When the chutes open at RFD-TV’s The American — a record $2 million, single-performance rodeo that’s set for March 2 at AT&T Stadium — fans will watch one rider in each event who has been invited by exemption.
The riders on the card by exemption are all-time greats who did not have to earn a berth through qualifying events within the past six months. They are name competitors such as 10-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world barrel racing champion Charmayne James, four-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association steer wrestling champion Ote Berry and two-time Professional Bull Riders world champion Justin McBride.
But there is one exception. The exemption berth in the tie-down roping event will be a battle this weekend between former world champions Joe Beaver and Fred Whitfield. The two will compete for the right to participate in the lucrative show.
The match roping is a special feature in conjunction with The American semifinals, which are scheduled for Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) at the Resistol Arena in Mesquite. Beaver and Whitfield each will make one run Saturday night and one run Sunday to determine the winner.
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From the Mesquite semifinals, five competitors in each event will advance. They will join 11 competitors who have already qualified, either on the basis of exemption or by finishing in the top 10 last year on either the PRCA circuit (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping), the WPRA circuit (barrel racing) or the PBR circuit (bull riding).
For example, four-time world bareback riding champion Bobby Mote of Stephenville earned a berth by placing fourth in the PRCA’s 2013 world standings.
But Pete Hawkins of Boyd, a six-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who recently came out of retirement, is in the process of attempting to qualify. In order to make the cut, Hawkins must finish in the top five at this weekend’s semifinals.
Organizers are spicing up the Mesquite show by featuring the Whitfield vs. Beaver match. Both men were in the Metroplex on Feb. 8 to compete in the Fort Worth Stock Show PRCA finals. Whitfield finished fourth in the tie-down roping race, and Beaver came in fifth in the team roping heading average.
Among the elite
After placing in the famous Fort Worth rodeo, Beaver became the PRCA’s fifth athlete to surpass $3 million in career earnings. He reached the milestone after he and his heeling partner, Reno Gonzales, each earned $3,315 after competing in the final round.
After reaching the milestone, Beaver joins Whitfield, Trevor Brazile, Cody Ohl, and Billy Etbauer as the only men to earn $3 million in PRCA history.
After finishing third at the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series tour stop last weekend in St. Louis, 2004 world champion Mike Lee of Decatur is ranked No. 1 in the world title race (3,784.25 points).
Joao Ricardo Vieira is ranked No. 2 in the world standings (3,429.87 points) after winning the title in St. Louis ($37,623 in earnings). The tour stops at AT&T Stadium on March 1.