Winning Hand: Cheyenne Allan Rides RCA Royal Flush to 2022 NFR Open Championship

Columbia River Circuit cowgirl Cheyenne Allan cashed in at the inaugural million-dollar NFR Open powered by RAM, July 13-15, 2022.

Photographs by Lincoln Rogers

Columbia River Circuit cowgirl Cheyenne Allan cashed in at the inaugural million-dollar NFR Open powered by RAM, July 13-15, 2022.

In the same way that a diamond forms under extreme pressure, Columbia River Circuit cowgirl Cheyenne Allan saved her most brilliant performance for when all the chips were on the line at the million-dollar NFR Open powered by RAM, July 13-15, 2022, at Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Allan, of Mabton, Washington, represented the Columbia River Circuit alongside 12 other year-end circuit champions like herself and 13 circuit finals average champions, all of whom were chasing a piece of the $85,300-added in barrel racing, plus a stacked prize package.

Running in the shadow of majestic Pikes Peak to the delight of a capacity crowd, Allan and her equine partner RCA Royal Flush, “Three,” stopped the clock in 17.04 seconds in the sudden-death Gold Buckle Round to secure the national circuit championship, $16,378 in total earnings, a trophy saddle and more.  

Hitting the Owner, Breeder, Rider Trifecta

Allan, a back-to-back Pendleton Roundup Champion (2018, 2019) aboard home-raised and -trained full siblings, knows the type of horse she likes to ride and has found those desirable characters in Three.

“We raised him. He’s a 9-year-old Quarter Horse and his papered name is RCA Royal Flush, but we call him Three,” said Allan, adding that the unique name is derived from the sorrel gelding’s brand. “We shoulder brand all our horses. He was born in 2013 and the single number “3” indicates he was a favorite. We decided to keep him as a baby, and we just called him ‘Three’ and it’s just stuck with him. We raise a lot of horses; we raise horses and sell them.”

Allan and Three drew into the first set of NFR Open barrel racers, meaning they made their first run on Wednesday night and second run in the Saturday matinee. Then, by virtue of sitting third in the aggregate after two rounds, Allan was among the eight semifinalists to run again in the Saturday evening perf—then again in the final four round later in that same Saturday night perf.

Prepping for Pendleton Roundup’s iconic “green mile” came in handy for Allan, a former Pendleton champ, who knew Three had the stamina to take three runs in one day in Colorado Springs. Not only did he take it, but he also saved his best for last.

“You know, I keep my horses in really good condition and I’ve ran at Pendleton,” she said. “I condition them like I do there [for Pendleton] so when I do have to do something like this, they can do it. They’re prepared physically and mentally.”

When asked what her conditioning program entails, Allan says she makes a habit of building strength and stamina in her horses via lots of outside riding.

“I’ve taken him quite a few times to my trail for Pendleton, which is straight up the hills,” said Allan. “I trot up like six miles to a spring, then about the last 200 to 500 yards, I make him lope after they’re already tired. I build them up. Then I get up there and we play in the water and regroup, then we go back down.”

Three’s NFR Open runs built from slow to fast in similar fashion. In round one the team clocked in at 17.59 seconds, which was just out of the money on a night when the ground was tougher to navigate than it was for the remainder of the rodeo. In round two they finished third with a 17.30 for $3,071. Jordon Briggs and Famous Lil Jet, “Rollo” topped round two with a 17.00 and the fastest time of the rodeo, while second place honors went to Wilderness Circuit cowgirl Marcie Wilson riding the 2013 brown mare Our First Goodbye (The Goodbye Lane-Jessie James Agent, Jesse James Jr) to a 17.23. Allan banked another $3,071 with her total on two of 34.89, trailing Briggs at 34.63 on two and Shelley Morgan’s 34.65.

| READ The 2022 NFR Open National Championship Results

Going into the semis, Allan knew she needed to finish among the top four to make the all-important Gold Buckle Round. She did so handily clocking a 17.40 for third behind Briggs’ 17.21 and Morgan’s 17.22. Rounding out the top four was Prairie Circuit sensation Leslie Smalygo and JustaHeartBeatToFame, “Gus,” in a 17.52.

The 2021 WPRA World Champion Jordon Briggs and Rollo turn the first barrel on their way to winning the Semifinal of Saturday night’s Gold Buckle round in the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust NFR Open circuit championship rodeo. Briggs’ and Rollo’s 17.21-second time moved them ahead to the Gold Buckle Round where they eventually placed second behind Cheyenne Allan and Three.

Tenacity on the part of the 65-year-old veteran barrel racer came through for Allan, who says she planned to run her best race and let the chips fall.

“You know, it’s like anything. I think the old saying goes ‘those of a feather flock together,’ and when you get with tough girls—and they are tough—I mean tough, and I admire them, and they’ve done so well those girls. You know, you just let it all hang out and that’s all you can do,” said Allan.

Morgan went first in the run order surprising a few fans when she entered the alley aboard her backup Kinda Heavenly. Opting to forego making a third run on HR FameKissAndTell, “Kiss,” Morgan and “Phoebe” set the pace at 17.40 seconds. Allan and Three lit the leaderboard next with their 17.04, followed by Briggs, who had placed in every round but the first, cracking off a 17.17. Smalygo ran fourth in the order and finished fourth with her time of 17.43.  

Allan was ecstatic to celebrate the victory.

“I’m very thankful that it turned out the way it did. This horse, it’s his second year running,” she said. “Last year was his first and this year is his second year going to rodeos, so I don’t have him really seasoned. This was his biggest challenge I gave him, and he did really well. He’s getting more confident. I’m getting more confident with him.”

Not only does Allan say Three as still participating in the seasoning process, neither of them had ever been to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. Not only did she leave with the win, but also with a great first impression of the NFR Open, formerly the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“I have never been to this arena,” she said. “I’ve never been to this rodeo. I’m very impressed. It was run really professionally. I went to the Circuit Finals in Florida, and this is a big change, and much better. The crowd here was great. The committee was great. The food is great. They treated you great. I mean, it’s a win-win all the way around.”

Allan traveled north to Wyoming for Cheyenne Frontier Days barrel racing slack on Wednesday, July 20, where she finished 24th in the first round with a 17.77 to make the Progressive, which runs in the perfs. She said when interviewed at the NFR Open that she and her husband, Randy, planned to return home after Cheyenne for lucrative circuit rodeos in the Northwest.

“We were here and thought we’re so close to Cheyenne, we’ll go there and then we’ll go back up and work our circuit,” she said. “What I would really like to do is try to get into the winter rodeos.”

With $30,091 won in 18 rodeos, Allan should have plenty of options next winter, and even this year, should she decide to try and make the Top 15 during the last 60-plus days in the regular rodeo season. Allan is 36th in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Standings as of July 19, and sits $15,259 behind No. 15, which is currently Leslie Smalygo with $45,350.

The professional horse trainer and rancher proudly raises and trains all the horses she campaigns alongside her husband Randy under their Diamond Slash Quarter Horses brand.

“Everything that I’ve run the past few years, we’ve raised. There are some that I’ve started that we have sold. Everything usually, at this point in my career, my life, if I start ‘em, I don’t sell ‘em because I’m getting old,” she laughed. “I would like to thank my husband, Randy Allan, Diamond Slash Quarter Horses, Blake West Saddlery, Rocky Staples Bits and Spurs, Pendleton Hats, Euenio Mannucci, DVM, Josh Auman and Tony and Brenna Laughlin with Tight Joints Plus.”

The Top 4 Finalists Money Earnings: National Champion Cheyenne Allan , $16,378; Jordon Briggs, $23,202; Shelley Morgan, $19,107; Leslie Smalygo, $9,042.

Team Standings from the NFR Open powered by RAM
1. Texas $153,473; 2. Southeastern $106,247; 3. Wilderness $89,059; 4. California $76,415; 5. Columbia River $74,577; 6. Badlands $46,114; 7. Great Lakes $44,267; 8. Turquoise $34,154; 9. Prairie $34,039; 10. Mountain States $28,531; 11. Montana $15,155; 12. Maple Leaf $14,679; 13. First Frontier $7,066.