Lisa Lockhart closed her eyes and breathed a big sigh of relief after walking up the Thomas & Mack Center arena tunnel on Friday night.
The 12-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier had just won the second round of the $10 million rodeo with a 13.65-second run on her 8-year-old buckskin mare Rosas Cantina CC “Rosa,” which she worked into her rotation on a major scale this season. Lockhart and her longtime mount, 15-year-old Louie, have two Wrangler NFR average titles (2014, 2016) and a dozen go-round victories together, but this year’s Finals maybe Rosa’s time to shine.
Photo by James Phifer
“Louie has made 80 runs in this building, so it was a very hard change for me and a tough decision to even allow Rosa the opportunity,” said Lockhart, who has earned more than $1 million in career earnings at the Wrangler NFR alone during her illustrious career. “She’s been an integral part of my team this year, so I definitely figured she deserved a chance.”
Lockhart’s relief came a night after she and Rosa knocked over the third barrel and finished out of the money in the opening round with a time of 18.85 seconds. Without the downed barrel in Round 1, that run would have earned a sixth-place check, but Friday’s fast pass will send Lockhart back to the buckle presentation at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa once again.
“Last night, after hitting the barrel, I was like, ‘Oh, what have I done?’” said Lockhart, the 2014 and 2015 WPRA reserve world champion. “But in my mind and in my heart, I’d made my decision. There’s reasons I made my decision, and I’m sticking to it.”
Lockhart and Rosa took the $26,231 first-place prize ahead of Amberleigh Moore, who stopped the clock in 13.67 seconds on her 9-year-old mare, Paige. Wrangler NFR rookie Kylie Weast was third in 13.70 seconds on her 6-year-old mare, Reddy, while fellow NFR first-timers Tracy Nowlin and Jessie Telford shared fourth place with matching 13.74-second runs.
Their winning run on Friday night was far from flawless, Lockhart said, but she and Rosa – a horse she’s owned for nearly three years – still owned the best time of the night after the dust had settled.
“It was a bit wild, I’m not going to lie, and it was not perfect in any manner,” Lockhart said. “The clock speaks for itself, and we’re just thankful to get around them for starters.”
Moore leads the Wrangler NFR average race with a two-run time of 27.32 seconds after back-to-back runner-up finishes to start the 10-day rodeo and has earned an event-best $51,462 so far in Las Vegas. World standings leader and Round 1 winner Hailey Kinsel is second at 27.48 heading into the third round and leads reigning World Champion Nellie Miller by $61,239 in the race for the gold buckle.
The round victory moved Lockhart from fourth to third in the WPRA World Standings with $159,746 and has her feeling optimistic about the next eight performances at the world’s richest rodeo.
“Oh my gosh, I feel like I’m a kid starting all over,” said Lockhart, of Oelrichs, S.D. “This was really special tonight. I know she’s far from as consistent as Louie, so there’s still going to be the highs and the lows, but I hope there’s more highs than lows.
“I know what her ability is to win first, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
The 2017 PRCA Media Award winner for print journalism, Neal Reid is covering his 15th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this year. He has written for USA Today, the WPRA News, Western Horseman, American Cowboy, ESPN.comand ESPNW.com, just to name a few. Follow him on Twitter at @NealReid21. For complete NFR Coverage visit