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December 19, 2014

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National Finals Rodeo:

Brazile back at his best

Texas cowboy feels healthy, aiming to become NFR’s top rider

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Associated Press

Chris Harris, of Itasca, Texas, competes during the first go-round of bareback riding at the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008.

IF YOU GO

Who: National Finals Rodeo

When: Today through Dec. 13

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

Tickets: 866-388-3267 or unlvtickets.com

Web site: www.prorodeo.com

TV: ESPN (Also ESPN 2, ESPN Classic)

The 50th Anniversary edition of the Wranglers National Finals Rodeo opened with a buzz Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center as a packed crowd of 17,341 took in the first of 10 performances that ends with the crowning of a new world champion next Saturday, Dec. 13.

Trevor Brazile is no stranger to that bright spotlight, becoming the first Triple Crown champion in 24 years when he was named all-around World Champion last year. This year Brazile came to Las Vegas needing $121,560 to become the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s first $3 million cowboy.

As great as that milestone would be for Brazile, the bull rider admitted he was happy just to finally have a healthy year.

“This has been the most relaxed I’ve ever been coming into the finals,” Brazile said. “If there’s one theme to my finals this year it’s just to not take my health for granted. Win or lose, I feel good and I’m real thankful for that. That’s all you can ask for.”

Brazile, who battled through injuries all last season that included a slipped disk, a herniated disk in his back, and multiple sports hernia, still managed to finish first in tie-down roping and steer roping, and fifth in team roping.

The Texas native is healthy and vying for his sixth all-around championship in seven years. He’s in a good spot to do so too, as he entered the NFR with a $104,156 lead on second-place competitor Josh Peek.

Brazile started the finals off well, taking home another $13,251 with a second-place finish in team roping.

In the history of the PRCA, ProRodeo Hall of Famer Ty Murray holds the record for most titles with seven. Despite a lengthy list of accomplishments and awards, Brazille says staying healthy to earn the all-time championships is his top goal.

“I’m trying to win three buckles this year, just because I’m entered in three events,” Brazille said. “Overall, I’d love to win eight all-around championships, just because seven is the record. That’s what records are there for, to be broken.”

McTaggart Watch: Colin McTaggart is the cowboy with the closest ties to Las Vegas in the competition. McTaggart was a student at UNLV last year and plans on returning next year to earn his degree in marketing. He entered this year’s finals, the second of his career, in eighth place in bull riding. Last year he finished 15th in the final world standings.

McTaggart failed to post a score on his first finals ride, getting bucked off by the bull Migraine.

Notes: It was a big night for bareback rider Chris Harris, who won his first finals round in eight years. The cowboy from Texas joined the PRCA in 1996, and said that Thursday night’s win may have been the highlight of his long career.

“What better Go Round to win in eight years than the 50th Anniversary first round?” Harris said. “That’s the greatest feeling I could ask for. I kind of had a different approach to this finals. My goal was to have fun. I want to win so bad that I can make it not fun for myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to calm down and do what I know how to do.”

Team ropers Garrett Tonozzi and Kinney Harrell took Go Round No. 1 with a 4.6-second time. While they both said the win was a great feeling, they were the first team and forced to watch 14 other ropers before they could celebrate.

“It was very nerve-wracking sitting down there watching the 14 best teams in the world go,” Tonozzi said. “We were just hoping it was going to work out for us tonight.”

Round Winners

Bareback Riding: Chris Harris; 88.5 points

Steer Wrestling: Luke Branquinho; 3.6 seconds

Team Roping: Garrett Tonozzi, Kinney Harrell; 4.6 seconds

Saddle Bronc Riding: Bryce Miller; 89 points

Tie-Down Roping: Hunter Herrin; 7.5 seconds

Barrel Racing: Jill Moody, 14.02 seconds

Bull Riding: Bobby Welsh, 89.5 points

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