LAS VEGAS -- Along with his roping talent, there is another big reason Dustin Bird leads the world all-around standings.
His partner Russell Cardoza.
Bird used Cardoza’s prized horse Rain Drop to start tie-down roping again during the regular season, which put him in the all-around race.
“He’s one of the best tie-down roping horses going,” said Bird earlier this year.
And when it came to the National Finals Rodeo, Cardoza made the decision to stay roping with Bird instead of also pursuing professional rodeo’s most coveted buckle with another partner.
“I’d love to win the all-around title but I’d rather win the team roping because then Dustin will win the all-around,” said Cardoza, of Terrebonne, Oregon. “The team roping gold buckle is the goal.”
The pair took a step closer to both goals, winning the eighth round of team roping at the National Finals Rodeo on Thursday night.
There are just two rounds remaining in the PRCA’s richest rodeo. The 10-round NFR decides the 2016 PRCA and WPRA world champions.
Bird and Cardoza were 3.7 seconds in the team roping, the first sub-four-second run of the NFR. The win was worth $26,230.
Bird remains the leader in the all-around standings and is second for team roping headers.
It is their first go-round win in Las Vegas and the sixth of Bird’s career. He also had time of 3.7 seconds in the seventh round of 2014 with Paul Eaves. The time was just two-tenths off the eighth round record of 3.5, set by Travis Tryan and Cory Petska in 2008.
“We knew he was a good steer and that if we did our jobs, we’d have a chance to win the round,” said the 36-year-old Bird, who is competing at his fourth NFR. “I had to let him out a little. I must have been a little closer to the barrier, but I got out.”
The time also put Bird and Cardoza sixth in the average. Bird trails Luke Brown by $11,800 in the header standings. However, Brown also leads the average. Cardoza is second in the team roping heeling standings, $15,000 behind Jake Long.
“We’re here to win the gold buckle in team roping … we’re still hanging around,” said Bird, who pushed his NFR earnings to $104,487.
Bird has earned a personal-best $214,181 for 2016.
Lisa Lockhart is running out of time to catch Mary Burger in the world barrel racing standings. The Circle native, who lives in Oelrichs, South Dakota, did not place Thursday with a time of 13.72 seconds. She still leads the average and is third in the world standings.
Burger, the 68-year-old grandmother from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, was third. Amberleigh Moore ran a round-record time of 13.37 seconds and trails Lockhart by 3.79 seconds in the average. The previous round record was 13.49 seconds, set by Sherry Cervi in 2010.
Helena steer wrestler Ty Erickson picked up his biggest check of the NFR, placing second with a time of 4.3 seconds. He is sixth in the average and the $20,730 payday lifted him to sixth in the world standings.
J.R. Vezain tied for third in bareback riding with an 85-point score. Vezain, of Cowley, Wyoming, has climbed to third in the average and moved up to 10th in the world standings.
Jessy Davis was 80.5 points in bareback riding. The Power cowboy is eighth in the average.
Shane Proctor’s run of consecutive bull rides stopped at seven as he was bucked off Thursday night. The 31-year-old Proctor, the oldest bull rider in the field, still leads the average by two full rides. He is second in the Ram Top Gun Award standings with $124,794, second to steer wrestler Tyler Waguespack who has earned $125,217.
Other round winners were: Orin Larsen, bareback, 87.5 points; Clayton Hass, steer wrestling, 4.1 seconds; Cody Wright, saddle bronc, 88 points; Shane Hanchey, tie-down roping, 6.8 seconds; Tyler Smith, bull riding, 89 points.
Notes: Wright won on the Powder River’s Lipstick N Whiskey, the same horse his son Ryder rode to win the third round … There were only two qualified bull rides. Brennon Eldred had the other with 71.5 points … Hanchey won the world tie-down roping title in 2013 … Bareback rider Jake Brown is out for rounds eight and nine because of a concussion suffered in round seven.