Veterans and Underdogs Split NFR Open Qualifications at Texas Circuit Finals

Sissy Winn earned her second straight Texas Circuit Finals Championship, and Ilyssa Riley dominated the aggregate to punch her NFR Open ticket and earn reserve circuit champion honors during the 2022 Texas Circuit Finals.
Sissy Winn wins Texas Circuit Championship
Rodeo Bum Photography/James Phifer

The 2022 Texas Circuit Finals, held October 11-14 in Waco, Texas, allowed both Sissy Winn and Ilyssa Riley the chance to shine and punch their NFR Open barrel racing tickets.

Winn Wins Again

Reigning Texas Circuit Champion and 2022 NFR qualifier Sissy Winn and ChewingTheHotwire are proof that it takes years to become an overnight success.

To the public eye it seems as if Sissy Winn and “Chewy,” a 2014 gelding by Flaming Firewater and out of Native Quick Dash, took the world by storm in October 2021, but what wasn’t public was the hours of dedication and work it took for the pair to form a team. Winn has owned and worked on Chewy for almost four years. 

“He had a lot of growing up to do ,” said winn. “My dad calls him a teenage punk.”

When things finally came together for the team, they were nearly unstoppable. Their 2022 season started with a bang in October 2021, when the pair placed at Rosenburg, Texas, and won Lubbock, Texas.

Read: Winn Wins 2021 Texas Circuit Championship

“We just chipped away at the Texas circuit rodeos all year, we didn’t really have any huge wins,” said Winn.

Her humble consistency paid off, and Winn was surprised to hear from her mother, Melissa, that she was leading the circuit before she headed out West for the summer run. That No. 1 position is one that Winn held through the entirety of the season, entering the circuit finals with $21,123— around $3,500 ahead of No. 2 cowgirl, Cheyenne Wimberley.

While Winn was out West, her summer run was cut short due to an electric scooter accident in Seattle, Washington, where she fractured her foot in four different places. She still managed to maintain her circuit lead and solidify her qualifying position to the National Finals Rodeo, despite her season ending early.

Pick Your Poison: The Ultimate List of 2022’s NFR-Qualifying Barrel Horses

When the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo announced that they were moving the finals dates to October, Winn had to prepare to make rodeo runs sooner than expected. Thankfully, Melissa was keeping her horses in shape and tuned up for the rodeos.

As the reigning circuit finals aggregate champion, Winn was no stranger to what it takes to win in Waco. Battling ground troubles, Winn managed to place third in both the first and third rounds and second in the aggregate, raking in a total of $4,985—which brought her year-end earnings to $31,093 and held off the underdog that was hot on her heels.

Ilyssa’s Comin’ In Hot

“Ilyssa kicked our butts all week long.”

Sissy Winn

The barrel racers, and most fans in attendance were thinking it, but Winn said it.

Ilyssa Riley squeaked into the TCFR in the No. 13 position—with just $11,031—due to one of the top 12 not fulfilling their rodeo count, but she proved that she was worthy of a place there with a nearly perfect finals.

Riley won second in the first round and never looked back. She won all three of the next three rounds—and in the third round, she nearly put the other 11 barrel racers in the second division— and easily dominated the aggregate by nearly 1.5 seconds. Riley left Waco with $11,466 in her jean pockets after jumping from No. 13 up to No. 2 in the 2022 circuit standings after the dust settled with a totaled $22,497 won on the year.

Beneath Riley was her gelding Mistys Money Blurr, a 2016 gelding by The Money Depot and out of Mistys Dash of Fame who was trained by Kassie Mowry.

Like Winn, Riley was no stranger to what it takes to win in Waco. Riley and “Money,” were the 2021 reserve aggregate champions in 2021, and they weren’t planning on taking reserve honors in 2022.

Their dominance inside the Waco coliseum, combined with Riley’s $3,224 win at Hempstead, Texas less than two weeks prior will unofficially move her to the top of the 2023 WPRA world standings.

Pure Grit: Ilyssa Riley dominated the aggregate by nearly 1.5 seconds at the TCFR. Image by Rodeo Bum Photography/James Phifer.

“She was almost in tears,” said Ilyssa’s husband, Jess. “She has never wanted to win as bad as she did this week.”

Riley is taking each rodeo in stride in her 2023 season, and said that her horses excel in coliseums. Fans will be watching throughout the indoor rodeos to see if her intensity shown in Waco will carry over through the rest of the 2023 season.

As Riley hits the road and Winn prepares for the NFR, there is little doubt that Texas will be represented well with jockeys and horsepower at the 2023 NFR Open.


Texas Circuit Finals, Waco, Texas

October 11-14

First Round

1. Cheyenne Wimberley, 15.73 seconds, $1,994; 2. Ilyssa Riley, 15.92, $1,496; 3. Sissy Winn, 15.96, $997; 4. Cassidy Champlin, 16.05, $499

Second round

1. Ilyssa Riley, 15.58 seconds, $1,994; 2. Kylee Scribner, 15.92, $1,496; 3. Latricia Mundorf, 16.04, $997; 4. Jackie Ganter, 16.09, $499

Third round

1. Ilyssa Riley, 15.54 seconds, $1,994; 2. Michelle Alley, 16.04, $1,496; 3. Sissy Winn, 16.05, $997; 4. Chani Graves, 16.11, $499

Fourth round

1. Ilyssa Riley, 15.81 seconds, $1,994; 2. Cheyenne Wimberley, 15.95, $1,496; 3. Stephanie Fryar, 15.98, $997; 4. Latricia Mundorf, 16.06, $499


1. Ilyssa Riley, 62.85 seconds on four head, $3,988; 2. Sissy Winn, 64.23, $2,991; 3. Latricia Mundorf, 64.53, $1,994; 4. Stephanie Fryar, 64.60, $997.