“Kassie Should Never be Underestimated,” and Other NFR Round 1 Insights with Danyelle Campbell

Danyelle Campbell shares her notes on the barrel racers and horses that ran at the Thomas & Mack during Round 1 of the National Finals Rodeo.
Kassie Mowry and CP He Will be Epic NFR barrel racing
Kassie Mowry and CP He Will be Epic in the first round of the 2022 NFR. Ric Andersen/CBARC Photography.

Some fans were surprised that Kassie Mowry pulled off a second-place finish with a smoking 13.65-second run in Round 1 of the 2022 NFR. Her friend, three-time NFR qualifier and million-dollar trainer, Danyelle Campbell, was not. 

Kassie Mowry & Will — 13.65

“Kassie should never be underestimated,” Campbell said. “Will is a winner and he trusts Kassie so even though he hasn’t had much experience in this situation, don’t underestimate them. Ever. I figured he might be timid the first round, but I knew he would be a big contender over 10 days.” 

“Will” is CP He Will Be Epic, a 2015 grey gelding by Epic Leader and out of Percilla by Dash Ta Fame. Will was a standout futurity and derby horse for Mowry, and made it to a handful of rodeos before rolling through the Thomas & Mack on Night 1. Mowry was aboard the greener horse after her main rodeo mount, Famous Ladies Man, “Emmitt,” sustained an injury before the Finals.

Will showed off in the first barrel racing practice held two days before Round 1, easily maneuvering his 17-hand self around the arena like a veteran. Still, Mowry doubted their readiness. 

“Kassie sent me her video from practice and told me she didn’t know if he was explosive enough,” Campbell said, laughing. “I told her, ‘Smooth is fast and he looked incredible.’” 

Campbell’s intuition was spot on during the first night.

Dona Kay Rule & Valor — 13.91

“Wenda was no surprise,” Campbell said. “She was actually my pick for the first round—her or Dona Kay [Rule.] Dona Kay’s horse came in tight and popped her up going into first, but she made a great recovery.” 

That recovery earned Rule and former WPRA Horse of the Year High Valor, or “Valor,” a sixth-place finish for the night. 

Jordon Briggs & Rollo — 13.7

The No. 3 check in Round 1 went to reigning World Champion, Jordon Briggs. It came as little surprise to spectators. 

“Jordon did what was expected of her and Rollo,” Campbell said.

Leslie Smalygo & Gus — 13.8

Campbell was the most wowed by Leslie Smalygo’s JustAHeartBeatToFame. “Gus.” 

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“Leslie’s horse was wow,” Campbell said. “I expect good things from them all week.”

Gus is known for his unique style, and Campbell noted that it may have been deceiving on television, but the in-person view was impressive.

“It was awesome,” Campbell said. “Drag ass, and the wrap—I’d never seen him run before.” 

Emily Beisel & Chongo — 13.82

 Fifth place went to a cowgirl who won the first go-round of her very first NFR in 2019, Emily Beisel.

“Emily Beisel looked great,” Campbell said. “A little hang up and head shake at the third, but I think we all know what they are capable of. Chongo looks smooth and honest. I did expect it to be faster, but it was a great first run.” 

Hailey Kinsel & Sister — 13.89

A shock occurred when three-time World Champion and arena record holder Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday had tough luck. 

“I assumed Hailey was going to play it a tiny bit safe to be clean and it got her in trouble,” Campbell said. “She knows she needs to win rounds now, so maybe that tipped barrel was a blessing in disguise, because she’s on a quest for another world title.” 

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In her remaining notes, Campbell looks for Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and RC Back in Black, “Pickles,” to figure things out soon. The same goes for Sissy Winn. Campebell noted that although she missed her first barrel aboard ChewinTheHotWire, “Chewy” and her sorrel gelding, A R Dash Ta Flame, “Scoop,”—whom Campbell trained and started—are capable of success inside the little yellow walls.

She’s a big fan of Lisa Lockhart’s Teton-Ridge-owned Promise Me Fame Guys, “Levee,” and looks for Lockhart to stay in character and stay consistent. Routier and Missy were nearly too honest, and Campbell noted that they will need to tighten up to get in the money. 

Look back on round 1 results and listen to round-winner Wenda Johnson’s full interview here.