July 8, 2011
Fred Whitfield defends his match-roping showdown and wins $10,000 at the 2011 Battle in the Saddle.
By Larri Jo Starkey
Eight-time pro rodeo champion Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas, had two thoughts in his mind when he drove into State Fair Park in Oklahoma City for Battle in the Saddle, presented by RFD-TV.
The first was that it would be really nice to qualify Scottish Solono for the AQHA World Championship Show in tie-down roping. The second was that it would be nice to win $10,000 in a match roping against Ryan Jarrett of Summerville, Georgia.
Fred knew that consistency would be the key to winning.
“In a match roping, you try to rope your best and minimize the mistakes,” Fred said before the evening’s contest. “I’m riding a horse that we showed here at the World Show last year, belongs to Joni Gabriel, Scottish Solono. I qualified him for the (senior tie-down) finals this afternoon.”
On July 8, before a large crowd in the Jim Norick Arena, Fred and Ryan roped 10 head of cattle in alternating sets of five. Fred was behind after the first set, but by the time he tied his last calf, he pumped his fists in the air as he finished.
“I pulled it off,” he said. “I thought the second set of calves, the ones Ryan ran the first time, were a little better than the ones I had. I just tried to get a little closer to the barrier, gain a little on the ground, and it paid off. I was able to tie them all in 8 and a couple in 9 and hang on to win.”
Though Fred had a backup horse ready, he stuck with Scottish Solono, aka “Stick,” through the whole match.
“He was just phenomenal,” Fred said. “We had a chance to win the (World Show) on that horse last year and I messed up. (Tonight), he just stayed consistent the whole time, and that’s what you look for in a horse – one that doesn’t impede your progress, just stays out of your way and lets you do your job.”
Ryan also had a nice horse, one he borrowed from Ronnie Austin of Ringling, Oklahoma. CNN Smart Gunner is a three-time Select world champion in tie-down roping with Ronnie, and he was third in amateur roping at the 2010 World Show.
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“This spring, I rode him at some circuit rodeos,” Ryan said. “I won fourth on him at Fort Worth, and then came him to the (National Circuit Finals Rodeo) in Oklahoma City and made it back and won $9,400.
“He’s big, strong, and he can run. I’m going to ride him at Cheyenne (Frontier Days), too, two weeks from now and see how that goes.”
The final times on 10 head were 104.07 seconds for Ryan and 100.19 seconds for Fred, who said he’ll most likely be back for the next one.
“I’m going to be 44 this summer, and these kids aren’t getting any older like I am,” Fred said. “They’re just coming on. We’ll see who they match me up against. I’m sure I’ll be back next year.”
For more photos from the ranch remuda contest as well as the exciting mounted shooting and barrel racing from Battle in the Saddle, watch the Journal slide show below. To view the captions, click on the photos.
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