Tight Times: Round 1 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Cheat Sheet

10x Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racer, trainer and clinician Molly Powell, of Stephenville, Texas, breaks down Round 1 action at the 2021 NFR.

Photographs by Impulse Photography

10x Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racer, trainer and clinician Molly Powell, of Stephenville, Texas, breaks down Round 1 action at the 2021 NFR.

Having ridden a number of different horses down the alley at the Thomas & Mack Center arena — “Pecan,” “Quaker,” “Slider,” and “Sparky” to name a few — 10x NFR qualifier Molly Powell was kind enough to share her insights with Barrel Racing Magazine as we kick off what is arguably the most exciting 10 days of the year in our industry.

World Standings Leader Hailey Kinsel

Round 1: 13.78 seconds

Round Winnings: $16,111.10

Total NFR Earnings: $26,111.10

World Standings Earnings: $139,639.69

Average: 3

World Standings: 1

Powell’s take: This team is obviously so special. Hailey and Sister made a smart run being first out to test the ground. I expect them to get faster, and I think with their history of arena records, Sister can easily be 3 to 4 tenths faster. Sister is so fast, and she proves time and again that she can cut the clock off, so I can’t wait to see what they do this week.

No. 2 Jordon Briggs

Round 1: 13.89 seconds

Round Winnings: $6,966.96

Total NFR Earnings: $16,966.96

World Standings Earnings: $119,585.16

Average: 5

World Standings: 2

Powell’s take: I love Rollo’s style. He’s obviously perfectly trained and really impressed me with the way he clocked. Jordon is such a contender and the way her horse looks to me is that he’s not one to hit a barrel, which makes them such strong average contenders. The average is going to be so tough this year with such a stacked field, it’s going to be exciting to watch.

Jordon Briggs and Rollo were fifth in the round with a 13.89.

No. 3 Cheyenne Wimberley

Round 1: 13.77 seconds

Round Winnings: $24,166.64

Total NFR Earnings: $34,166.64

World Standings Earnings: $111,298.94

Average: 1-2

World Standings: 3

Powell’s take: Cheyenne was so aggressive and confident, which is what produces wins. I think Cheyenne’s experience really showed through in the first round, and coupled with that, her horse Rocco was ready to fire and win. It worked out perfectly to produce the round win for this team.

Cheyenne Wimberley and Robin Weaver’s Rocco were a 13.77 to tie for the top spot.

No. 4 Amanda Welsh

Round 1: 13.77 seconds

Round Winnings: $24,166.64

Total NFR Earnings: $34,166.64

World Standings Earnings: $111,086.12

Average: 1-2

World Standings: 4

Powell’s take: When I saw how Amanda and Firefly handled round one, I was more convinced than ever that this horse is a big contender. Firefly wants to really fire in the Thomas & Mack and Amanda has all the confidence in the world in him. After jumping out at their first NFR to share the win in the first round, I just can’t wait to see what they do this week.

Sharing the round win was Amanda Welsh and Firefly with their 13.77.

No. 5 Shelley Morgan

Round 1: 14.05 seconds

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000 (each contestant receives $10,000)

World Standings Earnings: $104,229.33

Average: 9

World Standings: 5

Powell’s take: Shelley and Kiss made a great run and I think they’ll pick up more time after a few more trips in the pen. Kiss looks to me like a fun, fun horse to ride to me. I look for this team to stay in contention; it’s hard to bet against any of them at this year’s NFR, this field is so impressive.

No. 6 Dona Kay Rule

Round 1: 13.72 plus 10 seconds

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $94,989.96

Average: 14

World Standings: 6

Powell’s take: You hate to see such a dominant team have penalties in the first round. A horse as fast as Valor with a rider as tough and determined as Dona Kay—I see them getting some round wins. The time of 13.72 that they would’ve been without the penalties is a testament to this team’s abilities.

No. 7 Emily Miller-Beisel

Round 1: 13.81

Round Winnings: $11,321.31

Total NFR Earnings: $21,321.31

World Standings Earnings: $94,794.45

Average: 4

World Standings: 7

Powell’s take: Chongo loves the Thomas & Mack and Emily is going to make a lot of money this week. In fact, I told my dad this team would be a smart pick for his fantasy team! This horse’s style is so unique, and Emily rides him perfectly.

Emily Miller-Beisel and Chongo were fourth in round one with a 13.81.

No. 8 Jessica Routier

Round 1: 14.48

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $88,847.28

Average: 12

World Standings: 8

Powell’s take: Jessica and Missy are four-time NFR qualifiers and were reserve world champs in 2018. They’re a force to reckon with in any setup so I look for them to shave some tenths off and stack up some earnings this week.

No. 9 Stevi Hillman

Round 1: 13.95

Round Winnings: $4,354.35

Total NFR Earnings: $14,354.35

World Standings Earnings: $85,532.84

Average: 6

World Standings: 6

Powell’s take: This is a fabulous young horse that’s just super talented and Stevi is such a proficient jockey on whatever she’s riding. I look for this team to be strong and continue to stop the clock.

Finishing six in the round was Stevi Hillman riding Lemon Drop to a 13.95.

No. 10 Nellie Miller

Round 1: 14.01 plus 5

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $85,519.15

Average: 13

World Standings: 10

Powell’s take: Sister worked great, she and Nellie just had some bad luck. You never want to count a former world champion out and Nellie knows Sister inside and out, so I look for them to come back strong tomorrow night.

No. 11 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi

Round 1: 13.96 seconds

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $83,785.70

Average: 7

World Standings: 11

Powell’s take: Brittany has such incredible timing and was really going for it—which is what Brittany does so well. Being one out of placing I look for her to adjust and do whatever she needs to do to get a check in the next round. What’s impressive is she has three horses here at the NFR out of her great mare Streakin Six Babe, which is just a testament to the strength of the breeding program she has worked to establish.

No. 12 Ivy Saebens

Round 1: 13.97 seconds

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $80,806.08

Average: 8

World Standings: 12

Powell’s take: I love to watch Ivy ride, especially in the Thomas & Mack. She is such a poised competitor and she and J-Lo have proven as former NFR average champions what a great team they are. I look forward to a big week from this team.

No. 13 Wenda Johnson

Round 1: 13.87 plus 10

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $77,384.56

Average: 15

World Standings: 13

Powell’s take: Wenda had some tough luck, and you hate to see that, but the First Moonflash geldings she rides are so fast. Wenda will master her timing and I wouldn’t count her out for some go-round wins.

No. 14 Lisa Lockhart

Round 1: 14.13

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $75,043.71

Average: 10

World Standings: 14

Powell’s take: Cutter had a bit of a slip at second, but as Lisa moves up on the ground, I look for her to capitalize on it. After 15 trips to the NFR, Lisa knows as well as anyone how to overcome a little tough luck. You can never count her out.

No. 15 Molly Otto

Round 1: 14.21

Round Winnings: 

Total NFR Earnings: $10,000

World Standings Earnings: $74,172.51

Average: 11

World Standings: 15

Powell’s take: What a great young horse that ran well for Molly in her first NFR appearance. Chewy is young and Molly is a first-time qualifier who made a great debut run, so I look for her to run sub-14’s as she moves up in the run order.