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2021 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo makes history and legends

Big scores and bigger stories abound in CFD championship round

Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
for The Fence Post

Cheyenne Frontier Days returned in 2021 to celebrate its 125th year of rodeo and western celebration. As you would expect from a milestone year, the results of Sunday’s Aug. 1 championship round were memorable. From defending co-champs battling it out to the creation of a new legend, the “Daddy of ‘Em All” showed why it is world famous.

The bareback cowboys jump-started the action with three-time PRCA world champion Tim O’Connell revving the crowd with his brand of high energy. Aboard a big mare named MLW’s Irish Eyes, the Iowa cowboy used her power to impress the judges. When the scoreboards read 89 points, he shared some enthusiasm with the fans. Once his score held up for a second CFD title at the historic venue, the celebration was on.

Iowa bareback cowboy (and three-time PRCA world champion) Tim O'Connell took time inside the arena to celebrate with the big crowd after winning his second Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo buckle on Sunday Aug, 1, 2021 in Cheyenne, Wyo. O'Connell posted an 89-point score on Sunday to win the title.

“The fans deserve to see your emotions,” said O’Connell about having fun with the crowd. “Without being able to entertain these crowds, we are nothing. We are nothing without our fan base.”



That fan base enjoyed seeing him appreciate the win.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” O’Connell described. “I can’t put it into words. I was blessed with great horses. This rodeo, it is historical. You always think about coming to the Daddy, but to win it twice? I am just super excited.”



RIDING AND ROPING

The excitement continued through the timed events as Marty Yates picked up his second CFD Tie Down title by going out first and throwing down the gauntlet with a time that proved to be the fastest of the day.

“I have had a lot of luck going first,” said a smiling Yates after his win.

The Steer Roping event displayed an infusion of new blood in the sport as 25-year-old Kansas roper Cole Patterson rode in to claim the CFD title ahead of second place finisher 18-year old Slade Wood, who happened to be riding a horse of the same age.

“It is very special,” said Patterson about earning his buckle. “Places like Cheyenne, where you can win big money; it takes the young guys and gives them an incentive to come out here and do this event instead of calf roping or team roping or something. We’re just really appreciative of the opportunity.”

BARREL RACING

Sunday afternoon spectators appreciated the opportunity to witness great barrel racing action. Nellie Miller and Shali Lord arrived in 2021 as defending co-champions of the rodeo and both qualified for the championship round. But the final round’s lineup included defending world champion Hailey Kinsel and she had plans of her own.

Three-time and defending WPRA world champion barrel racer Hailey Kinsel was all smiles and celebratory fist bumps as she went to the middle of the arena to be interviewed and collect her buckle and trophy saddle immediately after winning the 2021 Cheyenne Frontier Days barrel racing title on Sunday Aug. 1, 2021.

Miller ran a strong pattern in 17.62 seconds, but Lord and her stallion “Can Man” topped that effort with a fast 17.47 sprint.

“I am just thankful to be back again,” said Lord about making the short go. “It is hard to get back and it is so tough this year, as always.”

Colorado barrel racer Shali Lord and Can Man looked to defend her title and make it consecutive Cheyenne Frontier Days barrel racing titles, but their quick 17.47-second time earned them second place at 125th running of the historic Wyoming rodeo.

Lord’s quick time fell to second place behind Kinsel and her popular mare “Sister,” who blistered the cloverleaf in 17.30 seconds to earn the Texas cowgirl a CFD victory.

“My horse is amazing… and tries so hard no matter what the job,” praised Kinsel after her win. “By the grace of God she has carried me to some amazing places. She is truly the best thing in my life.”

Although CFD is known for great competition, 2021 distinguished itself as the year it created a new legend.

BRONCS AND BULLS

A PRCA rookie in 2019, Utah rough-stock cowboy Stetson Wright is part of an extended family of accomplished saddle bronc riders with numerous world titles, yet he was the first Wright to secure a CFD saddle bronc buckle after a high-flying 90-point ride on a bronc named Feather Fluffer. Despite that success, the younger Wright wanted more.

Also the 2020 PRCA world champion bull rider, Wright qualified for the CFD final round in bull riding and made a successful Sunday ride to place fourth. That finish, coupled with his saddle bronc win, earned Wright a second consecutive All Around buckle at the prestigious rodeo and a new legend was created.

The last rough-stock competitor to win consecutive All Around buckles in Cheyenne was the famed Jim Shoulders back in 1963-1964. Being recognized along with Jim Shoulders for that accomplishment seemed to make an impression on the Utah cowboy.

In its 125th year, the world famous Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo is rich with tradition and history. As the "World's Largest Outdoor Rodeo," the venue has also created legends in the sport of rodeo throughout its long existence. 2021 was no different, as Utah cowboy Stetson Wright (shown here walking back to the chutes after a 90-point ride that won him the saddle bronc title) became the only rough-stock cowboy to win two consecutive Cheyenne Frontier Days All Around Cowboy buckles since the legendary Jim Shoulders did it back in 1963-1964.

“It is pretty dang awesome,” Wright said when informed of the distinction. “Especially to have your name ranked up there with one of the greatest. Hard to put into words, I guess.”

Australian bull rider Ky Hamilton did not have any trouble with words after winning his first Cheyenne buckle in 2021. On the heels of a leaping 89-point ride in Sunday’s short go, Hamilton revealed how big of a deal it was for him to win the world famous rodeo.

“I just knew it was one of the biggest rodeos in the world and one of the coolest ones growing up and watching my idols who rode here,” said Hamilton about being a childhood fan while Down Under. “It was always on my bucket list to come here and win it, so here we are.”

Bucket list is an apt description, but bareback champ O’Connell summed up the importance of Cheyenne Frontier Days’ rodeo for competitors in a conversation after the final round was complete.

“This rodeo is known throughout the world,” the Iowa cowboy said in earnest. “You don’t have to know rodeo, but you will know the Cheyenne Frontier Days. And it is special to us. This is holy ground for us. To have that many people out here on a Sunday, especially after a COVID year like this? I looked up and I saw both sides (of the stadium) jam packed and I was like, God I love this game.”

2021 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Champions:

All-Around: Stetson Wright – $18,502

Bareback: Tim O’Connell – $13,623

Breakaway Roping: Sawyer Gilbert – $17,525

Tie-Down: Marty Yates – $10,993

Saddle Bronc: Stetson Wright – $12,262

Team Roping: Clay Smith and Jade Corkill – $11,048 each

Steer Wrestling: Newt Novich – $11,846

Steer Roping: Cole Patterson – $15,276

Barrel Racing: Hailey Kinsel – $13,880

Bull Riding: Ky Hamilton – $10,369


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