by Julie Mankin
Lindsay Sears rode an Express train to $113,500 in Calgary earnings.
Calgary Photo – Credit Leah Hennell/Calgary Herald
At-A-Glance: Calgary Stampede
When: July 4-13
Where: Calgary, Alberta
Showdown: 1. Lindsay Sears, 17.43; 2. Tammy Key-Fischer, 17.50; 3. Deb Renger, 17.61; 4. Sherry Cervi, 22.75.
Calgary’s Showdown was very good to a few gals, but the Stampede also padded several others’ pockets this year. Following are the high-money winners:
1. Lindsay Sears $113,500
2. Tammy Key-Fischer $36,000
3. Deb Renger $26,500
4. Sherry Cervi $18,000
5. Lisa Lockhart $16,200
6. Jill Moody $15,200
7. Codi Baucom $14,700
8. Sierra Stoney $14,200
9. Brittany Pozzi-Pharr $12,200
What a horse race.
The duel for the over-size $100,000 paycheck at the 2008 invitational Calgary Stampede came down to 8-year-old Sugar Moon Express (“Martha”), with Lindsay Sears aboard, and 13-year-old Easy Dash Oak (“Round Pen”) under Tammy Key-Fischer.
Both are past NFR qualifiers; both are having phenomenal seasons. What better treat for fans on Million-Dollar Sunday than to watch the Canadian and the Texan duke it out at the richest one-day rodeo showdown on Earth?
The two both seemed to turn on the heat in the same rounds throughout the 10-day event. At Calgary, only 20 women are invited to compete, and they run in two pools of 10. Pool A was all about Lisa Lockhart, a former Canadian Finals Rodeo champ who placed deep in three of her four rounds on her backup horse, Chisom, to earn $13,000. She led Deb Renger (who won two of the rounds), Sierra Stoney and Brittany Pozzi-Pharr into the semifinals Sunday.
In Pool B, it appeared to be a three-woman battle amongst Jill Moody, Codi Baucom and Sears, each of whom made more than $11,500 and went to the semis along with 2006 Calgary champ Joleen Seitz.
Sherry Cervi and her young mare, Stingray, hadn’t made the cut, but won the Wild Card race Saturday with a beautiful 17.38. Key-Fischer and Round Pen had split fourth in earnings, but had mowed down a barrel, which kicked them out of the top four of their pool – until they clocked a 17.41 to finish second behind Cervi Saturday for the other wild card. Former Calgary champ Molly Powell went home after Saturday’s race the odd woman out with an agonizing 17.42.
It turns out Key-Fischer’s downed barrel might have been a blessing in disguise. In prior years, she’d taken a penalty in the semifinals that prevented her from advancing to the $100,000 round. This year, she got it out of the way in the preliminaries and cruised through the wild card race and the semis clean.
In fact, Sunday afternoon, the final 10 to run put on the toughest barrel race of the week. Sears looked as though she’d cleaned up by two tenths with her speedy 17.23 – which outmatched the field by almost three tenths – until Key-Fischer pulled out a wicked 17.03. That time was just three hundredths off the arena record that Key-Fischer and Round Pen had set themselves back in 2002. Renger came in third at 17.49 and Cervi squeaked in for the final Showdown spot with a 17.63.
Cervi was first to run an hour later for the big money, but tipped the second barrel. Renger, up next, clocked a respectable 17.61, and then Sears stopped the timer with a nice run of 17.43. All eyes were on Key-Fischer, who knew what she had to do. But by less than a tenth of a second, she couldn’t make it work. Her 17.50 settled into second.
“I ran my 17.03 one run too soon,” Key-Fischer said. “My first run was really smooth and fast. The second run wasn’t bad, it was just a littler jerkier. I wanted to really make sure I didn’t hit a barrel, so I may have overrode him a little bit. Just a step here and a step there. She was a .43 and I was a .50, so it was just a hair difference.”
The two leaders had slower times on their second runs likely because the runs had been back to back with only about an hour between them.
“Barrel horses never have to run twice in a day,” Key-Fischer said. “They were still a little hot, wondering what the heck we were thinking running again.”
Sears eased around Canada over the Fourth of July and Martha was primed for the six runs at Calgary. In fact, it’s an almost identical setup to the format at RodeoHouston, which the duo won in March for a hefty check of $60,000. Earnings from Calgary don’t count toward qualification to the NFR, but Sears has that end of things taken care of anyway, courtesy of her Houston money.
The Calgary Sun pointed out that, in one seven-month span at just Las Vegas, Houston and Calgary, Sears has earned $313,000. About Martha, she told the reporter, “She’s on top of her game. She is everything. She is beyond my expectations.”
Sears also said she didn’t think she would win the big check after her run.
“Tammy had been turning in some smoking runs and I thought she’d go in there and do it again,” she told the Sun. “I didn’t think I was fast enough.”
Sears added that her big bounty will pay some bills and help pay down her new winter home in West Texas.
And despite losing $75,000 over seven hundredths, Key-Fischer remains a huge fan of Calgary. She’s loved the rodeo ever since her first trip there in 2002, and wouldn’t consider turning down an invitation there in favor of making NFR-qualifying dollars in the States in early July.
“Yeah, your ultimate goal is to make the NFR,” she said. “But to really showcase your horse and what he’s capable of, Calgary’s the biggest venue. No other rodeo pays $100,000 for first. To give your horse the best chance to stand out, take him to the best rodeo. I won $36,000 and was there five days. I got to rest; my horse got to rest; my husband flew up and Jackie’s husband flew up; our mom was there; the whole deal. It’s not the ‘drive-all-night-hurry-up’ of the other rodeos. They feed you lunch every day; give you coupons for wherever you want to go; give you stalls, free shavings; and a plug-in. To me, it’s the way rodeo should be. I’ll go every year they’ll have me there.”
Julie Mankin is an avid barrel racer and roper as well as a frequent contributor to Barrel Horse News. E-mail comments on this article to [email protected].