Zeke Thurston is first and foremost a winner.
And he proved it again at the 61st edition of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
In the final go-round, the Big Valley saddle bronc rider posted an 88.5 score on C5 Rodeo’s Kitty Whistle to split 3/4/5 in the round to add $11,141 to his round earnings. And Thurston added a fourth-place average payout of $31,431 to give him total WNFR earnings of $170,064.
His overall season total of $347,055 reflected his domination as his margin of victory over second-place man Brody Cress was $61,000.
“I don’t know if I have words for how I feel right now. I wanted this one even more than I wanted that first one,” the 24-year-old second-generation bronc rider admitted. “I’ve had more fun this year than I ever have. This is awesome, just awesome.”
To say that Zeke Thurston has already fashioned a storybook career is to understate the situation dramatically.
In 2008, he was the Canadian Steer Riding Champion and followed that up with a Novice Saddle Bronc title in 2013.
Then there were two Contract Act of the Year honours while a member of The Thurston Gang.
He was the World Champion Bronc Rider in 2016, Canadian Champion in 2019, collected three Calgary Stampede $100,000 cheques and wins at virtually every important rodeo on either side of the 49th parallel.
And now the biggest prize of all—the coveted gold buckle emblematic of a World title for the second time.
Thurston’s double win—Canadian and World titles in the same year—mark the first time that has happened since Taos Muncy accomplished that feat in 2011.
It was also a very good week for Thurston’s travelling partners—the other two Canadians in the saddle bronc riding: Jake Watson and Dawson Hay.
Watson, the Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia bronc rider was second in the final round with an 89.5 point ride on Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics Marquee for $20,730.
He finished sixth in the average, won over $127,000 during the ten days of the Finals and checked in at $236,406 for the year, good for sixth overall.
WNFR rookie Dawson Hay completed the Canadian trio’s spectacular week as he was part of that 3/4/5 final round split with Thurston and Ryder Wright, and added an eighth-place average cheque of $6346 for an NFR total of $97,435 and season earnings of $197,747 good for seventh place.
The third of the Canadian bareback riders, Cadogan cowboy Clint Laye was out of the money in round ten but rode all ten of his horses and finished sixth in the average for $16,500 to take home almost $79,000 at his second WNFR and a season total of $170,415.
2016 Canadian Champion, Jordan Hansen enjoyed his finest hour at this Finals as he topped the field in round 10 with an 88.5 point go-round win on Four Star Rodeo’s Hell Hound.
The $26,230 payday, along with an eighth-place average cheque of $6346, gave the Ponoka, Alberta bull rider an NFR total of $100,044 and a season total of $214.792.
Two time and reigning Canadian Champion Scott Guenthner pocketed $46,102 for his 2019 WNFR efforts for a 12th place $148,853 finish overall.
By the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association