The “Accidental” Denver Champions: Jimmie Smith and A Valiant Nicky

Jimmie Smith-Tew combined faith, a new attitude and her lucky socks to pull off a win at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver.
Jimmie Smith-Tew barrel racing in Denver.
Jimmie Smith-Tew and Nicky running the fastest time of the 2023 NWSSR. Image by Ric Andersen/CBarC Photography.

When Jimmie Smith made the decision to run A Valiant Nicky at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, it’s safe to say she had uncertain feelings. 

“Did I have a plan? No,” Smith said. “Was I afraid? Yes. It was like our running joke of the week—”What if Nicky ACTUALLY wins Denver?”

Well, Nicky actually won Denver. She ran the fastest time of the week—a 14.83— in the finals to take home $4,074 and the event championship.

View Full Denver Results, Format, Payoff and more here.

“When she got around that first (In the Finals) I was just thinking ‘Come on Jimmie. You can actually win this if you get around the next two!” Smith said. “It feels as fast it looks. It’s this in-and-out, insane feeling on her.”


Well…go off then, @jimmieraelynsmith. She just won the 2023 @nationalwestern Rodeo with this smoking 14.83-second run. Full results in bio. #BarrelRacingMag #RodeoTok #Cowgirl #BarrelRacing #Western #NationalWesternStockShow

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Smith 14.83-second run in the Finals.

To get there, they first made two runs in Bracket Six. After an unsatisfactory first round, Smith figured she had nothing to lose in the second round, so she jumped on Nicky, who favors open setups and calmer atmospheres than the Denver Coliseum offers. To her own surprise, she advanced out of her bracket in the No. 3 position with an aggregate time of 31.24 seconds after Nicky made a solid trip. In the Semifinals, Smith slid through to the finals in the No. 4 slot behind Lisa Lockhart.

The finals saw reigning NWSSR champion Brittany Pozzi-Tonozzi post a 14.96-second run and Kalli McCall run a 14.95, but Smith sailed away with the win after her electric run.

“I was being hard on myself before Denver. I wasn’t riding right, didn’t want to rodeo this year and didn’t think it was worth going. When I say this was God’s plan and he puts you places for a reason, I mean it. I had no plans of staying past my set, but He had other plans.”

Jimmie Smith

Although rodeoing wasn’t in Smith’s 2023 plans, she entered Denver and the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo since she had qualifying positions into both. Since Smith qualified for the NFR in 2020, she’s had a rollercoaster relationship with ProRodeo.

“This was the first year I convinced myself that my worth doesn’t lie in making the NFR,” Smithsaid. “Since my rookie year I haven’t had a year that was just screaming that I needed to stop and go home. But, that’s what 2022 was for me, but it’s hilarious because outside of ProRodeo it was probably my best year of barrel racing. I just couldn’t get it together at the ProRodeos. I decided to just enter where I could and see where it goes. No year out there is perfect, but sometimes that reality check is just needed.”

Smith and Nicky paired up in 2021 and Smith has jockeyed the mare off and on since. Nicky is a 2013 model by A Valiant Hero and out of the standout mare Nicky Brick House, who is a standout producer and took her own trip to the NFR with Bennette Barrington-Little.

Smith had the right horse and the right timing, but a little extra luck was on her side on championship Sunday. Fans may remember the “lucky,” unicorn socks that Emily Beisel wore during her first round win at the 2022 NFR, and super fans might recall that it is Smith who sent Beisel the socks because she, too, has a lucky pair.

“Of course I was wearing the socks!” Smith said.

Jimmie Smith Tew's socks
Jimmie Smith’s signature lucky unicorn socks, which she wore during the championship round in Denver.

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2023 National Western Stock Show Championship Round Results

  1. Jimmie Smith, McDade, Texas, 14.83, $4,074.
  2. Kalli McCall, Lufkin, Texas, 14.95, $3,543.
  3. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, Texas, 14.96, $3,011
  4. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.04, $2,480.
  5. Darby Fox, king Hill, Idaho, 15.06, $1,948.
  6. Kristi Steffes, Vale, S.D., 15.18, $1,417.
  7. Timber Allenbrand, Paola, Kan., 15.21, $886.
  8. Sophie Nolen, Stephenville, Texas, 15.25, $354