Despite worldwide health concerns canceling a number of high paying rodeos, fortunately the biggest of all concluded before the scare.
It’s what has become the most renowned much anticipated rodeo for cowboys and cowgirls: RFD-TV’s The American.
That world’s richest weekend in Western sports was at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, March 7–8.
Talented athletes compete in qualifying events all year for a chance to rope and ride in this annual rodeo event. More than $2.35 million are paid out through a series of qualifiers, semi-finals, and The American.
Competition pits top Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) contestants against underdogs battling for the biggest single paycheck of their lives.
Top contestants in the world receive invitations and a handful of exemptions are offered to the brightest stars in the sport. Additionally hopeful contestants can pay an entry fee to compete at “qualifiers” throughout the year.
Nearly 4,000 entries competed at 70 qualifying events to make the semi-finals. There 700 athletes battled for 38 byes to The American with a million dollar side pot.
Rodeo companies from across the country brought their best animal athletes to test bareback, saddle bronc and bull riders.
Biggest paychecks went to Wyatt Casper and Shad Mayfield winners of saddle bronc riding and tie-down roping respectively.
Every event winner took home $100,000 with $50,000 counting toward the PRCA world standings.
Casper, 23, and Mayfield, 19, also split a $1 million bonus, paid out to qualifiers who won their event.
Both men entered the Shoot-Out round at The American in their respective events with the best two-head averages. They also both entered as the top cowboys in their respective events in the world standings.
Score of 91.25-points on Northcott Macza’s Get Smart in the Shoot-Out won Casper’s title while Mayfield’s winning run was 7.75-seconds.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had more than $20,000 in my account at one time, $600,000 is going to be life-changing,” he said. “I don’t have the slightest clue what to do with it.”
The $50,000 toward the standings all but guaranteed the two will be at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) this year in Las Vegas.
Casper entered the weekend with $66,645 in earnings, more than $20,000 ahead of his closest competitor. Last season, it took $90,811 to qualify for the NFR, and Casper already has $119,645.
“I rodeo for a living,” he said. “I’m not satisfied until I can’t ride any more. I’m going to try and take advantage of every rodeo I can.”
Mayfield has been one of the hottest cowboys on the rodeo trail. The 19-year-old entered The American with $77,701, which was more money in the world standings than any other event competitor. With $127,701 now, he’s surpassed his total from 2019 including the NFR.
Mayfield attributes this season’s success to last season’s NFR struggles.
“When I got home from the finals, the next day I went right back to the practice pen,” Mayfield said. “I was pretty mad over the finals. Having all the people look up to you getting there and not doing very well.”
History repeated itself for bareback rider Kaycee Field at The American. For the second time in three years, Feild rode C5 Rodeo’s Virgil to victory.
Feild’s win came with a rodeo-record ride of 93-points aboard Virgil in the four-man Shoot-Out. A four-time PRCA world champion (2011-14), Field earned $433,333 when he won The American in 2018 with a 90.75-points ride on Virgil in the Shoot-Out.
Field edged reigning PRCA world champion Clayton Biglow, who had a 91.75-points ride in the Shoot-Out. Feild advanced from the eight-man semifinals with 174.50 points on two head.
Not even in the top 50 in the world before The American, Field rocketed up in the standings.
Son of the late Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Lewis Feild, the younger champion is thrilled about the present state of his sport
“Rodeo just used to be kind of a hobby for the tough rancher, the tough farmer,” Feild said. “See if you can ride that horse and go win some money on the weekend; that might be pretty good. Now, it is a career path, and the sport is getting better.
“The past three years in the sport of rodeo have been better than my whole career,” Field added. “It is only getting better and better, and there are more opportunities.”
Other winners at The American were steer wrestler Matt Reeves (4.05 seconds); team ropers Luke Brown and Joseph Harrison (4.30 seconds); breakaway roper Kaycee Hollingback (2.17 seconds); barrel racer Stevi Hillman (15.405 seconds); and co-champion bull riders Sage Kimzey and Joao Ricardo Vieira. There were no qualified rides by bull riders in the four-man Shoot-Out.