When it comes to birthday party places, the Ponoka Stampede has to be one of the best. Jake Gardner celebrated his big day June 28 with thousands of folks by making a shiny 86-point bull ride to take over the lead in his event, during the third performance.
“I’m having a prety good day,” grinned the now 27-year-old, moments after being the only one in the bull riding line-up to make the whistle. “It’s a fun rodeo, so it’s hard to keep it cool. But I kept level-headed and focused and got my job done today, so I’m going to let loose and have fun tonight!”
Gardner had lots to celebrate since the Kesler bull he tamed called Down with the Devil has only been ridden the full eight seconds once before… by Gardner himself!
“I’d seen him all last year. He bucks real hard. He hadn’t been rode and I drew him at the CFR and got him covered there. Then I drew him here. I mean, what a good birthday present!”
After three performances, there are only two qualified bull rides for the 12 available spots in Sunday’s final round. Gardener doesn’t believe the drought will last.
“I think the bulls are just bucking, but there’s a few more good performances here with some really good guys, and I don’t think that’s going to hold up in the lead.”
The cowboy who comes from Ft. St. John B.C. is an All Around hand, the current holder of the Kenny Maclean Award for excelling in both ends of the arena. He wrestled a steer in 6.1 seconds in the performance, before hustling back to the chutes to warm up his bull rope.
“Bulldoggers are great guys. They’re always there to help me out. I rode Brendan Laye’s horse and it worked phenomenal for me. I wish I’d done beter on my first steer, but it’s just good to get one down on this long score,” he said.
“I’m going to start entering Ponoka every year for my birthday. It seemed to work out good,” added Gardner.