Ericka Nelson and Goodfrenchmanfriday topped the leaderboard at the second annual Linda Gail Stewart Memorial Barrel Race in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from October 13–16. After dragging a barrel over in Round One, the pair turned in a solid 14.985 to finish eighth in Round Two, earning $280 and qualifying back to the short go. “Friday” found another gear in the Finals, turning in a scorching 14.533 to take home top honors, worth $2,613. For Nelson, running down the alley on the standout son of BHR Frenchies Socks is a bit like coming home.

Friday joined Nelson’s program in the fall of 2017 after she began riding for owner Darren Scholl. Scholl originally purchased the young gelding as a lower-division horse, but during Friday’s derby year, a spark ignited, and he quickly began holding his own in tough company.

“It’s actually a really cool story,” Nelson shared. “When Darren purchased Friday, he was a 3D horse. Darren didn’t buy a 1D horse. It just goes to show you — they don’t all peak at the same time.”

While Nelson knew Friday was entering her program as a real-deal competitor, she did not know the blaze-faced red gelding would soon shift the trajectory of her life.

“Friday had a long list of accomplishments when he came to me,” Nelson shared. “I had a lot of respect for him before I ever got to swing a leg over him. At the time, I had no plans to rodeo. My daughter was 5 years old, and I just didn’t see how we could make that happen in our world.”

But Friday had other plans. Soon, Nelson was recalibrating her compass and setting her sights on her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification — a feat she achieved in 2019 when she entered the Thomas and Mac Center ranked 10th in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings.

“Friday made dreams come true for me,” Nelson said. “He has to have a heart the size of Secretariat’s — he does not have the heart of an average horse. He’s shown us over the years he won’t do the job for just anybody, either. I’m 100% his person.”

Ericka Nelson turns barrel on Goodfrenchmanfriday
Ericka Nelson took home top honors at the Linda Gail Memorial Stewart Memorial aboard 2007 gelding Goodfrenchmanfriday (BHR Frenchies Socks x Joyces Gal x Direct Moon Jet). The pair turned in a 14.533, worth $2,613. Photo by Monroe Photos

When Scholl offered Nelson the opportunity to purchase Friday in December of 2021, she didn’t have to think twice. Friday was family, and she wanted to ensure he could live out his days on her farm in Century, Florida. Now 16 years old, Friday is undertaking a new role as a youth horse for Nelson’s daughter, Rainey. And while Nelson says Friday adores Rainey, the transition hasn’t been a seamless one.

“Rainey has had some trouble getting him in the gate,” Nelson explained. “He really takes his role seriously — he wants to take care of her, and I think that’s a big part of the issue. He’s worried about doing anything that might hurt her.”

In the meantime, Nelson says she’s enjoying every run she gets to make aboard the horse who punched her first ticket to barrel racing’s biggest stage.

“After the NFR, I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to run him again,” Nelson said. “He’s Rainey’s now, and he doesn’t owe me anything. There is nothing more he needs to give me as far as winning goes. Any time I get to be on him, it doesn’t matter how it goes — I’m just thankful I get to ride him again.”

Linda Gail Stewart Memorial Open Finals Results

1D—Ericka Nelson, Goodfrenchmanfriday, 14.533, $2,613

2D—Lori Chestnut, Wonder Can Get It, 15.071, $2,239

3D—Hailey Stephens, Rockin Hickory Budha, 15.533, $1,493

4D—Jimmy Cagle, Catchmeifyoucan, 16.583, $1,120

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