Two-time World Champion (2006-2007) and 15-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi raced to the fifth National Western Stock Show Rodeo barrel racing championship of her career riding Babe On The Chase, “Birdie,” owned by Teton Ridge Ranch. The National Western Stock Show Rodeo, which got underway January 13 in the Denver Coliseum was limited to 80 barrel racers, all of whom made two runs in hopes of being among the top 24 to advance to the Semifinals on January 22. In the Semifinals, eight runners in each of the three January 22 performances attempted to secure a top 4 finish in their set to advance to the sudden-death Finals on January 23.
The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association sanctioned rodeo featured $53,875 in added prize money, but to get a piece of the loot barrel racers had to conquer Denver’s unique offset pattern. Pozzi Tonozzi and Birdie embraced the challenge, getting stronger with each of the four runs demanded by the progressive format. When asked about her strategy for mastering a setup that confounds many, Pozzi Tonozzi says it’s a component of the barrel racing in Denver that barrel racers shouldn’t let intimidate them.
“For me, I just approach it like it’s the same pattern as we always run, I just line up to the third barrel and don’t worry about the crooked pattern. If you start in the middle of the alley though, it shoots you toward the second barrel, so for me I look at third,” she said.
Of winning the prestigious Denver barrel racing championship an incredible five times—in 2007 and 2008 with Sixth Vision (“Stitch”), and in 2010 and 2012 with Yeah Hes Firen (“Duke”)—Pozzi Tonozzi said, “I’ve always liked going to Denver. Denver is the perfect setup for Birdie,” she said. “Denver really suits Birdie with how the first barrel sits, she’s always been pretty consistent for me and with the format at Denver this year I think you had to have a consistent horse underneath you. I haven’t really hit a lot of barrels on her either, she’s just solid.”
Pozzi Tonozzi made it through the first two rounds with a total on two runs of 30.20 to advance as the second-fastest Semifinals qualifier. Birdie’s honest style and speed served Pozzi Tonozzi well when she needed to call on the mare for a winning run in the Semis to cinch a Finals berth.
“With that many runs it feels like a horse gets shorter every night,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “You feel like the third especially gets harder to get by, but we got it done.”
When asked if the adrenaline-charged atmosphere rattled Birdie, the veteran barrel racer says the mare took it all in stride.
“She’s just never really been bothered by crowds or commotion so that’s another thing that makes her a good one to run at Denver with so much going on,” said Pozzi Tonozzi. “I never really worry about the crowd or anything bothering Birdie, she’s all business when it comes to running barrels. She did well at Denver a couple years ago, I think that was when I first started running her in the steel nose combo (from Pozzi Tonozzi’s Professional’s Choice bit line).”
In their Semifinal heat Pozzi Tonozzi and Birdie stopped the clock in 15.22 seconds to finish third and earn $1,728. Leaving by far her best run for the fourth and final one, Pozzi Tonozzi laid down the second-fasted time of the entire rodeo with a 14.89, which topped the knife-fight of a Finals by nearly two-tenths of a second.
“I let her roll to first,” said Pozzi Tonozzi of how she managed to shave precious tenths on the night it counted the most. “I always kind of ease her to the first, but I knew I needed to go at it for the Finals. I was seventh out, so when they were making those runs ahead of me that were .0’s and .1’s I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something to make up some time here.’”
Pozzi Tonozzi’s determined attitude delivered the Finals win, which was worth $5,430. Her 15.05 in the rodeo’s second go-round split second with Leslie Smalygo for $2,224 each, and she ran a 15.15 in Round 1 to share second place with Kelly Bruner for $2,224. All totaled Pozzi Tonozzi and Birdie’s consistency earned them $11,606 in the tournament style rodeo—a format change from years past that has garnered mixed reviews—and catapulted her to No. 1 in the WPRA world standings with $19,171.
The NFR qualifying mare is by Chasin Firewater and out of the Streakin Six mare, Streakin Six Babe. Streakin Six Babe has produced three NFR horses for Pozzi Tonozzi—Ima Super Fly Guy, Babe On The Chase and Ima Famous Babe.
Bound for the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo after Denver, Pozzi Tonozzi said she planned on running Birdie with her futurity colt “Lefty,” registered Rock On Guys, as a back-up since Ima Famous Babe (“Katniss”) is enjoying some R&R following the NFR.
Pozzi Tonozzi thanked the following businesses for contributing to her success: Tanner Equine, Roper Apparel & Footwear, Teton Ridge USA, Purina Performance Horse, Conquer Equine, Professional’s Choice, Oxy-Gen Inc., Double J Saddlery, Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots, Manzanola Feeds, LLC., Team RenoVō, Randy Riedinger, Equilume and @summitwithbrittany.
National Western Stock Show Rodeo Results (unofficial, from PRCA.com)
Semifinal 1: 1. Emily Beisel, 15.18 seconds, $3,495; 2. Sarah Rose Waguespack, 15.20, $2,621; 3. Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, 15.22, $1,728; 4. Leslie Smalygo, 15.35, $874.
Semifinal 2: 1. Carly Taylor, 15.21 seconds, $3,495; 2. Stephanie Fryar, 15.33, $2,621; 3. Cassidy Champlin, 15.34, $1,748; 4. Emma Charleston, 15.37, $874.
Semifinal 3: 1. Illyssa Riley, 14.96 seconds, $3,495; 2. Shannon McReynolds, 15.07, $2,621; 3. Bradi Whiteside, 15.08, $1,748; 4. BryAnna Haluptzok, 15.17, $874.
Finals: 1. Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi, 14.89 seconds, $5,430; 2. (tie) Bradi Whiteside and Emma Charleston, 15.06, $4,026 each; 4. (tie) BryAnna Haluptzok and Cassidy Champlin, 15.12, $2,153 each; 6. Illyssa Riley, 15.15, $936.
Round 2 Results: 1. Sarah Rose Waguespack, 15.01 seconds, $2,831; 2. (tie) Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Leslie Smalygo, 15.05, $2,224 each; 4. Ilyssa Riley, 15.11, $1,753; 5. Cassidy Champlin, 15.13, $1,348; 6. Cheyenne Hattesen, 15.14, $1,078; 7. (tie) Shannon McReynolds and Michelle Darling, 15.18, $674 each; 9. Emma Charleston, 15.19, $404; 10. (tie) BryAnna Haluptzok and Ivy Saebens, 15.23, $135 each. Round 1 Results: 1. Shannon McReynolds, 14.72 seconds, $2,831; 2. (tie) Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Kelly Bruner, 15.15, $2,224 each; 4. (tie) Brittney Barnett and Ilyssa Riley, 15.16, $1,550 each; 6. BryAnna Haluptzok, 15.19, $1,078; 7. Steely Steiner, 15.22, $809; 8. Michelle Alley, 15.24, $539; 9. Cassidy Champlin, 15.29, $404; 10. (tie) Shelley Morgan and Jackie Ganter, 15.30, $135 each.