WINNING the all around pro tour title is the second best in rodeo and only $9 prize money splits Stephanie Gard and Nichole Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, of Willow Tree, has enjoyed an outstanding season which has included breaking the Australian Professional Rodeo Association breakaway roping record with a time of 1.85 seconds at the Finley Rodeo early this year.
She took the record from three riders, including Moree star Wendy Caban.
Gard hails from Table Top near Albury and is starring on the open circuit after winning titles galore as a junior. Gard and Fitzpatrick are both aiming to win their first all around cowgirl pro tour title.
Fitzpatrick has a narrow lead over Victorian rider Leslie Moore in the battle for the barrel racing pro tour title in the APRA for most money won in the season.
Despite breaking the national record, Fitzpatrick still needs prize money at Easter to secure her spot in the top 15 in breakaway roping and qualification for the National Finals Rodeo at the Queensland State Equestrian Centre at Caboolture on May 1-4.
The last eight rodeos of the APRA season are at Easter, five in Victoria and three in Queensland. It is expected some competitors will compete in rodeos in each state in quest of top 15 spots for the NFR.
Gunnedah team roper Casey Lillyman is the third New South Wales rider at the top of the standings. He has a narrow lead in team roping header standings from Clancy Middleton, of Emerald, in Queensland.
For Fitzpatrick and Lillyman, the only greater achievement in the sport other than a pro tour title is to win the title at the NFR after the best of the best compete at Caboolture over four rounds.
Moree cowgirl Wendy Caban is the defending titleholder in the barrel race and is fifth in the standings and assured of another NFR qualification.
Standings leaders: All around cowboy/rope and tie – Shane Kenny (Emerald, Qld), Saddle bronc - Cameron Webster (Wandoan, Qld), Bull
ride - Fraser Babbington (Beaudesert, Qld), Bareback bronc ride – David Worsfold (Wandoan, Qld), Steer wrestling – Gavin Walker (Benalla, Vic), Team roping header – Casey Lillyman (Gunnedah, NSW), Team roping heeler – Aaron Bookluck (Nilma North, Vic), All around cowgirl – Stephanie Gard (Tabletop, NSW), Barrel race – Nichole Fitzpatrick (Willow Tree, NSW), Breakaway roping – Cheyenne Whitwell (Mt Tarampa, Qld).