By Kailey Sullins

February 15, 2016, Fort Worth, Texas–Kelsey Lutjen and KN Fabs Gift Of Fame turned in a barn-burner time of 13.804 to win the first performance of RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo Semifinals presented by Polaris Ranger. 

The semifinals rodeo, which runs through Friday night February 17, will pay nearly $1 million to winning cowboys and cowgirls and is the prelude to Sunday’s $2 million The American at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Wednesday’s performance featured half of the top 20 semifinalists in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and bull riding. The remaining half compete at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with the top 10 in each event returning for a championship round Friday night. The top six in tie-down roping and the top five in the other events head to The American.

In barrel racing, 178 riders competed Tuesday with the top 30 earning a spot at one of the three semifinals performances. The 10 fastest times from those three performances will compete at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, February 19.

Lutjen and “J-Lo’s” flawless run took the lead in the barrel racing standings and promises to be a tough time to beat. Lutjen earned $3,604 for the round win and was one of three racers with times less than 14 seconds. Chris Martin of Brookston, Texas, was second and Brianna Trepanier of Stephenville, Texas, who won more than $13,000 in Tuesday’s preliminary round, was third.

“I really tried not to be nervous in the back. I was actually on Facebook looking through everything trying to keep my mind off of it,” Lutjen said with a laugh. “I knew if I could just go in relaxed and get my mare to the backside and ride around the barrel, she’d take care of the rest.”

J-Lo is by Frenchmans Fabulous and out of Mistys Dash Of Fame and is owned by Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron. The 8-year-old palomino mare is special not only to her owners but to Lutjen and the entire family. Lutjen’s mother, Lisa Lutjen, also qualified to the semifinals aboard J-Lo. 

“She’s definitely a special mare, and we’re thrilled for Kelsey and we’re thrilled for J-Lo as well,” Barron said. 

If the pair’s time holds throughout the rest of the semifinals performances and remains in the top 10 of the 30 barrel racers, Lutjen and J-Lo will have punched their ticket to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to compete for a chance at $1 million. 

“I’m excited (to run in AT&T Stadium); I’m super excited,” Lutjen said. “Obviously the barrel race is going to be pretty nerve-racking the next two nights, but I feel good about it and it’s in God’s hands and whatever is meant to be will be. I’m just lucky to be here, and I’m so blessed to have Kenny and Dale let me ride that mare.”

KelseyLutjen AmericanSemis2017 webKelsey Lutjen and KN Fabs Gift Of Fame. Photo by Kailey Sullins

First Performance Results:

Barrel Racing: 1,Kelsey Lutjen, Casa Grande, Ariz., 13.804, $3,604. 2, Chris Martin, Brookston, Texas, 13.910, $3,003. 3, Brianna Trepanier, Stephenville, Texas, 13.924, $2,402. 4, Kellie Collier, Hereford, Texas, 14.020, $1,802.

Bareback Bronc Riding: 1, Wyatt Bloom, Bend, Ore., 83.50 points on Mo Betta Rodeo Company’s J16 Cache Creek, $1,185. 2, Tilden Hooper, Weatherford, Texas, 79.25, $889. 3, Leighton Berry, Poolville, Texas, 78.25, $593. 4, Blake Smith, Zap, N.D., 76.25, $296.

Steer Wrestling: 1, Ryan Swayze, Freedom, Okla., 4.82 seconds, $2,474. 2, Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 4.9, $1,896. 3, Josh Garner, Live Oak, Calif., 5.26, $1,484. 4, Sean Mulligan, Coleman, Okla., 6.28, $1,154. 5, Ace Campbell, Robertson, Ala., 8.32, $742. 6, Brandon Harrison, Beaumont, Texas, 13.44, $495.

Team Roping: (Semi-Finals leaders) 1, Blake Hughes, Sulphur, Okla., and Brady Norman, Springer, Okla., 4.51 seconds. 2, Travis Whitlow and Tanner Luttrell, San Tan Valley, Ariz., 4.90. 3, J.B. James, Bennett, Colo., and Brock Hanson, Casa Grande, Ariz., 5.25. 4, Edward Hawley, Hays, Mont., and Ty Romo, Whiteriver, Ariz., 5.29. 5, Dylan Gordon, Comanche, Okla., and Gage Williams, Foster, Okla., 5.47.

Saddle Bronc Riding: 1, Isaac Diaz, Desdemonda, Texas, 83.50 points on C5 Rodeo company’s 608 100 Proof, $1,343. 2, Clay Elliot, Nanton, AB., 78.25, $1,007. 3, Louie Brunson, Interior, S.D., 76.5, $671. 4, Ryan Mackenzie, Jordan Valley, Ore., 76.25, $336.  

Tie-Down Roping: 1, Timber Moore, Aubrey, Texas., 6.81 seconds, $2,982. 2, Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 7.19, $2,286. 3, Ty Harris, San Angelo, Texas, 7.36, (with one wrap and a half hitch- took a chance) $1,789. 4, Clint Cooper, Decatur, Texas., 7.91, $1,391. 5, Darnell Johnson, Fowler, Colo., 8.21, $895. 6, Zak Danison, Groveport, Ohio., 9.0, $596.

Bull Riding: 1, Cole Melancon, Liberty, Texas, 86.75 points on Dakota Rodeo Company’s 078, $883. 2, Sevi Torturo, Oklahoma City, Okla., 86.5, $662. 3, Luke Haught, Weatherford, Texas, 85.50, $441. 4, Jory Markiss, Redmond, Ore., 85.25, $221.


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