Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup: Preview, Format, and How to Watch

Sioux Falls Gov Cup 1280

It is time for the final weekend of the 2023 regular season which means all eyes will be on the Governor’s Cup! The $1.1 million dollar rodeo could completely change the NFR outlook for several athletes across all events. Here is your Preview, Format, and How to Watch.


It is a straightforward format for the Playoffs with the top eight in the PRCA Playoff Standings qualifying as well as the top four from the Cinch Playoffs in Puyallup automatically advancing making 12 athletes in each event.

Those 12 athletes will compete in two long rounds with the top eight advancing to the short round on September 30. In the short round, the slate is wiped clean. Those eight will then go head to head with the top four advancing to the Final Round where the champion will be crowned.

Preview and Storylines Heading Into the Governor’s Cup

Bareback Riding

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No. 1 Keenan Hayes, $246,895: Keenan Hayes has put together not only the best rookie season we have ever seen but the best Bareback Riding regular season we have ever seen. He will enter his first career NFR No. 1 in the PRCA World Standings and will have a chance to add to his nearly $100,000 lead in the standings at the Governor’s Cup.

No. 2 Kade Sonnier, $157,969: If not for Keenan, we would be talking a lot more about
the rookie season Kade Sonnier has put together. He enters the Governor’s Cup with more than $157,000 earned on the season and has a golden opportunity to close the gap between him and his fellow rookie. If he were able to win the cup and Hayes slips up, Keenan could make up as much as $45,000 in the World Standings.

No. 4 Clayton Biglow, $151,432: Biglow is the first veteran we take a look at as he is putting together another phenomenal season. The 2019 World Champion will almost certainly jump at least one spot if he cashes a check this weekend as the No. 3 Bareback Rider Leighton Berry did not qualify for the Governor’s Cup. Biglow is currently $6,000 behind Berry in the World Standings. Depending on how things shake out, No. 2 is a real possibility as well. All he needs to do is beat out Kade Sonnier by $6,000 this weekend and hold off our next Cowboy we will talk about.

No. 5 Tim O’Connell, $146,770: Tim O’Connell is heading to his tenth straight NFR and has a chance to set himself up for a run at his fourth Gold Buckle. He is currently $100,000 behind Keenan Hayes who holds the top spot. O’Connell can move up as high as No. 2 in the World Standings this weekend if things fall perfectly and he earns $10,000 more than Kade Sonnier.

No. 7 Orin Larsen, $137,486: Orin Larsen hasn’t missed an NFR since 2014, and that won’t change this season as he heads to the Governor’s Cup at No. 7 in the PRCA World Standings. If Larsen earns $6,000 this weekend he will jump No. 6 Rocker Steiner who failed to qualify for the rodeo.

No. 8 Jayco Roper, $127,967: Jayco Roper quietly put together the best season of his career in his fourth full season in the PRCA. Roper, just 22 years old will be heading to his first NFR and will likely be inside the top 10 when he does so after earning nearly $128,000 as we head to the Governor’s Cup. Roper is another candidate to jump No. 6 Rocker Steiner and will need to earn at least $16,000 to do so.

No. 9 Cole Reiner, $127,865: Cole Reiner has made the NFR each of the first three seasons of his career, with seventh place being his worst finish. This season he continued to hover right around that mark and will head to South Dakota No. 9 in the PRCA World Standings but has a great opportunity to move up. Reiner sits $102 behind Jayco Roper for the No. 8 spot in the world and $10,000 behind Orin Larsen for No. 7.

No. 10 Jess Pope, $126,047: The 2022 World Champion Jess Pope has some work to do if he wants to repeat in 2023, but a win at the Governor’s Cup will increase his chances greatly. Pope is $120,000 behind Keenan Hays at the top but does have a great chance to jump up in the standings if he beats the athletes ahead of him head-to-head.

No. 13 Dean Thompson, $114,451: Dean Thompson is yet another rookie to put together a great maiden voyage on the PRCA. Thompson enters the final weekend No. 13 but both No. 12 Tanner Aus and No. 11 Kaycee Feild failed to qualify for the cup so he will have an opportunity to jump both. Thompson is less than $1,000 behind Aus for 12th and is $5,000 behind Feild.

No. 14 Richmond Champion, $111,687: Richmond Champion is squarely on the bubble, but can lock in his spot at the NFR with any amount of money this weekend. Champion holds a $5,000 lead over Cole Franks and a $10,000 lead over Taylor Broussard who is on the outside looking in. Two athletes could play spoilers for Champion if they both get big paydays, however.

No. 17 Jacob Lees, $99,002: The first of two potential spoilers is No. 17 Jacob Lees who will need to earn a minimum of $7,000 to jump inside the top 15, but that number could grow depending on what Cole Franks does this weekend at the smaller rodeos happening around the country.

No. 19 Mason Clements, $94,176: Mason Clements is the second potential spoiler as he is currently $17,000 behind Champion who is No. 14, and $12,000 behind Franks at No. 15. For Champion to be bumped out, both Lees and Clements would have to jump him, resulting in him and Cole Franks being pushed out.

Steer Wrestling

No. 1 Dalton Massey, $185,874: Dalton Massey will enter the NFR No. 1 in the PRCA World Standings after a record-breaking season in Steer Wrestling. Massey currently holds a $40,000 lead over Tyler Waguespack, which leaves a sliver of a chance that Waguespack passes him entering the NFR if Massey fails to earn any money and Waguespack sweeps the Governor’s Cup, which would earn him $45,000.

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Photo by Steve Wrubel

No. 2 Tyler Waguespack, $146,647: The 2022 World Champion will enter the 2023 NFR in striking distance of first place regardless of what happens this weekend. There is an opportunity to significantly close the gap between Massey and him this weekend and it will be one of the head-to-heads to keep an eye on.

No. 3 Jesse Brown, $136,613: Brown enters the Governor’s Cup in third place in the PRCA World Standings and is just $10,000 behind Waguespack for second. Brown will head to his third straight NFR after finishing inside the top 6 the two previous years.

No. 4 Ty Erickson, $117,969: The No. 4 position in the world standings begins a log jam of nine athletes within $20,000 of each other. With that being said it is imperative that Erickson has a strong weekend to fend off those behind him who also qualified for the Governors Cup in that 5-12 ranking.

No. 5 Dakota Eldridge, $116,047: Dakota Eldridge is just under $2,000 behind Ty Erickson for the No. 4 spot in the PRCA World Standings, but like Erickson, there is only so much room he can climb the standings, but plenty of room to fall if he stubbs his toe this weekend.

No. 6 Will Lummus, $114,988: The ’21 and ’22 Reserve World Champion is in unfamiliar territory as he heads to his sixth NFR. Lummus has placed inside the top five four of the last five seasons, including those two No. 2 finishes. The good news for Lummus is he can make up some major ground on the competition this weekend with a win. Lummus is currently $70,000 out of first place, which is a magic number of sorts, as the average at the NFR pays around that amount.

No. 7 J.D. Struxness, $109,646: Struxness is off to his fifth career NFR and currently holds the spot he finished the 2022 season in at No. 7. Strux has a path to jump to No. 2 in the world if everything falls perfectly for him, but the more realistic scenario is that he cashes a couple of checks and jumps inside the top 5. If Struxness fails to visit the pay window he will certainly fall in the standings, but his spot at the NFR is locked in.

No. 9 Stephen Culling, $104,025: Culling is the first athlete to be guaranteed to jump an athlete in the standings with a payday. No. 8 Dirk Tavenner failed to qualify for the cup, so if Culling earns $1,000 more than Tavenner does this weekend (Tavenner may visit smaller rodeos over the coming days) then he will make the jump at least one spot heading into his first career NFR. Before this season Culling’s best finish was No. 21 in 2019.

No. 11 Cody Devers, $100,505: Devers is in a similar spot as Culling, with the No. 10 athlete in the world, Jacob Talley, currently holding a $1,000 lead over him, but he failed to qualify for the cup. If Devers earns over $5,000 he is likely to pass both Talley and Tavenner in the World Standings.

No. 15 Nick Guy, $83,761: This is where things get interesting in the Steer Wrestling. There are three athletes squarely on the bubble battling it out but with positions 12-14 not qualifying for the Cup, there is a route all three make it. Beginning with Nick Guy, who currently holds the hot seat. Guy is $1,000 behind both Bridger Anderson and Don Payne who hold the two spots ahead of him. If he is able to visit the pay window he will jump two spots and guarantee his spot at the NFR with just two athletes behind him.

No. 24 Tristan Martin, $61,613: Tristan Martin certainly has some work to do. His goal for the weekend needs to be to make more than No. 14 Bridger Anderson has on the season, which is currently $84,440. That leaves the margin for error thin, but there is a path for Martin. If he is able to make $25,000 he will put himself in a spot to sneak in the NFR at the last moment.

No. 33 Kyler Dick, $51,833: If Martin’s odds are long, Kyler Dick’s may be impossible to overcome. He is in the same spot, he needs to have more than Anderson, and likely Don Payne have on the season. Lucky for him, the two are separated by $200, so if Dick can get to $86,000 he will have a shot at making it. Dick will likely need a win to make the NFR.

Saddle Bronc Riding

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No. 1 Stetson Wright, $242,820: Stetson Wright enters the final week of the season in a familiar position. Wright leads the Saddle Bronc World Standings by $11,000 over Sage Newman. Wright won the Playoff Series by an impressive 400 points over Tanner Butner who finished second in Playoff points.

No. 2 Sage Newman, $231,263: A year ago, Sage Newman entered the NFR with a $60,000 lead over the field and was not able to hang on. This year he has a chance to enter No. 1 again, but will have a much smaller lead to work with. Newman will need to beat Stetson Wright’s earnings this weekend by $12,000 to jump him in the World Standings and enter in the No. 1 spot.

No. 3 Zeke Thurston, $219,363: Zeke Thurston is likely to find himself in the No. 3 spot heading into the NFR unless he wins this weekend or fails to earn a check. Thurston is $12,000 behind Sage Newman and $31,600 ahead of Kade Bruno who sits No. 4. If Thurston gets a big payday and both Newman and Wright slip up, there is an outside shot that he can jump both.

No. 4 Kade Bruno, $187,759: Kade Bruno will almost certainly be heading to the NFR at the No. 4 spot after this weekend. He is $31,600 behind Zeke Thurston for No. 3 and $37,000 ahead of Dawson Hay who is one spot behind him at No. 5. Bruno’s goal, which seems obvious is to beat Stetson Wright head-to-head to close the gap to the No. 1 spot.

No. 5 Dawson Hay, $150,918: While the order of the top four athletes may change, that group is pretty much locked in the first four positions. Beginning with Dawson Hay at No. 5, things get clogged up. The difference in earnings between Hay and Bruno is the same as the difference between Dawson and No. 18 Tanner Butner (who we will get to later).

No. 7 Wyatt Casper, $142,420: Wyatt Casper’s best-case scenario is jumping to No. 5 in the World Standings. Casper is fighting off several athletes who are close behind him in the world standings. If he gets a paycheck he will have a chance to jump No. 6 Ben Andersen who failed to qualify for the Governor’s Cup. Andersen is currently $7,000 ahead of Casper.

No. 9 Ryder Wright, $136,575: Ryder’s best-case scenario is the same as Wyatt Casper’s which is getting to the No. 5 spot. The only two athletes ahead of him who will not have a chance at big money is Layton Green and Ben Andersen, so if Ryder can get his earnings to $150,000 he is guaranteed to jump two Saddle Bronc Rider regardless of what others do. Green is just $300 ahead of Wright, so any check will move Green down a spot.

No. 12 Damian Brennan, $130,313: Being higher in the standings is almost always better, but as we stand today, Damian Brennan controls his own destiny, which is something Chase Brooks and Brody Cress can’t necessarily say. Neither No. 10 Cress or No. 11 Brooks qualified for the Cup and will likely be passed up by a few riders. Brennan needs just $5,000 to jump both.

No. 14 Ryder Sanford, $120,332: Ryder Sanford has put together a great rookie season and the only thing to make it better is an NFR qualification. Although he is No. 14 in the standings and squarely on the bubble, he controls his own destiny. If Sanford puts together a big weekend he could jump inside the top 10. Sanford is currently just $30,000 out of the top 5 as well. If Sanford earns more than $4,000 he will knock Lefty Holman down to No. 14 which could spell disaster for Lefty’s NFR hopes.

No. 16 Q Taylor, $116,069: The path to the NFR is quite simple for Q Taylor. He needs to jump Isaac Diaz who is $3,000 ahead of him and hold off both Tanner Butner and Sterling Crawley who are behind him in the World Standings. Diaz failed to qualify for the Cup so at minimum Taylor needs to surpass him, if he is unable to do that, his NFR dreams are over.

No. 18 Tanner Butner $114,053: Butner has a clear path to the NFR here as well. If Q Taylor fails to cash a check he needs to earn more than Diaz has on the season and he’s in. If Q Taylor jumps inside the top 15 he will need to beat out Q in season earnings as well. Q currently holds a $2,000 lead over Tanner. The best scenario for Butner is he earns $10,000 and jumps Lefty Holman as well. If that happens he is guaranteed to be in the NFR regardless of what Q Taylor and Ryder Sanford do.

No. 27 Sterling Crawley, $62,766: Crawley has been eliminated from the NFR as he can earn $45,000 at most this weekend.

Tie-Down Roping

No. 1 Riley Webb, $278,621: Riley Webb has won at every stage of his career and that hasn’t stopped in his sophomore season in the PRCA. Webb not only enters the NFR No. 1, but he will do so in record-breaking fashion. His current total of $278,621 is already a regular season record. Webb has a chance to increase his lead of $97,000 this weekend at the Governor’s Cup and if he comes away with the win he may be too hard for the field to catch come December.

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No. 2 Haven Meged, $191,753: Former World Champion Haven Meged would have broken the regular season earnings record if not for Riley Webb’s incredible season. Meged does have an opportunity to make things a lot more interesting come December if he is able to get a win this weekend in South Dakota. As it stands, he is $97,000 out of first place and $24,000 ahead of Shad Mayfield in third.

No. 3 Shad Mayfield, $167,853: Shad Mayfield has put together another great regular season as he heads to his fifth NFR in search of his second Gold Buckle. Mayfield has his work cut out for him as he is more than $100,000 behind Riley Webb in first place. Shane Hanchey is just $13,000 behind Shad which should make for an interesting head-to-head race to watch this weekend.

No. 4 Shane Hanchey: $154,877: Hanchey has been money when it matters all season. He is second in the PRCA Playoff Series and No. 4 in the PRCA World Standings. Hanchey started slow this year, but caught fire in the summer and never looked back. He has a shot to jump into the No. 3 position but needs to be careful because Ty Harris has a shot at jumping up to the No. 4 spot.

No. 5 Ty Harris, $139,681: Ty Harris sits $15,000 behind Shane Hanchey and $20,000 ahead of Cory Solomon in the World Standings heading into the Governor’s Cup. Harris is heading to his fifth NFR and has a chance at his best career finish. Harris’ previous best was No. 9 in both 2019 and 2020.

No. 6 Cory Solomon, $119,408: Cory Solomon and the No. 6 spot are where things get congested in the Tie-Down Roping standings. Solomon is just $9,000 ahead of the No. 15 spot and just $20,000 ahead of the No. 17 spot. Solomon is going to make the NFR, but the position he qualifies in is very much up in the air.

No. 7 Blane Cox, $118,334: Blane Cox is just $1,000 behind Solomon, but like Solomon, there is more room to fall versus climb in the World Standings. Cox is holding off some big names in Westyn Hughes and back-to-back World Champion Caleb Smidt in the two spots behind him, both of which will be in attendance competing.

No. 8 Westyn Hughes, $117,447: Westyn Hughes is looking to head back to the NFR after missing it by three spots last year. Hughes has a sixth-place finish in 2020 and a third-place finish in 2021 to his name and this season he is looking for another top-10 finish.

No. 9 Caleb Smidt, $117,133: If there is one man who can come out of seemingly nowhere to make the Gold Buckle Race it may be the two-time defending World Champion Caleb Smidt. Smidy will enter the NFR down more than $100,000 regardless of what happens this weekend, but nobody has been better in the Thomas and Mack, so no lead is safe.

No. 12 John Douch, $115,054: John Douch has a great opportunity to improve his place in the standings with the two ropers ahead of him not competing in South Dakota this weekend. Douch needs just $2,000 to jump both Brushton Minton and Beau Cooper.

No. 14 Kincade Henry, $111,735: Henry has nearly locked in his spot at the 2023 NFR and if he cashes any check this weekend he will guarantee his first NFR appearance. Henry only has one athlete outside the top 15 competing this weekend at the Governor’s Cup in Luke Potter. If Potter jumps Henry, Henry would fall to No. 15 and push Tuf Cooper outside the top 15.

No. 16 Luke Potter, $100,873: It is cut and dry for Luke Potter this weekend. He has to jump Tuf Cooper in the standings. Potter is $10,000 behind Cooper who will likely be competing at small rodeos throughout the weekend, but if Potter puts together around $12,000 it may be too much for Tuf to fend off.

Barrel Racing

No. 1 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, $249,563: It has been an incredible season for Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi. She currently holds an over $90,000 lead in the WPRA World Standings and heads into the final week of the season looking to further distance herself from the field. She has a great chance to do so with nobody else inside the top five competing at the Governor’s Cup.

No. 5 Taycie Matthews, $122,661: Matthews will have a great opportunity to jump up to third in the world with nobody between BPT and her competing in South Dakota. Matthews is currently just $12,000 behind Lisa Lockhart for the No. 3 spot.

No. 6 Jessica Routier, $116,437: Jessica Routier has a golden opportunity in front of her. If she were to win the max amount of $45,000 she would jump to No. 2 with only Barrel Racer between Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and her competing in South Dakota.

No. 7 Emily Beisel, $115,005: Emily Beisel heads to South Dakota in the No. 7 spot in the World Standings, but like those mentioned before, any decent check will move her up in the standings. Beisel is just $20,000 out of third place.

No. 8 Wenda Johnson, $111,700: Wenda Johnson is headed to another NFR after a great season in which she won over $100,000 thanks to a great end to the season. Her regular season presents one more opportunity to move up in the standings in South Dakota with her less than $12,000 away from the top five.

No. 10 Stevi Hillman, $109,031: A week ago it looked like Stevi Hillman would be fighting for her NFR life, but after a run in which she cashed several checks over $1,000 she finds herself No. 10 in the world and in a spot to climb all the way to the top five.

No. 12 Hailey Kinsel, $105,775: Hailey Kinsel has plenty of room to climb in the WPRA Standings. Kinsel is currently over $100,000 out of first place but has a chance to close that gap and enter the NFR within striking distance of BPT.

No. 13 Summer Kosel, $84,299: Summer Kosel is on the bubble heading to South Dakota and would love nothing more than to get an opening round win to free her up. Four Barrel Racers behind her in the standings are competing this weekend so her spot is not safe by any means.

No. 14 Sue Smith, $100,643: Sue Smith was inside the top 10 halfway through he month of September but now finds herself on the bubble as she enters the last weekend of the season. Smith will need to cash a check to guarantee her spot at the NFR, but there are four Barrel Racers behind her who are competing against her this weekend and hoping to jump her in the standings.

No. 15 Paige Jones $$100,412: Paige Jones is squarely on the bubble and will have to fend off Ashley Castleberry and Kelly Allen who are hot on her heels and within $5,000 of her No. 15 spot.

No. 17 Kelly Allen, $86,101: It is a tough road ahead for Allen to make the NFR this year. She has to beat Paige Jones in earnings by $14,000 this weekend for any hopes of competing in Las Vegas come December.

No. 19 Ashley Castleberry, $85,284: Castleberry has a tall task ahead of her. She needs to make up more than $16,000 to have a chance at the NFR. That number will grow each time Paige Jones cashes a check this weekend. Castleberry will also need to beat Kelly Allen head-to-head this weekend.

Bull Riding

No. 1 Stetson Wright, $328,629: Stetson Wright enters Bull Riding No. 1 in the World just as he does Saddle Bronc Riding. Wright has a much bigger lead in the PRCA World Standings in Bull Riding with a lead of nearly $80,000 over Ky Hamilton. Ground Money will likely come into play so Wright could see that lead cut in half if he struggles over the weekend, as unlikely as that may be.

No. 2 Ky Hamilton, $240,664: Ky Hamilton enters the final weekend in a comfortable spot. He is $11,000 ahead of Josh Frost in third place and has locked in another NFR appearance. The goal for Hamilton is to close as much ground as possible between Wright and himself without letting Wright’s lead grow.

Ky Hamilton _ 2021 NFR


No. 3 Josh Frost, $229,478: Josh Frost should have the same goal as Hamilton heading to South Dakota. Entering the NFR No. 2 would mean he had a great weekend and likely cut into the lead of Wright.

No. 4 Tristen Hutchings, $178,636: Hutchings put together a great regular season and can cap it off in a big way at the Governors Cup. He won’t be able to move up in the standings unless ground money comes into play in a big way, but he can close ground on the top three.

No. 5 Trey Holston, $178,544: Holston is less than $100 behind Hutchings in the World Standings and can only move to No. 4 in the standings without ground money. Holston and Hutchings will likely keep these two spots between the two of them as the next closest competitor who will be at the rodeo is T Parker who is $30,000 back.

No. 7 T Parker, $148,315: T Parker is headed to his first NFR after an incredible season, but his work is not done. Parker can jump Creek Young, who failed to qualify for the Governor’s Cup if he earns more than $8,000.

No. 8 Trey Kimzey, $145,659: Trey Kimzey has put together his second straight NFR season after finishing 2022 No. 7 in the standings. Kimzey has a chance to move up to No. 6 with a big weekend and can jump T Parker if he earns $3,000 more than Parker this weekend.

No. 9 Hayes Weight, $144,639: Weight is another Bull Rider within striking distance of No. 6 in the standings but will have to outduel Trey Kimzey and T Parker to do so. Weight has some cushion behind him with No. 13 Cody Teel the closest to him, who we will get to next.

No. 13 Cody Teel, $135,671: Cody Teel is in an enviable position with three Bull Riders ahead of him who will not be competing. If Teel earns $8,000 he will jump all three Bull Riders and lock in an NFR appearance.

No. 14 Jeff Askey, $134,918: Askey is living life on the bubble, but like Teel, he has a great opportunity to jump three athletes ahead of him by earning $9,000 this weekend. If he were to jump just one of those athletes he would guarantee an NFR appearance.

No. 17 Trey Benton, $107,478: Trey Benton knows exactly what he has to do this weekend. Whatever Cullen Telfer earns at the smaller rodeos he has to beat by $20,000. If he is able to do so he will jump to No. 15 and head to the NFR.

No. 24 Clayton Sellars, $77,167: Had Sellars been competing all season long he would be a surefire NFR qualifier, but because of injury he needs the chips to fall perfectly for him to advance on. Sellars will need to sweep the rodeo and hope a lot of ground money comes into play to have any shot at Las Vegas.

How To Watch

You can watch every performance LIVE on The Cowboy Channel and The Cowboy Channel+ App. For a full broadcast schedule click HERE.

Performance 1Thursday, Sept. 288:30 PM Eastern
Performance 2Friday, Sept. 298:30 PM Eastern
Performance 3Saturday, Sept. 308:30 PM Eastern