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Hopping to a victory: Reynolds scores 91 points on Bugs Bunny to win the 57th annual Champions Ride

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Josh Reynolds competes on Saturday during the 57th annual Champions Ride at the Home on the Range in Sentinel Butte. The cowboy from Ekalaka, Mont., rode Bugs Bunny for 91 points.

Once Josh Reynolds drew Bugs Bunny in the short go of the Champions Ride, he liked his chances for a high score.

However, he wasn't comfortable until his saddle bronc ride was over.

Reynolds scored 91 points on Bugs Bunny to take first place on Saturday during the 57th annual Champions Ride at the Home on the Range in Sentinel Butte.

"I knew I had a chance, but there are a bunch of good horses out here, so everybody has a chance to win," Reynolds said. "Everybody wants to win this rodeo."

Not only was Reynolds smiling after the 91-point ride, but the fans watching the Champions Ride were greeted with optimal weather. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze and there were few clouds in the sky.

"We had a good crowd and it looked like a better crowd than last year," said Brad Gjermunson, who is a four-time world champion and organizer of the event. "This event used to be on Sunday all the time, but we (went) to Saturday and it seems like the crowd is continuing to build.

"It was a good crowd. The horses were good and the cowboys were good."

It was the fifth Champions Ride for Reynolds, from Ekalaka, Mont., and it was the first time he has come away with first place. Reynolds last qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2005.

Though he was the winner, he didn't have much time to soak in the victory at the Home on the Range as he was heading to compete in another rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., on Saturday night. Nonetheless, he is confident in the way the season has been going thus far, and a win in the Champions Ride solidified that confidence.

"I was pretty confident coming in, but it sure does help to win this rodeo though," Reynolds said.

Troy Crowser, who is from Whitewood, S.D., said when Reynolds drew Bugs Bunny, he knew his competitor had a chance for the top ride of the day. Crowser finished with in a three-way tie for runner-up along with Isaac Diaz and Cole Elshere, who all had 84-point short go rides.

"That horse, Bugs Bunny, is Spark's pride and joy," Crowser said of the stock contractor. "That's his stud. I had a good feeling, because Josh has all the talent in the world."

Crowser's season has been ones of ups and downs. He started off the season on a high note, but a torn hamstring set him back a month.

The long and short rounds on Saturday marked Crowser's second and third rides since coming back from an injury. He is ranked 26th in the saddle bronc world standings with $24,928 in earnings this year.

"For now until the end of the season, I'm going to be on a horse every day and maybe a couple each day for a month straight," Crowser said.

There are about two and half more months for the rodeo regular season. Crowser said it's crunch time more so than normal because he missed a month of the regular season.

"It's crazy right now," Crowser said. "We are flying and driving. There are rodeos all over the country right now."

Champions Ride: 1, Josh Reynolds, 91; 2 (tie), Isaac Diaz, 84; Cole Elshere, 84; Troy Crowser, 84; 5, Dusty Hausauer, 79; 6, Louis Brunsen 78; 7, Ty Menke, 76; 8, Ryan Elshere 75; 9, J.J. Elshere, 74; 10, Chase Kukuchka 69.