The 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be the first since 1997 that 16-time world champion Trevor Brazile has not qualified in calf roping.
Now Brazile is just a one-event NFR qualifier – technically it’s two events, since he competed earlier this month at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Rodeo, where he won better than $30,000 over the 10 go-rounds at the Lazy E Arena; still, go-rounds in Las Vegas will pay somewhere near $18,000, so one contestant could surpass that in just two rounds.
Brazile now has a $103,000 cushion in the race for the Montana Silversmiths all-around gold buckle over the No. 2 cowboy, Steven Dent, who earned the bulk of his $144,465 in qualifying for the NFR in bareback riding – he added about $3,700 in bronc riding. Another bareback rider, Bobby Mote, is No. 3, while heeler Russell Cardoza is fourth.
There are no multi-event NFR qualifiers this year, so nobody has that particular edge. But a $100,000 lead isn’t safe in Las Vegas, where several contestants annually earn a lot more than that – reigning bareback riding world champion Kaycee Feild won $141,639 last December; if Dent or Mote has a similar finale, it could disrupt Brazile’s nine all-around titles in the last 10 years.
But the likelihood of that happening is slim. Nobody outworks Brazile, and now he’s focusing on one event. I suspect him and partner Patrick Smith will run a few thousand steers until they leave for Las Vegas, then they’ll run a few hundred more.
For those reasons, I give Brazile the big advantage to hold on to that coveted all-around world title. In addition, I think he’ll leave Las Vegas with his second heading gold buckle, earning world championship Nos. 17 and 18 this season.
He’s that good, but more importantly, he’s that driven.