LAS VEGAS — DECEMBER 9, 2023 — Round Two of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, presented by Teton Ridge, saw a fast set of barrel racers inside the Thomas and Mack Center. At draw No. 11, Stevi Hillman aboard Sand In My Socks topped the field with a time of 13.62, worth $30,706.

Hillman has had “Sandi” for the past year, and the mare helped Hillman in the 2022 NFR earn $7,461. Over the course of the 2023 regular season, Hillman and Sandi have earned more than $16,000, and their 2023 Pendleton Roundup championship helped solidify Hillman’s eighth NFR qualification.

That confidence in her equine partner gave the Weatherford, Texas, cowgirl the confidence to send it all-out in Round Two.

“The ground was great. It held the horses tonight. It was a little loose last night for all of us, and that cost us some slides,” Hillman said.

Hillman had tough luck in Round One, but a new mindset had the $1.6 million EquiStat earner prepped and ready to tackle the Thomas and Mack.

“Last night I didn’t do a leg lift,” Hillman said with a laugh of dragging down a barrel in Round One. “I’m not very good at that, and that cost us some money. So tonight I focused on just riding square and letting that mare do her job.

“It’s fun to actually bring a horse back twice here,” she continued. “That was comforting, knowing I was going to bring the same two mares that I ran last year, and I know we have a whole year under our belts, and she’s more grown up. That just makes it fun.”

Sandi is a graduate of Kassie Mowry’s futurity training program and won $100,000 in the very first run of her life as a 3-year-old to win the 2020 Barrel Futurities of America SuperStakes slot race under Mowry for then-owners Isabella Quarter Horses. The 2017 mare by BHR Frenchies Socks and out of JC Pick Six by Tres Seis went on to win more than $260,000 with Mowry. Sandi sold in 2022 to 70 Ranch Performance Horses and joined Hillman’s string for the 2022 NFR and has been a strong asset to Hillman’s regular season.

In her eighth NFR, Hillman knows the ropes well and knows what it takes to be successful inside the Thomas and Mack. She’s earned more than $396,162 in NFR earnings over the course of her career and four round wins. A major factor in being successful is having a confident mount underneath of you to handle not only the tight setup and blind first barrel but also the intense atmosphere inside the Thomas and Mack.

“They need to be confident in themselves,” Hillman said of what makes horses successful inside the Thomas and Mack Center arena. “I think confidence is probably the biggest thing, and if you can get a little more aggressive every round is good, because 10 nights in a tight coliseum is hard. But I’d say confidence is most important.

“They’re all individuals so it’s a little different per horse, but I let them be themselves, but with a little discipline,” Hillman continued. “Let them be confident and allow them to learn and grow on their own and be that guidance with them.”

Stevi Hillman’s Round Wins:

2021: Round Nine

2021: Round Three

2020: Round Ten

2019: Round Nine

Notable Horse Change

Emily Beisel made a horse change from her longstanding NFR round winner Namgis D 33 to the new standout in her arsenal, Ivory On Fire. The 7-year-old brown mare by Ivory James and out of the Fire Water Flit mare Lil Miss Firewater joined Beisel’s string in 2022 from Shelby Ridling, who trained the mare. Beisel took “Liza” to pro rodeos this year, but her biggest win of the year was the Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup on the last weekend of the regular season. Beisel and Liza were first out on the ground in Round Two of the NFR and turned in a 13.70, which ultimately finished fourth for $12,877. After Round Two that has moved Beisel to the No. 2 position in the world standings with $181,629.

Emily Beisel and Ivory On Fire turned in a time of 13.70 to finish fourth in Round Two of the 2023 Wrangler NFR and those earnings moved Beisel into the No. 2 position in the WPRA world standings. Photo by Kenneth Springer

First Time: Summer Kosel Earns First NFR Paycheck

First Time NFR qualifier Summer Kosel rode Firewaterfrenchfame to her first NFR paycheck with a time of 13.63 for second place in Round Two. Kosel of Glenham, South Dakota, had tough luck in Round One with a downed barrel, but the Cheyenne Frontier Days arena record setter dialed it in for Round Two, nearly taking home a go-round buckle. Kosel earned $24,268 for the second-place finish and it moved her from No. 9 to No. 7 in the WPRA world standings with $149,949.58.

First Time NFR qualifier Summer Kosel rode Firewaterfrenchfame to her first NFR paycheck with a time of 13.63 for second place in Round Two worth $24,268. Photo by Kenneth Springer

2023 WPRA Top 15 Stats

2023 NFR Barrel Racing Horsepower

2023 NFR Barrel Racing Horses Connections and Stats

Aggregate Race

Regular-season earnings record-holder Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi is holding onto her commanding lead in the world standings as well as leading the aggregate with a time of 27.46 on two runs. Tonozzi’s ridden Jets Top Gun in the first two rounds and has already earned $40,706 in NFR earnings. They finished second in Round One and split fifth and sixth place in Round Two. Tonozzi’s current world standings sit at $311,269.83.

EquiStat All-Time Leading Rider Kassie Mowry has kept the first two rounds solid with her great mount CP He Will Be Epic, turning in an aggregate time so far of 27.64 on two runs, putting her in the No. 2 position in the aggregate race. With the NFR average paying out $78,747 to win, the pressure to keep barrels standings is on everyone’s minds. With eight more rounds of competition, though, there’s likely to be a few shake-ups before all 10 rounds are complete.

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi holds onto her lead in the WPRA world standings. Tonozzi rode Jets Top Gun in Round Two of the 2023 Wrangler NFR to a time of 13.71 to split the fifth and sixth place positions. Photo by Kenneth Springer

2023 NFR Barrel Racing Round Two Results

Place, Name, Horse, Time, Money Won

  1. Stevi Hillman / Sand In My Socks / 13.62 / $30,706
  2. Summer Kosel / Firewaterfrenchfame / 13.63 / $24,268
  3. Lisa Lockhart / Promise Me Fame Guys / 13.67 / $18,325
  4. Emily Beisel / Ivory On Fire / 13.70 / $12,877
  5. (tie 5/6) Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi / Jets Top Gun / 13.71 / $6,438
  6. (tie 5/6) Jessica Routier / Fiery Miss West / 13.71 / $6,438
  7. Wenda Johnson / Steal Money / 13.73
  8. Kassie Mowry / CP He Will Be Epic / 13.74
  9. Jordon Briggs / Famous Lil Jet / 13.76
  10. Paige Jones / Famous Hayday / 13.79
  11. Taycie Matthews / Heavenly Firewater / 13.81
  12. Sue Smith / Diamond Center / 13.82
  13. Hailey Kinsel / DM Sissy Hayday / 13.83
  14. Ilyssa Riley / Themajorthriller / 13.91
  15. Sissy Winn / A R Dash Ta Flame / 23.71**

*denotes penalty

2023 WPRA World Standings (after Round Two)

  1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi / Lampasas, Texas / $311,269.83
  2. Emily Miller Beisel / Weatherford, Oklahoma / $181,629.29
  3. Jordon Briggs / Tolar, Texas / $175,776.85
  4. Lisa Lockhart / Oelrichs, South Dakota / $144,592
  5. Kassie Mowry / Dublin, Texas / $162,916.44
  6. Taycie Matthews / Wynne, Arkansas / $154,161.40
  7. Summer Kosel / Glenham, South Dakota / $125,682
  8. Sissy Winn / Chapman, Texas / $149,949.58
  9. Stevi Hillman / Granbury, Texas / $149,721.85
  10. Jessica Routier / Buffalo, South Dakota / $143,335.88
  11. Wenda Johnson / Pawhuska, Oklahoma / $130,506.57
  12. Paige Jones / Wayne, Oklahoma / $125,845.10
  13. Ilyssa Riley / Hico, Texas / $121,473.37
  14. Hailey Kinsel / Cotulla, Texas / $115,775.77
  15. Sue Smith / Blackfoot, Idaho / $115,643.94

Aggregate Standings on Two Runs

Rank, Name, Aggregate Time

1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi / 27.46

2. Kassie Mowry / 27.64

3/4. Paige Jones / 27.76

3/4. Jessica Routier / 27.76

5. Lisa Lockhart / 27.83

6. Jordon Briggs / 27.86

7. Sue Smith / 27.99

8. Wenda Johnson / 32.38

9. Stevi Hillman / 32.49

10. Summer Kosel / 32.75

11. Ilyssa Riley / 32.78

12. Taycie Matthews / 32.79

13. Hailey Kinsel / 33.01

14. Sissy Winn / 37.42

15. Emily Beisel / 37.53

Author

Kailey Sullins is editor of Barrel Horse News, and an avid barrel racer and breakaway roper. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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