Hayworth, Irish take titles at Champions Ride
SENTINEL BUTTE -- Jake Hayworth has typically been the "other guy" in the vehicle this year when he and his travelling partner trek across the country to rodeos.
However, on Sunday afternoon at the Home on the Range ranch, Hayworth, the 33-year-old saddle bronc rider and travelling partner of world standings leader Jesse Kruse, rode to the top of the Champions Ride saddle bronc match.
The St. Anthony, Idaho, cowboy hung on tight as his bronc, Tipped Off, ripped out of his chute and bucked across the arena to the tune of an 87-point ride and the short-round win at the 53rd edition of the historic bronc match.
Hayworth said the bronc's performance was nearly perfect as he marked down the best ride of the match.
"He's strong and he's electric," Hayworth said. "He sells the ride. Just being on him when it really mattered, it worked out great. I can't say enough about how good that horse worked."
Despite his big ride, Hayworth fell one point shy of winning the two-round average, which went to Montana cowboy James Irish, who had an 84 in the long round and a second-place 85 in the short round.
The win nearly put Irish, a 25-year-old from Lewistown, Mont., at a loss for words. But, after taking a breath and looking out at the arena, Irish was able to process his thoughts.
"This is probably the biggest win of my life," Irish said. "This thing (the Champions Ride) has been going on forever. This is probably the biggest win of my career."
Irish said he felt good after his long-round ride on Hy Ho Alena.
"I've been on her before and she was a little stronger today," Irish said. "I had to grit my teeth and kind of take care of business there."
Irish scored his short-round ride on Ringo Honeymoon right before Hayworth took his ride on Tipped Off.
Hayworth's short-round win was even more of a feat considering the circumstances.
Hayworth broke the C-2 vertebrae in his neck after being thrown on his head at a rodeo last summer and wasn't sure if he'd even hit the road this year.
He said Kruse was the person who finally convinced him to saddle up again this summer.
"To be able to walk, let alone being able to ride again, means quite a bit to me," Hayworth said. "Honestly, I don't know if I would have ever come back if he wouldn't have asked me to go this year."
While Hayworth and Irish were both good in the long round, they couldn't top J.J. Elshere.
The Quinn, S.D., cowboy narrowly edged Dickinson's Shaun Stroh to win the long round. Elshere had an 86 and Stroh had an 85.
While Elshere and Stroh entered the short round looking solid, both cowboys were bucked off.
While few cowboys got bucked off Sunday, Stroh was one of the many who were thrown after having problems with their horses in the chutes.
It took Stroh a couple minutes to get his bronc set in the chute, but it took less than three seconds for him to get thrown.
Stroh wasn't upset though.
"The horses were outstanding," Stroh said. "Some of them were a little tougher to get out on, and usually those are the ones who have been around awhile and know exactly what's going on. You've got to make darn sure you're ready."
Several of the most notable of the 33 bronc riders -- there were 11 who are ranked in the top 25 of the world standings -- had rough days, including Kruse, who took a re-ride and was bucked in his first Champions Ride appearance.
Dickinson's Dusty Hausauer, who is currently sixth in the world standings, had a 72. So did former world champion Toas Muncy.
Medora cowboy Clay Schaeffer had a 71.
Cody Wright, who won last year's Champions Ride before going on to win the National Finals Rodeo and the world title, had a 76-point ride in the long round and missed making the cut for the short round by one point.
Hausauer said he was impressed, but not surprised, that two cowboys who aren't near the top of the world standings -- Irish and Hayworth are sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Montana Circuit -- came out on top at a rodeo that has recently been dominated by NFR-bound riders.
"Here, with all these great guys and all the good horses, just because on paper it says a certain guy should be in the short round or not, it doesn't work like that," Hausauer said.
53rd annual Champions Ride
At Home on the Range, Sentinel Butte
Advanced to Short Round: 1, J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 86. 2, Shaun Stroh, Dickinson, 85. 3 (tie), James Irish, Lewistown, Mont., 84; Cody Taton, Newell, S.D., 84. 5 (tie), Shane Moran, Great Falls, Mont., 83; Alex Wright, Milford, Utah, 83. 7, Louis Brunson, Interior, S.D., 82. 8, Jake Hayworth, St. Anthony, Idaho, 81. 9, Tyler Corrington, Guymon, Okla., 80. 10, Andy Clarys, Mandan, 79. 11, Rusty Allen, Eagle Mountain, Utah, 78. 12 (tie), Josh Reynolds, Corvallis, Mont., 77; Zach West, Philip, S.D., 77.
Eliminated: 14, Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 76. 15 (tie), Trell Etbauer, Edmond, Okla., 75; Rhett Fitzpatrick, Wood Mountain, Sask., 75. 17 (tie), Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 74; Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., 74. 19, Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D. 73. 20 (tie), Dusty Hausauer, Dickinson, 72; Toas Muncy, Corona, N.M., 72; Tyrell Smith, Vaughn, Mont., 72; Jon Hagen, East Helena, Mont., 72. 25, Clay Schaeffer, Medora, 71. 26, Kane Gjermundson, Marshall, 70. 27, Hugh Connelly, Golden Valley, 69.
No scores: Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont.; Red Lemmel, Faith, S.D.; Jake Wright, Milford, Utah; J.T. Robbins, Dillon, Mont.; Sam Knight, Snyder, Texas; Brandon West, Philip, S.D.; Ryan Elshere, Quinn, S.D.
1, Jake Hayworth 87. 2, James Irish 85. 3 (tie), Andy Clarys 82; Louie Brunson 82; Shane Moran 82. 6, Alex Wright 81. 7, Zach West 72.
No scores: Shaun Stroh, J.J. Elshere, Josh Reynolds, Cody Taton, Tyler Corrington, Rusty Allen.
1, James Irish 169. 2, Jake Hayworth 168. 3, Shane Moran 165. 4 (tie), Louis Brunson 164; Alex Wright 164. 6, Andy Clarys 163. 7, Zach Wright 149.