RENO -- The last time Elko cowboy Paul Jones rode this well, he ended up winning the short round at last year's Reno Rodeo. The win catapulted him into the top 20 in the world standings and the thoughts of riding in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas started swirling in his head.
Then, just a month removed from his win in Reno, Jones split his knee open after a bad ride at rodeo in Oregon. The injury stopped him from riding for almost a month and his name disappeared from the world rankings, as did his NFR hopes.
"I thought it was going to start a good year for me," Jones said of his Reno performance. "But things started to not go so good for me. I was probably ranked No. 16 or 17 when I got hurt. Then I was out."
Jones is back this week in Reno and is hoping to again use the prestigious rodeo as a springboard into the world rankings. This time, though, he'd like to stay ranked a little longer. He took the first step toward that goal on Tuesday night.
Jones rode Smokeless Spring Fling for an 80 during the bareback competition at the Reno Livestock Events Center. It wasn't a good enough score to overtake current first go-round leader Tom McFarland, who still has the high score with an 88. But it's a decent enough score that Jones, with another solid ride in the second go-round, could find himself back in the short round on Sunday riding for another big check.
"I was real happy to get that horse," Jones said of Smokeless Spring Fling. "It's been voted best horse in the world a couple of different times."
Jones barely hung on the world champion horse for the required eight seconds, which would've ended his potential glory at the 84th annual Reno Rodeo. But on careful review, the judges declared he had made the whistle before being tossed to the ground.
"I was looking at the screen to see how the ride went but also if I made the whistle," said Jones, who's currently not ranked among the top 50 in the world standings. "I didn't think I made it but you never know. Everything was going fine and then I was on the ground. I didn't know what happened. I've started out kind of slow this year. I've drawn good horses, I just haven't been able to ride them."
Jones was one of five Nevada cowboys in action Tuesday night. In saddle bronc riding, Battle Mountain's Matt Marvel, who is ranked No. 10 in the world, only received a 65 for his ride. Carlin's Ira Slagowski, who is ranked No. 11, didn't receive a score for his ride and Fallon's Ryan Carey, who placed high in the first go round last year in Reno, rode Dippin' Miss Kitty for a 60. It was the lowest score of the night.
In bull riding, Tonopah's Kenny Drayton was thrown off Pioneer Bank in only a few seconds. None of the 12 bull riders on Tuesday received a score. The only event that now has a new first go-round leader following Tuesday's performance is team roping. Jake Barnes of Cave Creek, Ariz., and Boogie Ray of Mabank, Texas, became the new leaders after earning a time of 6.3 seconds.