished .16 seconds ahead of second-place Brenda Mays.
Bynum, competing in her second straight Wrangler NFR, moved to second in the average standings heading into Round 5.
"Maverick likes the small buildings better," said Bynum, who has trained Maverick since he was 4. "He seems to like the small patterns and hard ground. I tried a new strategy tonight, though. I decided just to sit back and let him do his thing, rather than overriding him."
The first "eliminator pen" of bucking bulls was out in Round 4, and they didn't disappoint. Only J.W. Harris and 2000 World Champion Bull Rider Cody Hancock managed to hang on for the full eight seconds, with Harris winning the round with an 85-point mark on Flying U Rodeo's High Waters and Hancock finishing three points back on Big Bend Rodeo's Stockland Livestock.
With 13 riders hitting the turf in Round 4, Harris and Hancock not only earned $16,394 and $12,957, respectively, but also earned $11,767 apiece in "ground money," which does not count toward the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings. The money will spend just fine, however, in the welcoming confines of Las Vegas.
Harris, of May, Texas, won the round despite straining his right shoulder, and the injury is not expected to keep him out of competition in Round 5. His victory in Round 4 made him the first repeat winner at this year's Wrangler NFR, as he also won the opening round on Dec. 6.
"It feels really good to come here and win two rounds," Harris said. "It's boosted my confidence (to win Round 4) because I fell off in the last two rounds (Rounds 2 and 3)."
The victory was also a bit of revenge for Harris on the bull.
"In Reno, he was just right there in front of the chute and then threw me off at about four seconds," Harris said. "Tonight, he had a lot rear and swing, and he threw his head back at me. He was a lot different here."
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