TWO NSW cowgirls and one from Victoria will be among the form riders challenging the hometown stars at tomorrow’s Wagga Wagga Rodeo.
Willow Tree rider Nichole Fitzpatrick currently leads the Australian Professional Rodeo Association all around standings from Wendy Caban of Moree.
While Lockington rider Cherie O’Donoghue is fifth in the rankings, the Victorian is the reigning all around titleholder and will be hard to beat at Wagga Wagga.
Fitzpatrick is leading the standings for the first time in her career after an outstanding season in the barrel race and some placings in breakaway roping.
The Willow Tree star who was crowned the ABCRA’s all round cowgirl for the third successive year in Tamworth last month, was not in the top 20 late last year in all around APRA cowgirl standings but has taken the lead from Moree rider Wendy Caban and Lavington star Stephanie Gard.
She boosted her spot in the standings with a barrel racing win at Tumbarumba and a joint win at Finley in southern New South Wales. At Finley she set a new Australian breakaway roping record of 1.85 seconds.
Fitzpatrick showed that consistency was the hallmark to move up the standings by adding a third at Deniliquin, fourth at Yarrawonga and sixth at Myrtleford in barrel racing to take the lead in the all around standings.
She also leads the barrel racing standings from Caban and Queensland rider PJ Hanrahan.
Fitzpatrick has won most of her prize money in the barrel race but has also placed in breakaway roping.
Cowgirls must win money in at least two events to be in the running for the all around.
The top rider at the end of April will win the pro tour title in the APRA.
Caban has been the most successful cowgirl in the APRA in the past five years and needs prize money at Wagga Wagga to regain the all around standings lead she held at the start of 2014.
The Schiller sisters, Vicki and Tania, have a long association with the sport in Wagga Wagga and have the experience and ability to match it with the best in the APRA on Saturday.
Tania won the first of her six APRA barrel racing titles in 1991 and also has three all around cowgirl titles to her credit. Vicki has won four titles in barrel racing and four in the all around.
There are more than 60 nominations for both women’s events, the barrel race and breakaway roping.
With only 20 rodeos left in the APRA season, plenty of interstate riders will travel to Wagga Wagga in quest of prize money and championship points in the battle for a spot in the top 15 and qualification for the National Finals Rodeo at the Queensland State Equestrian Centre at Caboolture in Queensland on May 1-4.
There will be more APRA action in New South Wales on February 22 at Narrandera.