Anthony Thomas is a world away from home, but the Australian cowboy felt right at home Wednesday on the opening night of the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick.
Thomas, aboard a horse with no name, had the top score of 78 in the bareback event, as high marks were hard to come by for all the rough stock riders.
“I was hurt the first six months of the year,” Thomas said. “The last couple of months, I have won a lot of money. By the end of the year, I hope to be in the top 25.”
Thomas, 26, grew up in a rural area of Australia and was raised around wild horses and cattle.
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“From a young age, I was breaking them in,” Thomas said. “I was really good at that. We do have a pro (rodeo) circuit in Australia. I won the Australian title, and I decided to come here and win a world title.”
Thomas is in his second year on the PRCA circuit and has seen a lot of the United States, but he said he is fond of the Northwest.
“This is the first time I have been in Kennewick,” Thomas said. “This is a nice part of the country this time of year. We’ve been to a lot of different parts of the country, but we like the fishing around here.”
The steer wrestling event ran the entire first go Wednesday, with the second go scheduled for today. There were four 4-second runs in the afternoon slack, but Greenleaf, Idaho, cowboy Andy Weldon had the highlight-reel run of the night as he turfed his steer in 3.8 seconds, picking up the top check for the go-round.
“Anytime you get in the 3s, you are winning some money,” Weldon said. “That is one of my fastest times. I’ve been in the 3s maybe a half-dozen times.”
Weldon, who worked half a day before heading to Kennewick, knew there were some good numbers on the board, but he didn’t let them mess with his preparation.
“You want to try and get in front of that,” he said.
With Weldon rodeoing part time, his winnings have no bearing in the race for the National Finals Rodeo.
“But it’s nice to win a check,” he said.
When there’s a Wright brother in the saddle bronc event, chances are they will pocket a bit of money.
Wednesday, Jake Wright of Milford, Utah, had an 80-point ride on Spotted Mountain to top the field. His twin brother, Jesse, had an 73.
While the fans thought Jake’s ride deserved a little more, he had no opinion.
“I don’t judge,” Jake Wright said. “Whatever happens, happens. It was a nice horse. I’d like to have him again.”
Matt Shiozawa, the first man out of the gate, had the top run in the tie-down roping at 7.1 seconds. Combined with his first run, he leads on two head at 14.4 seconds.
Trevor Brazile and Travis Graves put together a run of 4.8 seconds in the team roping, and they have the top time on two head at 9.5 seconds.
Samantha Lyne cruised around the barrels in 17.34 seconds for the hot run of the night.
The bull riding event saw just two cowboys post a score, with Paul Coppini putting up a 78 on a bull named Jess Ford.
Bareback: Anthony Thomas 78 points; Tim O’Connell 77, Seth Hardwick 77.
Tie-down roping: Matt Shiozawa 7.1 seconds; Roger Nonella 8.5; Marcos Costa 8.7.
Steer wrestling: Andy Weldon 3.8 seconds; Trevor Knowles 4.1; Clayton Hass 4.5.
Saddle bronc: Jake Wright 80 points; Zeke Thurston 77; CoBurn Bradshaw 76.
Team roping: Trevor Brazile-Travis Graves 4.8 seconds; Clayton Hass-Richard Durham 5.5; Brooks Dahozy-Daxton Jim 5.9.
Barrel racing: Samantha Lyne 17.34 seconds; Lisa Lockhart 17.64; Kelsie Miller 17.66.
Bull riding: Paul Coppini 78 points; Cody Brixey 73.
Wrangler Champions Challenge: Steer wrestler Bray Armes won his third Wrangler Champions Challenge competition Tuesday, joining fellow bulldogger Trevor Knowles.
The Kennewick event will air on CBS Sports Network at 5 p.m. Sept. 15.