LAS VEGAS — December 6, 2022 — Wenda Johnson and Steal Money took home their second round-win of the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge with a time of 13.60 in Round Seven to earn $28,913.70.

Johnson, an EquiStat earner of more than $723,718, with $358,401 in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association earnings, is handling the Thomas and Mack Center like a pro. Johnson and Steal Money (First Moonflash x Im Chica Stoli x Stoli) so far have earned $85,082.35 in 2022 Wrangler NFR earnings. Johnson has ridden the 6-year-old bay gelding in every round except for Round Four, when she chose to get on her other First Moonflash gelding, Macgyver Moonflash.

“He’s smooth and easy, so the less I can do, the better off we are,” Johnson said. “We had a couple of slower rounds, so I’ve had to build up his confidence a little. Tonight, he attacked his first spot and it set us up for the rest of the run.”

Wenda Johnson turns third barrel at NFR
Wenda Johnson and Steal Money won Round Seven of the Wrangler NFR with a 13.60. Photo by Kenneth Springer

The WPRA, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Wrangler NFR worked with the guidance of Randy Spraggins to make big fixes to the dirt after Round Three saw unfavorable ground conditions. Now, the top 15 say they are feeling confident to go all-out on the ground since Round Four. Johnson says much of trusting a rodeo horse in those types of situations comes from experience on different types of ground, which “Mo” has yet to be familiarized with in his young yet prosperous career.

“If we could see into the future, I would have ran ‘Mac’ in Round Three,” Johnson said. “Mac would have handled Round Three no problem, because he has ran on a lot of rodeo ground, and I’m really confident with him on rodeo ground — he’s already been through this, and Mo hasn’t. Everywhere I’ve ran him has been fairly manicured, fairly good ground, and it showed in that first run — that’s his normal run, to go out there smooth and fast. I had to build his confidence [after Round Three]. I felt like he was really going to come back into his spots and fire hard for me.”

Johnson is a three-time NFR barrel racing qualifier and has done so with a group of talented geldings, previously owned by Tres Mesa Horses of Fort Worth, Texas, and all trained by Luis Hernandez. In fact, she joined the WPRA in 2018 specifically with the intentions of campaigning the Tres Mesa Horses for owner Mark Singletary. She traveled to a limited number of rodeos in 2019 and eventually qualified for her first NFR in 2020. Mo, along with her other NFR-qualifying mount Macgyver Moonflash, have since sold to Highpoint Performance Horses.

Leslie Smalygo sets up barrel with her hand
First-time NFR qualifier Leslie Smalygo rode Justaheartbeattofame (Justaheartofawarrior x Yawl A Fame Maker x Dash Ta Fame) to a 13.64 to finish second in Round Seven of the Wrangler NFR. Photo by Kenneth Springer

While the success at the NFR means much to Johnson, it means more to her because of the confidence she’s seen Mo develop during the six rounds in which he’s ran down the alleyway. Johnson cautions that this type of course and environment could be troublesome for some young horses, and even though Mo has never ran in this situation prior to the 2021 NFR, Johnson is noticing the gelding get more and more confident in himself.

“Developing the horses is such a fun and exciting part of riding horses,” Johnson said. “Honestly, I just enjoy seeing them be happy and their little faces when they’re happy and when they love their job. That brings me more satisfaction than anything.”

Regardless of where Johnson lands in the standings when it’s all said and done, the nurse practitioner says the best part of the NFR thus far is knowing she has a more seasoned and confident horse to take with her as she moves into the 2023 rodeo season.

“I do think there’s an opportunity to probably go to more rodeos,” Johnson said. “I actually entered Denver. I’ve never done that before. If the weather’s good, then I’ll go. I’m hoping for good weather, and Mac is a seasoned rodeo horse, so I’ll probably take Mac and just go have some fun and see if we can start out the rodeo season there in Denver.”

—> 2022 WPRA Top 15 Stats

World Standings and Aggregate Shake Up

Round Seven was a shake-up night in the barrel racing. In true Thomas and Mack Center tradition, the course proved that after seven runs, problems start to bear their ugly head. Coming into Round Seven, Hailey Kinsel led the world standings and Lisa Lockhart led the aggregate race. From the get-go in Round Seven, hit barrels plagued the field. Jessica Routier rode Fiery Miss West to what would have been a 13.35 as the No. 1 runner on the ground. Lisa Lockhart and Promise Me Fame Guys were next up on the ground and also caught a barrel to be a 13.57. With the downed barrel in the round, Lockhart moved from No. 1 in the aggregate to No. 5, and without earning a check this round, the 16-time NFR qualifier moved from third in the world standings to fourth.

This opened the door for several people to make a move. Hailey Kinsel, Jordon Briggs and Dona Kay Rule all had an opportunity to capitalize on the opened door in the aggregate and world standings. Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet did just that, turning in a time of 13.68 to share the fourth- and fifth-place spot, worth $9,793.35, which ultimately moved Briggs back into the No. 1 position in the world standings. Briggs and “Rollo” also sit in the No. 6 position in the aggregate. Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday turned in a 13.73, which was out of the money but moved them from No. 11 in the aggregate to No. 9 — just one place out of a paycheck in the aggregate. Kinsel currently sits No. 2 in the world standings with $225,224.50 — only $6,857.90 separates Kinsel and Briggs.

Sissy Winn turns the first barrel
Sissy Winn and A R Dash To Flame (Dash Ta Fame x Discreet Retreat x Mr Jess Perry) turned in a 13.66 to finish third in Round Seven of the Wrangler NFR and moved to the No. 3 position in the aggregate. Photo by Kenneth Springer

—> 2022 Wrangler NFR First-Timers

First-time NFR qualifier Sissy Winn made a big move in the aggregate race. After making a horse change in Round Five from Chewingthehotwire to 9-year-old gelding A R Dash To Flame, by Dash Ta Fame and out of Discreat Retreat by Mr Jess Perry, Winn and “Scoop” have been figuring out the setup. Tonight was Lucky No. 7 for Winn and Scoop with a time of 13.66 to finish third in the round, worth $17,254.95. This also moved Winn from 12th in the world standings to to 11th and from fourth in the aggregate to third. The aggregate pays a lucrative $74,149.92 to win it, and third place in the average will win $47,567.87.

“Scoop” was bred by Atwood Ranches and came from Felicia Taylor via trainer Danyelle Campbell, both of whom are former NFR qualifiers. With Campbell behind the reins, “Scoop” earned $54,214 in EquiStat reported earnings. Winn added Scoop to her trailer in April 2022, and together Winn and Scoop have earned $8,847 in EquiStat earnings.

NFR Barrel Racing Round Seven Results

Place, Name, Horse, Time, Money Won

  1. Wenda Johnson, Steal Money, 13.60 seconds, $28,914
  2. Leslie Smalygo, Justaheartbeattofame, 13.64, $22,851
  3. Sissy Winn, A R Dash To Flame, 13.66, $17,255
  4. 4/5 (tie) Jordon Briggs, Famous Lil Jet, 13.68, $9,793
  5. 4/5 (tie) Emily Beisel, Namgis D 33, 13.68, $9,793
  6. Shelley Morgan, HR Fameskissandtell, 13.71, $4,664
  7. Margo Crowther, Shes Packin Fame, 13.72
  8. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 13.73
  9. Kassie Mowry, CP He Will Be Epic, 13.77
  10. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Babe On The Chase, 13.87
  11. Bayleigh Choate, Hail To Be Famous, 13.98
  12. Jessica Routier, Fiery Miss West, 18.35*
  13. Lisa Lockhart, Promise Me Fame Guys, 18.57*
  14. Stevi Hillman, Sand In My Socks, 18.58*
  15. Dona Kay Rule, High Valor, 19.05*

*denotes penalty

2022 WPRA World Standings

Rank, Name, Hometown, Earnings

  1. Jordon Briggs, Tolar, TX, $232,082.40
  2. Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, TX, $225,224.50
  3. Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, OK, $206,676.62
  4. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, SD, $182,311.53
  5. Emily Beisel, Weatherford, OK, $166,222.48
  6. Dona Kay Rule, Minco, OK, $164,956.44
  7. Shelley Morgan, Eustace, TX, $151,706.37
  8. Margo Crowther, North Fort Myers, FL, $149,774.91
  9. Kassie Mowry, Dublin, TX, $142,659.40
  10. Stevi Hillman, Granbury, TX, $138,063.82
  11. Sissy Winn, Chapman Ranch, TX, $136,564.71
  12. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, TX, $133,641.21
  13. Leslie Smalygo, Skiatook, OK, $129,429.25
  14. Bayleigh Choate (R), Fort Worth, TX, $118,147.76
  15. Jessica Routier, Buffalo, SD, $108,988.20

Aggregate Standings on Seven Runs

Rank, Name, Aggregate Time

  1. Wenda Johnson, Pawhuska, Okla., 96.55 seconds on seven runs
  2. Shelley Morgan, Eustace, Texas, 96.65
  3. Sissy Winn, Chapman Ranch, Texas, 97.32
  4. Bayleigh Choate, Fort Worth, Texas, 97.86
  5. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 100.92
  6. Jordon Briggs, Tolar, Texas, 101.32
  7. Margo Crowther, North Fort Myers, Fla., 101.49
  8. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, Texas, 101.81
  9. Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas, 105.83
  10. Leslie Smalygo, Skiatook, Okla., 106.14
  11. Kassie Mowry, Dublin, Texas, 106.69
  12. Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D., 107.40
  13. Dona Kay Rule, Minco, Okla., 107.62
  14. Emily Beisel, Weatherford, Okla., 110.06
  15. Stevi Hillman, Granbury, Texas, 117.07

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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