Rodeo prepares for 101st year
This is year No. 101 of the California Rodeo Salinas, or 90 years more than the Pro Bull Riders tour has been coming to town.
The PBR's Touring Pro Division — regarded as the minor leagues of the bull riding-only circuit — makes its 11th appearance in Salinas on Wednesday to make sure the rodeo gets off to a wild bucking and bouncing start.
The four-day California Rodeo Salinas — that includes not only bull riders but saddle bronc and bareback riders as well as team roping, calf roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing — takes over the Salinas Sports Complex on Thursday.
The first of 40 bull riders is expected to come flailing out of the Salinas Sports Complex chutes at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Even though many of the Touring Pro Division riders are trying to work their way up to the more lucrative Built Ford Tough Series — the major leagues of bull riding — several of those competing here Wednesday have already secured spots in the BFTS to go along with world-class credentials.
One such rider is Australian Brendon Clark, who now lives in Hollister and has become something of a regular at the Salinas PBR event.
Clark, 30, a 12-year veteran, was the hottest bull rider on the planet when he arrived in Salinas last year. He had won a record four straight PBR events and was trying for a fifth. His streak ended when he was tossed off his bull about halfway through his required eight-second ride.
Clark, who has a PBR event named after him in Australia -- he won it earlier this month -- is a seven-time World Finals qualifier who will have another milestone moment in Salinas this week. He'll make his first bull ride as a married man.
Clark was married Saturday and is expected to have a large group of fans in the stands Wednesday night.
Clark won't be the only Aussie in the field. Also here is Ned Cross, the 2008 AustralianNational champion.
Only one of the previous 10 riders to win at Salinas is back this year. Mike Lee, the first to win both the BFTS World Finals and the BFTS Million Dollar World Championship in the same year (2004), won here in 2006 with a score of 181.5 ì the second highest by any Salinas winner.
Lee was also the 2004 world champion and the 2008 Calgary Stampede winner. His career earnings are close to $3 million.
The only local rider here is Josh Daries, 22, of Prunedale and a graduate of North Monterey County High School.
Also scheduled to ride in Salinas is Kasey Hayes, 25, one of the few who won in his BFTS debut (2006). He has since won at least once in each of his first three years on the tour and qualified for the World Finals in 2007 and 2008.
Another up-and-comer in the field is Harve Stewart, 23. He won the Texas High School Rodeo Association Finals and was taught to ride by the legendary Ty Murray.
Pistol Robinson is another newcomer who was runner-up for the PBR Rookie of the Year in 2010 by recording six Top 10 finishes.
Tony Mendes has been here before and he's back again. He's probably worth watching before and after his ride. The 33-year-old has earned the nickname "Wild Man'' for his high-energy personality that has him cheering on riders from the chutes when he's not riding himself.
Three of the top 10 Touring Pro Division riders will also be part of Wednesday's action. Jared Farley ranks No. 3, Rocky McDonald No. 7 and Justin Koon No. 9.
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