LAS VEGAS — Cody Wright isn't worried about whether or not he will repeat as World Champion in saddle bronc riding.
Instead, he's worried about staying on the horse assigned to him each night in the PRCA's National Finals Rodeo at UNLV's Thomas and Mack Center. He won Saturday's performance and, it wasn't the score he was looking for, Sunday night's 78-point ride was good enough for fourth place and $7,187.50. Every penny counts as he sits in third-place in the average and 10th place in the race for a world title.
"In that pen of horses, with all of those eliminators, I am just happy to get a score," said Wright of Milford. "I didn't know much about my horse, so I had to call around and ask about him."
The advice he got was that it was a horse that could help him earn a good score.
Wright said he could tell while he was waiting for the eight-second buzzer that he probably should have done some things differently.
"I could tell," he said. "I could have rode him better. … I was kind of playing catch up."
Wright isn't feeling any pressure about repeating as World Champion and doesn't feel it curries any favor with the judges.
"It doesn't feel any different," he said. "You never want to take nothing for granted."
He said he didn't feel any different either as he traveled around to rodeos trying to earn a spot in this year's NFR.
"I rode hard all year," he said. "I hope I belong; I hope I earned it. I don't think the judges see it any different (if you've won a championship)."
Wright has three of his brothers, his wife, ShaRee, and his five children watching him compete in Las Vegas. His younger brother, Jesse Wright, will be honored as the PRCA Rookie of the Year in a ceremony Tuesday.
Jessie, Jake and Spencer are all going to compete professionally next year, along with Cody, and he said he's looking forward to the possibilities.
"I hope there here riding next year," he said with a grin.
Sunday night's competition was witnessed by 17,069 fans. The NFR runs through Dec. 12.
There are three other Utahns competing in the 2009 NFR with varying degrees of success.
Spanish Fork's Clint Robinson roped his calf in 9 seconds, but it wasn't fast enough to earn a paycheck. He won Saturday night and has earned money every other performance. The former Weber State rodeo athlete currently leads the average and is in second place in the race to a World Championship. He is currently less than $8,000 away from the first place cowboy, Trevor Brazile.
"It's been great," he said.
This is his third trip to the NFR and said he's not nervous, despite his second-place position in the average.
"This is the big show to go to," he said, "but I just think of every night as a new rodeo. ... The first time I had the jitters, but now I know what things are like out here."
It does help to be in a positive groove.
"It's nice to keep the ball rolling," Robinson said.
Another Utahn who is trying to keep the ball rolling is bareback rider Kaycee Feild, Elk Ridge, Utah, earned second place, with an 86.5 ride, and he leads the average after winning Saturday night. His father is world champion Louis Feild.
Steve Woolsey was thrown from his bull Sunday night and he's not in the running in the average. He is currently in seventh place.
Winners of the NFR average $43,954, which can make help an athlete overtake some of those who came into the NFR with substantial earnings. The World Champions are determined by overall winnings on the year.
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