The third annual The American rodeo culminated inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to witness another historic day in rodeo. Champions were crowned, $2 million was paid out, one cowboy from Iowa became a Triple Crown winner and a millionaire all in one day, and a new queen of AT&T took the stage as the newest barrel racing champion.
McDonald of Brunswick, Georgia was a pro rodeo invitee in the barrel racing, having finished the year in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association as the third ranked barrel racer in the world. She, along with nine other ladies, was invited to rodeo’s richest one day event to go against the “underdogs” of barrel racing. Ten invited ladies pitted against ten qualifying barrel racers the long round was boiled down to the top four barrel racers for a clean slate, shoot-out round to determine The American champion.
In the long round of The American, reigning champion, Lisa Lockhart aboard An Oakie With Cash had AT&T Stadium on their feet as the duo took the lead as the last team out in the round with a 14.552. Following in a tight second place was Jackie Ganter riding Cartels Fame with a 14.571. Third place was none other than eventual champion, Sarah Rose McDonald and her beautiful bay roan mare, Fame Fling N Bling with a 14.594. The last lady to qualify back to the shoot-out round was WPRA World Champion, Callie duPerier aboard Dash Ta Diamonds with a 14.664.
“The first run I knew we had to be fast so just kind of went for it,” McDonald said. “She just felt like she was really finding the placement of her feet and running hard and so I knew coming back she would run harder, because that’s how she is especially in big crowds.”
The shoot-out round was run slowest to fastest of the qualifying times. duPerier had a little tough luck when she hit the second barrel to turn her would have been 14.312 to a 19.312. Next out was McDonald and “Bling,” who smoked the pattern with a 14.470 making the crowd erupt with applause. Ganter turned in a solid 14.851, however couldn’t move McDonald from her lead. Last out was the dream team of Lockhart and “Louie” – the last chance to take away McDonald’s lead and if they had succeeded would have been eligible for the $1 million bonus as a Triple Crown contender, along with saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell. Lockhart and Louie came into the arena in stellar fashion, however their 14.648 was not enough to bump McDonald and Bling from the lead.
“In places like this I just try to get in the zone with my horse and pay attention to what she’s doing and just think ‘You know this is a big deal,’” McDonald said. “I’m not one of those people that tries to be like ‘this isn’t a big deal’ to calm myself down. I try to say ‘this is a big deal I have to show up and ride my horse if not we’re going to lose.’ So I knew I had to go in there and ride hard and she was going to run hard and just hope that it would come together.
“It was one of those runs that you’re going through the movements and it seems slow, but you look up and you’re back in the alleyway,” McDonald continued. “It’s just one of those kind of awesome runs you wish you could play over and over again.”
McDonald said this winter hasn’t been an easy one for the partners, between health issues with Bling and dry spells of competition, having a clear bill of health for her mare and taking home a prestigious win in Arlington was even more special.
“This is just a really big boost of confidence now that my horse is back healthy,” she said. “Last year we had a great winter it was like we basically couldn’t lose, but that’s rodeo it’s humbling and you have to go back to the drawing board and practice and I did. After she was cleared I went and tuned her on the first barrel, tried to get our timing back; a lot of slow working and a lot of practice loping through and going back to the basics. It was a big event to test it all out, but it worked out very well and I’m just super happy she’s back running good.”
Had Lockhart won the barrel racing championship for a third year in a row she would have shared in the $1 million alongside Sundell who won his event for the third year in a row making history as The American’s first Triple Crown winner and the second individual to have won the entire $1 million side pot. Lockhart did however, pick up a $25,000 paycheck for the second place finish.
McDonald ended by saying this about her win: “I’m just so excited! Some of my family is here and this much money in one day that’s just amazing. I’m just thankful to even qualify for this and to be able to run for this is just amazing.”