RENO -- After drawing two bad horses last year in Reno, Tom McFarland wasn't a very happy bareback rider when he left Nevada. This year, he doesn't want to leave.
"Last year, I drew two horses that weren't worth two 'expletive.' The first one I drew this week was real good," McFarland said. "Tonight's horse wasn't as good but good enough to get me to the short round at the Reno Rodeo. That right there is saying something."
McFarland, who won the first go-round with an 88, moved to the top of the average after riding Grey Dog for a 71 on Thursday night at the Reno Livestock Events Center. His combined total of 159 puts him 11 points higher than Robert Bowers and Rick Bradley, who are both tied for second in the average. Bradley is the second go-round's current leader after riding Red Gold for a 77 on Thursday. But McFarland, who ranks second in the world standings, is the real story. Following a down year in 2002, he has sprung in the rankings and is just under $6,000 from the top spot in the world. The $3,882 check he received for riding Evening Shade for an 88 on Monday moved him over the $40,000 mark for the year.
"I actually have had a good year," said McFarland, who resides in Morristown, Ariz., about an hour northwest of Phoenix. "I've just drawn some good horses and that makes all the difference. If a guy doesn't draw good horses, he's got no chance. Now I got chance for another big check in the short round. There is so much money here. I can fly to the next rodeo."
In saddle bronc riding, Canadian Alan Bandy rode Pocahountas for an 83 to move into first place in the second go-round. Fellow Canadian Glenn O'Neill, who is the top-ranked rider in the world, sits in second place in the go-round with an 80. In barrel racing, none of the women have been able top Brandie Halls' time of 17.08 seconds. But Fernley's Cathy Cagliari had the best time on Wednesday night, finishing in 17.44.
Terry Don West received a high score of 91 on Wednesday night in bull riding. Blu Bryant of Robinson, Texas, didn't get quite that high last night. But he rode Silver Legacy for an 89, which moved into a two-way tie with Robey Condra in the first go-round standings.
"Yeah, I was happy with that," said Bryant, who is still recovering from torn cartilage in his chest area following a bad fall at a rodeo in Austin, Texas on March 25. "An 89 at the Reno Rodeo? I'll take that. God has blessed me to come back like this. Everything feels real good."
In today's rodeo performance, Carson's Tye Fitzpatrick and roping teammate Justin Martins will try for their second big check at the Reno Rodeo. Fitzpatrick and Martins won the first go-round in team roping with a time of 7.2 seconds following their performance on Sunday.
Elko's Paul Jones won't ride in bareback until Saturday. He scored an 80 in the first go-round and is still in good position to move into Sunday's short round with another solid ride this weekend. Jones won the short round at last year's Reno Rodeo, becoming the first Nevada bareback rider since Danny Brady in 1987 to win in Reno.