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Supplying the best: Champions Ride features top saddle bronc riders from around the country

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Cole Elshere of Faith, S.D., rides during the Roughrider Days Rodeo at the DSU Outdoor Arena on June 29, 2012. Elshere will compete at the Champions Ride in Sentinel Butte today.

Issac Diaz knows no matter if he wins or loses, the Champions Ride at the Home on the Range is going to be fun.

The cowboy from Desdemona, Texas said the Championship Ride is one event every saddle bronc rider looks forward to every season.

"There's always the top guys there," said Diaz, who is currently sitting 10th in the saddle bronc world standings with $41,414. "The money it pays makes it that much more exciting and it's for a good cause, which is definitely something you like taking part in."

Though one of the most pristine saddle bronc riding events of the season doesn't count toward the PRCA World Standings, cowboys from all the around the country are traveling to North Dakota for the Champions Ride to raise money for Home on the Range at Sentinel Butte beginning at 1 p.m. today.

"People don't get to see the opportunity to see (some of the top saddle bronc riders in the country) anywhere else," said Brad Gjermundson, who is a four-time world champion and organizer of the event. "There are 30 guys there for one day. There are a lot of good rodeos around, but to see that many good broncs and good horses all in one afternoon is special."

Diaz, who is a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, joined the PRCA in 2006. He was the three-time Florida state high school saddle bronc champion from 2003-05.

The Texas cowboy has been on the positive and negative end of the qualifying for the NFR. Though he's currently sitting 10th overall, he knows there's no letting up now.

"I feel like I have a legitimate shot at it," Diaz said about qualifying for the 2013 NFR. "I know from past experience it doesn't matter what you are sitting at this point in summer. Things drastically change from here on out. You can't slack off from here until the end of the season. You more or less have to get tougher about it."

The event will see cousins J.J. Elshere and Cole Elshere. Both J.J. and Cole have each qualified for the NFR.

Cole joined the PRCA in 2010 and made the 2012 NFR. He is on pace to qualify again this year. He is currently sitting in ninth place overall with $43,125. In 2012, Cole finished with total earnings of $124,437, including $58,600 after placing fourth at the NFR.

J.J., who has been on the PRCA circuit since 2000, said he and Cole keep tabs on each other during the rodeo season.

"When you are rodeoing there is really no offseason," J.J. said with a laugh. "We visit and check in with each other and see how everybody is doing. He's been going pretty hard and we've been keeping tabs on him."

To compete in the Champions Ride is a big honor to every saddle bronc rider, because the event is invitation only. In turn, Gjermundson is able to get the top saddle bronc riders in the country to attend.

"There are a lot of them that try hard to get here every year," Gjermundson said. "It doesn't always work in their schedules, because they have other commitments. Our money doesn't count toward the world championship points it doesn't always work for them to come. There's a lot of dedication for a lot of top cowboys, because they know what the cause is to benefit the underprivileged kids."

J.J. added: "It's a great rodeo and it's for a great cause too. They do a good job of helping people out, to go up there and help out makes it a great rodeo."

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