Sweet Redemption: Allen, Castleberry Own Texas Circuit Finals, Punch 2024 NFR Open Tickets

Kelly Allen and Ashley Castleberry claimed the 2023 Texas Circuit Finals honors in Waco and earned exemptions to the 2024 NFR Open.
Ashley Castleberry and Kelly Allen barrel racing
Ashley Castleberry and Kelly Allen | RodeoBum Photography

Kelly Allen and Ashley Castleberry turned the pain of not qualifying for the 2023 National Finals Rodeo into a sweet, sweet victory at the 2023 Texas Circuit Finals October 11-15 in Waco, Texas.

Allen (34) earned her spot by way of winning the Texas Circuit’s year-end championship. She and WildChildsGotCashUno, “JJ,” earned money in all found rounds of competition at the TCFR She bested Castleberry in Round 1 with a second-place finish, tied her in Round 2 for the fourth hole and finished on her heels in second in both Rounds 3 and 4. Her quickest time turned in was a 15.90-second run in round three. Her combined time of 63.95 seconds earned a reserve aggregate finish. Between her $7,190 in round earnings and $3,318 aggregate check, Allen took home $10,508—money that will count toward the 2024 WPRA world standings. Allen’s year-end earnings in the Texas Circuit totaled $40,689.67 across 40 rodeos.

Allen’s win was by a significant margin, with the No. 2 lady, Kassie Mowry, earning just $29,974.98. Mowry was ineligible to compete at the Texas Circuit Finals due to not fulfilling her required minimum rodeo count to qualify.

Allen’s circuit success was a strategic move for her 2023 rodeo plans.

“I didn’t set out with the goal of winning the Texas Circuit,” Allen said. “But I did start the year out by going pretty hard because I wanted to get into the (invitational) winter rodeos. To do that, I had to stay within the top five in the world standings (at the beginning of 2023). So, I kept going to the Texas Circuit Rodeos until May, because that’s when the top five in the world got a chance to go to (the Calgary Stampede. It ended up working out, because although I didn’t make the NFR, I won enough money in the circuit to go to the 2024 NFR Open.”

WildChildsGotCashUno pedigree

Meanwhile, Castleberry (23) gritted it out to nose Allen out of the top spot in the aggregate across four rich rounds of competition aboard Skyy Blue, “Skyy.” Castleberry made her presence known at her very first Texas Circuit Finals with a third-place finish in Round 1, a placing in Round 2, absolute domination of Rounds 3 and 4 and by clocking the fastest time of the week in 15.66 seconds. Overall, Castleberry took home $10,231.

Skyy Blue

The Montgomery, Texas, native had a traumatic 2022 season that helped her let it all hang out in Waco in 2023. Listen to the full story here. For her, 2023 was all about celebrating her partnership with Skyy Blue and laying the foundation for what’s to come.

“Since I bought Skyy last year, it’s been all about following God’s plan,” Castleberry said. “I don’t know what that is, but I do know I want to do everything I can to be part of it and to prepare myself and Skyy foe what opportunities He provides for us. After Sioux Falls, I still felt like I was on fire inside, so I felt like I just needed to go have fun and make consistent runs in Waco.”

The Texas Circuit Finals took place just two weeks after the close of the 2023 regular season, when Allen and Castleberry fought until the very last days of the season at the Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 28-29. When the dust settled, Castleberry was No. 17 in the world standings with $87,814.77 earned, and Allen was No. 18 with $86,097.74 won.

Skyy Blue

Allen is hopeful for the 2024 season. She may not have JJ on the trailer for certain, but is looking forward to having her mare, “Cinco,” back after an end-of-season sideline due to ear tick complications.

“It didn’t work out to go to the NFR this year,” Allen explained. “Hopefully, I’m set up pretty well with the building rodeos and the NFR Open this upcoming year, so hopefully I can make another run for it. All I know is I’m really tired.”

After hitting 100 grueling rodeos on the 2023 season, Allen found it relatively easy to enter Waco without the pressure of the NFR or the entire country watching.

“I know that horse very well and I know he’s going to go in and pretty much make the same run every time,” Allen said. That gives me a lot of confidence. I had so much pressure on me all year that (in Waco) I just didn’t feel it.”

Kelly Allen barrel racing
Kelly Allen and JJ | RodeoBum Photography

2023 Texas Circuit Finals barrel racing results

 First round: 1. Stephanie Fryar, 15.78 seconds, $2,212; 2. Kelly Allen, 16.01, $1,659; 3. Ashley Castleberry, 16.06, $1,106; 4. Sydney Graham, 16.14, $553

Second round: 1. Keyla Costa, 15.82 seconds, $2,212; 2. Stephanie Fryar, 15.92, $1,659; 3. Ilyssa Riley, 15.94, $1,106; 4. (tie) Kelly Allen and Ashley Castleberry, 16.10, $277 each

Third round: 1. Ashley Castleberry, 15.80 seconds, $2,212; 2. Kelly Allen, 15.90, $1,659; 3. Keyla Costa, 15.91, $1,106; 4. Jackie Ganter, 16.06, $553

Fourth round: 1. Ashley Castleberry, 15.66 seconds, $2,212; 2. Kelly Allen, 15.94, $1,659; 3. Lindsay Sears, 15.96, $1,106; 4. Hailey Kinsel, 15.97, $553

Average: 1. Ashley Castleberry, 63.62 seconds on four head, $4,424; 2. Kelly Allen, 63.95, $3,318; 3. Natalie Bland, 65.04, $2,212; 4. Jamie Olsen, 65.05, $1,106.

Ashley Castleberry barrel racing
Ashley Castleberry | RodeoBum Photography