Step Aside, Kids. Sue Smith is Back in Action on the ProRodeo Trail.

Sue Smith has gone on a rampage on the ProRodeo trail, dominating aboard Dashs Centerfold in her most exciting season since 2009.
Sue Smith barrel racing
Sue Smith got the win in Nampa, Idaho. Hailey Rae Photography.

Sue Smith of Blackfoot, Idaho, has made two trips in the barrel racing to the NFR—most recently in 2009—and she’s back in 2023 making money moves on Dashs Centerfold on the ProRodeo trail.

The Wilderness Circuit cowgirl took advantage of some of her biggest circuit rodeos of the year in a big way. Smith and her 2011 mare, Dash Centerfold, known as “Centerfold,” went 15.59 seconds to capture the first round victory at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, worth $5,725.31. They returned in the short round and turned in a smoking 15.42, worth $2,544.58. The closest ladies in contention were Lisa Lockhart and Sara Winkelman, who split second and third holes with their 15.96-second runs. Smith also earned the aggregate win by .6, worth an additional $5,832.66. Overall, the Blackfoot, Idaho, native banked $14,102.55 in her home state.

“Nampa is a tougher pen because it’s very straight to the first barrel,” Smith said. “A lot of people have trouble with it, including me in the past. If I have a tendency to train one way, I train a straighter first barrel—it helps keep their shoulder up—so I was focusing on trusting my training, riding hard all the way through the run and getting past those barrels. They’re kind of right on the fence.”

Smith executed a nearly flawless pattern, and although she couldn’t hear a time, she was confident it was a great run in the long round.

“I’ve done this for a long time,” Smith, 68, said. “I’ve had very few runs that I didn’t feel any bobbles, mistakes or have anything I felt I needed to change. When I finally heard the time I was like ‘Oh my gosh, it really was that great!'”

Down the road in at the Ogden Pioneer Days in Ogden, Utah, Smith had another chance to show out on the standard pattern. On the final day of the rodeo, Smith and Centerfold went 16.89 to earn the win by nearly .3 over fellow top 15 cowgirl, Kelly Allen. The win earned Smith $10,494.16.

“A girl on a greener horse fell down right before I ran, just pancaked,” Smith said. “I decided to try it. I focused on staying aggressive and getting (Centerfold) up in the hole at every turn. I could feel it was a decent run, but had no idea it would be as fast as it was.”

Dashs Centerfold pedigree

Meant to be

Ogden played a key part of Centerfold’s story from the very beginning with Smith, which makes it seem only fitting as the gritty mare completed the full-circle moment with her win.

“I had these friends that I’ve known for years, they chariot race,” Smith said. “Bob Pence is a jockey. His brother messaged me one day and said I just needed to look at this filly Bob had. They thought she’d make a barrel horse. I didn’t need another horse, but Bob said he wanted me to have her. He didn’t even want me to pay for her unless I loved her, because he knew he could race her.

“Sometimes I get into trainer mode, but I have to remind myself to be as gritty as (Centerfold) is when I’m making a run—that usually works out better for me. The only times she gets in trouble is when she’s trying too hard, she’s just so tough. She runs with her ears pinned the whole time, so do her babies.”

Sue Smith

One night, I was coming back from the Wilderness Circuit Finals. I stopped in Ogden and picked up Centerfold at about 10:30 that night and wrote the check. They just knew that mare was meant to be a barrel horse, it was all part of God’s plan. That friendship means so much to me, having people who believe in you like they have always believed in me is so important. It really sets you up for success.”

In the years after, Centerfold earned WPRA top futurity horse owners during her 4-year-old season. In the years since, she has amassed $346,906 in lifetime earnings, according to QData calculations.

Smith wasn’t planning on burning up the ProRodeo trail in 2023. After Centerfold suffered an injury over a year ago, Smith had to fight to get the mare back into the arena. Thanks to a top team of veterinarians, including pros at Utah’s South Valley Equine, and Texas veterinarian Dr. Marty Tanner, Centerfold was able to return to work, stronger than ever. Her goals on the 2023 season were to make a return to the Wilderness Circuit Finals and finish around the top 30 in the world standings. Considering she’s sitting No. 1 in the Wilderness Circuit with $33,490.36 earned across 15 rodeos, while the No. 2 lady, Meka Farr has $9,395.97 earned, Smith likely has the circuit finals portion taken care of already. After her nearly $25,000 week in ProRodeo, Smith is looking to be around top 15 territory as the ProRodeo season enters its final eight weeks of action.

“Everybody has been encouraging me to enter,” Smith said. “I’ll probably go a little more now, maybe head to the Northwest in September. My friends may just enter me and come pick me up at this point. They all encourage me so much and help me, we have an amazing group of friends. I’m lucky to have them.”

When she isn’t on the road, Smith is working on her next generation of champions. She’s currently running and hauling Diamond Sinner, a gelding out of Centerfold and by A Smooth Guy. He’s been placing on the rodeo trail and filling in when his momma needs a day off.

“It’s fun and different to be riding and competing on her, plus her offspring at the same time,” Smith said. “They have a lot of similar tendancies, so it’s fun to bring up the babies while I’m running her. We flushed a lot of embryos out of her over the years, I have nine colts on the ground out of her and I’m so excited about them. I have a Blazin Jetolena that I’ll futurity next year that’s looking really good.”

Smith isn’t getting a big head during her arguably most impressive year since her 2009 dream season aboard Real Claim To Fame, when she won the Calgary Stampede and had an absolutely dominating regular season of ProRodeo, but she’s not letting that go to her head.

“I’m just going to go with the flow,” Smith said. “You’re only as good as your next run. I let my horses make the plans for me and don’t get too wound up.”

Sue Smith barrel racing 2009 NFR
Sue Smith finished No. 5 in the WPRA world in 2009 with $130,209 on the year thanks to Real Claim To Fame. Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

Snake River Stampede Results

Nampa, Idaho, July 18-22

First round: 1. Sue Smith, 15.59 seconds, $5,725; 2. Sara Winkelman, 15.70, $4,580; 3. Kelly Allen, 15.79, $3,721; 4. Tasha Welsh, 15.80, $2,863; 5. (tie) Lisa Lockhart and Ivy Saebens, 15.87, $2,004 each; 7. (tie) Abby Pursifull and Rachelle Riggers, 15.89, $1,360 each; 9. Sophie Nolen, 15.93, $1,145; 10. Halyn Lide, 15.94, $1,002; 11. Abby Phillips, 15.96, $859; 12. Wenda Johnson, 15.99, $716; 13. Sissy Winn, 16.00, $573; 14. Natalie Bland, 16.03, $429; 15. Kailey Mitton, 16.05, $287

Finals: 1. Sue Smith, 15.42 seconds, $2,545; 2. (tie) Lisa Lockhart and Sara Winkelman, 15.96, $1,590 each; 4. Halyn Lide, 16.18, $636

Average: 1. Sue Smith, 31.01 seconds on two head, $5,725; 2. Sara Winkelman, 31.66, $4,580; 3. Lisa Lockhart, 31.83, $3,721; 4. Halyn Lide, 32.12, $2,863; 5. Rachelle Riggers, 32.19, $2,290; 6. Sophie Nolen, 32.23, $1,718; 7. Tasha Welsh, 32.26, $1,431; 8. Abby Pursifull, 36.61, $1,288; 9. (tie) Ivy Saebens and Abby Phillips, 36.91, $1,073 each; 11. Wenda Johnson, 36.95, $859; 12. Kelly Allen, 37.21, $716; no other qualified runs.

Ogden Pioneer Days Results

Ogden, Utah, July 19-24

1.Sue Smith, 16.83 seconds, $10,494; 2. Kelly Allen, 17.10, $8,395; 3. Jordon Briggs, 17.11, $6,821; 4. Kassie Mowry, 17.19, $5,247.08; 5. (tie) Wenda Johnson, Emily Beisel, Paige Jones and Hailey Kinsel, 17.26, $2,711 each; 9. Sharin Hall, 17.30, $2,099; 10. (tie) Emma Charleston and Steely Steiner, 17.32, $1,705 each; 12. Ari-Anna Flynn, 17.34, $1,311; 13. Jessica Routier, 17.36, $1,049; 14. (tie) Ivy Hurst and Tara Seaton, 17.37, $655 each