A blustery breeze plus some rain early made Ponoka feel cold except for one Big Valley cowboy.
Zeke Thurston countered a big move out of the chute by his ride Ancient Delivery to score an 88.75 and win his second Ponoka Stampede title on Canada Day.
Thurston ran the table in Ponoka by also taking top spot in final earlier in the day with an 88.25 and scoring the top ride of the entire week with an 89 on June 29.
“I didn’t feel like the horse was as great as it turned out, but this is rodeo and anything can happen,” Thurston said.
“The horse made a big move and I really thought I was going to go off, but I was able to stay locked in and just let the horse go.”
Thurston, who is also a three time Calgary Stampede champion, has had a great week by posting another victory in Williams Lake and garnering some good money in Reno, Nevada.
“I’ve got another four or five rodeo coming up, including Calgary, and I’m just hoping to keep on this roll,” he added.
“Although, Ponoka is special to me as I grew up coming here and it’s great to have the family around cheering. I could here them after the ride.”
Thurston only had to beat one other cowboy in Jake Finlay of Goodwill, Oklahoma who posted an 87 as the other two failed to post a score.
Two other areas cowboys had shots at their own Stampede titles, one in steer wrestling and the other in team roping.
Donalda’s Cody Cassidy, who put up a great 5.2 second run, was edged out in the steer wrestling by one-tenth of second by Tanner Brunner for the title.
Meanwhile, in the team roping, the pair of Riley Warren from Stettler and Two Hills’ Clay Ullery weren’t able to catch up to their calf, leaving them with a no-time. Chad Evenson of Pritchard, B.C. and Kamloops’ Mike Beers walked off with their first Stampede championship with a time of 8.7 seconds.
It was also night of firsts in the tie down roping, with a first time Stampede champion crowned after having to break the event’s first ever tie.
Tyson Durfey of Millsap, Texas and Reese Riemer from Stinnett, Texas came up with equal 9.3 second runs in the showdown, which forced the pair into a re-run for the title. Reimer came up empty in his run, leaving Durfey to simply rope his calf to post a time. He did better than that, ending up his run with an 8.7 seconds to win.
The rest of the championships in Ponoka went to Edgar Durazo from Mexico in the bull riding with 90 point ride, Richmond Champion in the bareback with a 88.75 and Hailey Kinsel in the barrel racing with a time of 17.359 seconds.
A steady downpour most of the day left the Stampede track somewhat sloppy, yet that didn’t faze World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA) driver Mark Sutherland who raced to the $50,000 Ponoka Stampede championship buckle in the Tommy Dorchester Dash for Cash.
Meanwhile, Cole Adamson captured the top $5,000 prize in the All Pro Canadian Chuckwagon championship $10,000 heat on Canada Day.
Adamson came off the number two barrel and stormed past Kevin Desjarlais on the extreme outside in the third turn despite the muddy track condition, pulling away on the home stretch to win in a time of 1:17.22.
Canada Day final
As for the rest of the local rodeo contingent that made it to the Stampede’s top 12 though missed out on the big money, Jake Vold was the huge surprise of the day.
Vold came into the bareback final sitting in second spot, only to see it grabbed away as the judges caught his double grab out of the chute while riding championship bucking horse True Grit.
Meanwhile, Bowden’s Ky Marshall came in as long shot in 12th spot, ending up in ninth after putting up an 83.5 on Added Money.
In the saddle bronc, Ben Andersen of Eckville came within a horse hair of the top four, scoring an 83.5 on Little Muffin, leaving him on the outside looking in by 1.5 points.
The steer wrestling top 12 included Ponoka’s Ben Ramey, whose 8.5 finals run left him back in seventh spot with a three-run time of 23.9, more than six seconds behind the showdown qualifiers.
The mucky, wet infield didn’t help Ponoka barrel race Kim Gerwatoski in the finals, putting a time of 18.379, which left her more than full second back of the top four qualifiers and seven-tenths slower than her June 30 performance.