Two former Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo champions rode into the spotlight at the Friday matinee show.
Tana Poppino, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racing qualifier from Big Cabin, Okla., who won the Fort Worth rodeo in 2010, led all barrel racers with a time of 16.62 seconds at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Will Lowe, a three-time world champion from Canyon, who won at the Fort Worth rodeo last year, led all of the afternoon bareback riders with a score of 83 aboard a bronc named Wipeout, owned by the Dakota Rodeo Co.
After turning in the 16.62, Poppino is ranked ninth in the first round. However, just turning in a speedy time, could be considered a moral victory. Last year, her prize horse, Goose, was sidelined with a leg injury and also suffered from breathing problems.
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With all that in mind, Poppino came to Fort Worth with high hopes that Goose could be a title contender. But she was unsure how he would fare because he had not performed well at other early-season rodeos within the past month.
But Friday, Goose blasted around the three barrels in dramatic fashion.
"You can't imagine how good it felt to make a good run," Poppino said. "Praise God. Today, we were blessed."
Poppino said her horse felt very comfortable competing.
"If a horse gets scared in the arena about hurting, it's very tough to work through those mental blocks," she said.
Jane Melby of Burneyville, Okla., who competed in the Friday evening performance, took the lead in barrel racing after turning in a 16.38. Her speedy run aboard First Down Perks came five days after winning the National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver.
In bareback riding, Lowe moved to second place overall with a three-ride score of 235 after turning in the 83. He is also ranked first in the third round with the 83 and may finish in the money in Round 3.
However, Lowe will be denied winning back-to-back titles at the Stock Show because he has opted not to compete in the final round, which is scheduled for Feb. 9. He's also scheduled to ride at the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo that night.
Unlike the majority of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association shows, the San Antonio Rodeo insists that competitors ride in the exact performances in which they are originally scheduled by the PRCA's entry system. Most rodeos will allow a competitor to reschedule his preliminary-round ride if the rider qualifies for a final round at another rodeo on the same date.
But the high-paying, invitational San Antonio rodeo is a rare exception.
"Every other place, they will move you to compete in another performance," Lowe said. "Throughout my career, I've been moved a bunch of times."
But knowing San Antonio Rodeo officials will not budge, Lowe said he came to the Fort Worth rodeo with high hopes of earning checks only in the preliminary rounds.
"I just came for the day money," he said.