Monday Notebook, March 18: RodeoHouston Shakes Up the World Standings as Only It Can

The regular season’s only $2 million rodeo produced several new No. 1s, who are likely there to stay for awhile

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RodeoHouston shapes seasons like no other rodeo.

The $50,000 payday guaranteed for each of the champions is far and away the highest of the year in the PRCA. In fact, most Houston champions earn more than double what San Antonio champions do. And San Antone is the second highest paying rode of the Texas Swing.

All of this means that RodeoHouston winners are all but guaranteed NFR trips. Since the event became sanctioned by the PRCA again in 2019, it has produced 26 winners. Twenty-five have gone on to make the National Finals.

In 2023, none of those RodeoHouston winners finished worse than No. 8 in the final World Standings.

  • RodeoHouston provided a new No. 1 every event except tie-down roping. Only Shad Mayfield had built a big enough lead prior to RodeoHouston to hang on to the top spot in the PRCA World Standings. Every other winner from Sunday is now No. 1 in their respective events. Last year, tie-down roper Riley Webb and steer wrestler Dalton Massey held on to their No. 1 spots from the end of RodeoHouston all the way until the end of the regular season. Among the 2023 champs, Webb and bull rider Ky Hamilton ended up with Gold Buckles.
  • Leighton Berry won RodeoHouston for the second straight year, becoming the third bareback rider to ever do so. Only Kaycee Feild (2014-2016) and Royce Smith (1969 and 1970) have also won the prestigious rodeo multiple years in a row. Berry did it in style in 2024 with 91.5 points on The Calgary Stampede’s Agent Lynx which was the highest marked ride of any roughstock event over 19 days of competition inside NRG Stadium.
  • Tie-down ropers Ty Harris and Joel Braden Harris had to go to rope off to determine a champion. In what was undoubtedly a RodeoHouston first, brothers Ty and Joel Harris were 8.2 on consecutive runs to kickoff the Championship Shootout. And they did it riding the same horse. It was ultimately older brother Ty who won first with a 9.7 on his third calf of the day. They are both in the Top 5 in the World Standings with Ty coming in at No. 2 and Joel at No. 5.
  • Breakaway roper Jackie Crawford won nearly three times as much in RodeoHouston in 2024 as she did the entire year in 2018. The year Crawford won her 18th WPRA World Title (all-around) to move to second all time behind Wanda Bush, she also finished second in the breakaway roping. That year she made $18,886. In the third year Houston hosted a breakaway roping in 2024, Crawford, long one of the event’s most outspoken advocates, won $55,250 at a single rodeo. Although she says she is getting very close to retiring, we can presume Crawford will be in the mix for her first breakaway Gold Buckle since 2016 as she now sits No. 1 in the World by a healthy margin.
  • Saddle bronc rider Damian Brennan won his second Texas Swing Rodeo of 2024 with two 90+ Point Rides on Sunday. The Aussie has kept the momentum from a terrific NFR debut going into the 2024 season. He won Fort Worth with 91.5 points on All or Nothin and on Sunday in Houston, he rode Wild Cherry for 90 followed by Ed Bishop for 91 points. After making $129,000 for the entire 2023 regular season, Brennan has already made more than $106,000 this year and leads the World Standings by almost $40,000. He joined bareback rider Rocker Steiner as the only roughstock cowboys to win multiple Texas Swing Rodeos so far in 2024.
  • Barrel racer Leslie Smalygo made the fastest run of the entire rodeo to win the Championship Shootout in Houston. Smalygo was 14.35 to get the biggest win of her career. For context, Kassie Mowry had the second-fastest run of RodeoHouston at 14.43 and there were only three runs total of 14.50 or faster. Smalygo also made the fourth fastest run, 14.51, during Sunday’s Championship Round.
  • Team roper Buddy Hawkins won RodeoHouston after a dozen years without making the Championship Shootout. In his first year roping with J.C. Yeahquo, Hawkins not only made the Final Four in Houston for the first time, but cashed in the top prize by making a 4.8-second run in the Shootout. All four teams in Sunday’s Shootout were between 4.8 and 5.4 seconds. Hawkins has now won Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston in his career.
  • Steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge went from No. 42 to No. 1 in the World on Sunday. The power of RodeoHouston was on full display for 10-time NFR qualifier Dakota Eldridge. He began the rodeo outside the Top 50 and by the time Championship Sunday came around, he was up to No. 42. With an 8.1-second run in the Shootout (it’s not always pretty), he did enough to get by the rest of the field and cash in a $50,000 check that moved him up 41 spots in the World Standings. It is the second time Eldridge has won Houston but the first time in 2016, it did not count toward the World Standings.
  • Saddle bronc rider Lefty Holman took second for the second straight Texas Swing Rodeo. The California cowboy captioned an Instagram post recapping his time in Houston with “Ain’t nothing wrong with silver.” And he’s right. After finishing runner up in Houston and San Antone, Holman has banked $47,000 combined from those two rodeos. In the Short Rounds alone, he has made $27,500 of that $47,000 for 89 in Houston and 87 in San Antonio. Both times he rode Calgary’s Exotic Warrior. Holman is No. 3 in the PRCA World Standings.
  • Five of the RodeoHouston winners also won the 10-Man Championship Round on Sunday. You only need to finish in the Top 4 to move on, but Leighton Berry, Dakota Eldridge, Damian Brennan, Leslie Smalygo and Creek Young all swept Championship Sunday.
  • Bareback rider Dean Thompson won the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show (Texas) and Rodeo and Southeastern Livestock Expo (Alabama). Thompson is up to No. 6 in the PRCA World Standings after adding nearly $8,000 for two wins away from the Texas Swing.
  • World No. 2s Clint Summers/Jake Long took the Average lead at Rodeo Austin. The pair lost their No. 1 rankings to the RodeoHouston winners, but could be poised to take them right back. After a 4.1-second to take the lead in the First Round of Rodeo Austin, they were 4.4 to get to 8.5 seconds on two. If they go on to win the rodeo, they will likely make around $15,000.
  • Rodeo Austin’s roughstock leaders held up through the weekend. Summers/Long may have provided some timed event changes, but something that remains unchanged is the First Round roughstock leaderboard. Cole Franks’ 89-point ride on March 9, Damian Brennan’s 87.5-point ride on March 12 and JR Stratford’s 87-point ride on March 10 have not yet been touched. In Austin, roughstock cowboys are only guaranteed one out with the Top 24 getting another before the field is trimmed to 12 for the winner-take-all Short Round.