LAS VEGAS -- It was a storybook start for Caleb Bennett, Jake Wright and Trevor Knowles.
Bennett, of Morgan, had the honor of riding Pete Carr's Classic Pro Rodeo's Wise Guy Thursday night in what may be the legendary bareback horse's last NFR appearance.
It is Wise Guy's 16th and final trip to Las Vegas before being retired to Texas ranch land. He has carried riders to seven round wins over the years and earned NFR contestants $209,913.
Bennett entered the NFR as the 15th and final qualifier. He won $18,630 for the 85-point ride.
"I think it (winning the world title from the 15th spot) can be done," Bennett said. Anything's possible because there's so much money to be won here. I'm going for the gusto."
Standings leader Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore., has earned $126,187. He did not place among the top six with an 80 on Miss Dunny. Mote is seeking his fifth gold buckle.
Defending world champion Kaycee Feild of Spanish Fork, moved closer to Mote in the standings by tying for fourth with an 83.5 on Starburst. Feild, seeking a third consecutive world title, is second in the standings with $125,583.
Knowles had a near-record run of 3.1 seconds Thursday night to take the lead in the steer wrestling season standings after the first round of the National Finals Rodeo.
Knowles, from Mount Vernon, Ore., was a tenth of a second off the Thomas & Mack Center record of 3.0 set by Steve Duhon in 1986 and matched by Bryan Fields in 2001. Knowles had the fastest first-round time in NFR history, breaking the mark of 3.3 set by Gary Green and Roy Duvall in 1985.
Knowles pushed his season money total to $120,158. Casey Martin of Sulphur, La., finished fourth in 4.2 to drop into second place at $116,750.
In team roping, header Riley Minor and heeler Brady Minor, both of Ellensburg, Wash., won at 4.6 Header Clay Tryan of Billings, Mont., and Jade Corkill, of Fallon, Nev., tied for third at 5.0 and remained first in the standings. Tryan has earned $122,446, and Corkill has made $120,815.
In saddle bronc, Jake Wright of Milford, won with an 84 on Wiggle Worm.
The victory allowed Wright to move up from seventh to third with $106,725. Wright's brothers, Cody and Jesse, are Nos. 1 and 2 in the standings. Cody Wright, who tied for fourth with a 79 on Fraid Knot, has earned $135,013, and Jesse Wright has made $108,950.
In tie-down roping, Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La., won with a 7.6. Defending champion Tuf Cooper of Decatur, Texas, leads the standings with $135,164. He failed to place among the top six, finishing with a 9.0. In barrel racing, standings leader Sherry Cervi of Mariana, Ariz., won with a 13.77. She has earned $166,048.
Defending world champ Mary Walker of Ennis, Texas, is second in the standings with $137,115. She was last in the round with a 19.03.
In all-around, defending world champion Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, who has won 10 of the last 11 titles, extended his lead over runner-up Cooper. Brazile, who was sixth in team roping, has earned $258,192. Cooper is second with $133,024.
Utahn Steve Woolsey won $11,118 for his third-place finish in bull riding.
Shane Proctor of Grand Coulee, Wash., scored 89 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock's News Flash for the win.
* TEXAS DOMINATES FIELD WITH 44 CONTESTANTS: Texas' traditional dominance of the Wrangler NFR contestants' list seems even a bit more extreme than usual this year with 44 qualifiers from the Lone Star State. That's more than the next seven states combined and 37 percent of the field. Oklahoma and Oregon boast seven, with Utah at 6.
* STACE SMITH PRO RODEOS TIES RECORD: Stace Smith Pro Rodeos has been voted PRCA Stock Contracting Firm of the Year for the 10th consecutive time, tying a record set by Harry Vold Rodeo (1987-96) and moving within one of Vold's overall record of 11.
"I feel like this is one award, as a stock contractor, it comes back to your whole company and your guys," Smith said at the PRCA Awards Banquet on Wednesday.
The other year-end awards went to Wayne Brooks (announcer), Dusty Tuckness (bullfighter), Justin Rumford (clown and Coors Man in the Can), Haley Schneeberger (secretary), Tomas Garcilazo (dress act), Keith Isley (comedy act), Fred and Norma Dorenkamp (lifetime achievement), Canby (Ore.) PRCA Rodeo Committee (Remuda), Harry Vold Rodeo (Remuda), Dr. Joseph Coli (veterinarian), Greg Westfall (photography), Scott Mansch (print journalism), Rob Matthews (broadcast journalism).
In year-end rodeo awards, Elizabeth (Colo.) Stampede (small), Deadwood (S.D.) Days of '76 (medium), San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show & Rodeo (large indoor), and Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days (large outdoor) were honored.