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Team ropers Dawson and Dillon Graham proved once again why they are champions.

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The brothers from Wainwright, Alta., settled atop the leaderboard on a solid night of roping with a 3.9-second run — just two-tenths off the arena record — at the Red Deer-hosted Canadian Finals Rodeo on Thursday.

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This after a disappointing first round one night earlier when the brothers finished out of the money.

“You know you’re not out of it if you have some bad luck,” Dawson said philosophically. “It’s six rounds, and you can make a lot happen in the last five. This is our fourth year here, so we feel pretty at home.”

The pair were happy with their second round cattle draw too.

“The steer we had (Thursday night) was the one Logan and Keely (Bonnett) won fourth on in Round 1.”

Add the fact that they are competing on the Heading and Heeling Horses of the Year — Dawson on Outlaw and Dillon on Cruz — and it’s no surprise to see the athletes enjoy a victory lap.

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Of their season in general, which saw header, Dawson end the year 19th in the world and Dillon, 16th with over $87,000 in earnings each, Dillon commented, “We had a great year. We roped well and had a lot of confidence coming into Red Deer. We came in with a gameplan, and we’re going to stick to it.”

Thursday’s success has Dawson high in the heading standings just $1,300 behind second-place roper Tee McLeod, while Dillon is holding down first in the heeling ranks.

Zeke Thurston’s opening-round saddle bronc ride silenced the Peavy Mart Centrium. That’s because the three-time and reigning world and Canadian champion did something this or any crowd seldom sees. The champ bucked off. But on Bounce Back Thursday, Zeke was riding and the sell-out crowd was cheering as the champ posted a sensational 87.5 points on a young Calgary Stampede bronc F-53 Flying Carma.

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“Yeah, I was after a little redemption after (Wednesday) night,” Thurston said. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do differently. I thought I did everything right (Wednesday) night, and she still got me. But to draw that little horse, Flying Carma, she was really getting it on, and I just tried to help her as best I could, and I guess it looked pretty good. She’s gonna be around a long time and have a great career, and guys are going to win a lot of money on that horse.”

The win put Thurston back into the driver’s seat in the race for the Canadian title. In fact, even having dropped out of the average race for the time being, the second-generation bronc rider has the overall lead, $6,500 ahead of second-place man Ben Andersen, and fifth in the average.

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It was payback night for barrel racer Taylor Manning, as well. After a rough start that saw the reigning champion hit two barrels, the Yellowhead County cowgirl clocked a speedy 13.86 to win the round. Lynette Brodoway maintained her hold on first place overall.

Another cowboy who evened the score on Night 2 was Sundre bull rider, Wyatt Gleeson. The two-time finals qualifier put his opening night buck-off in the rear-view mirror and was 86.75 on Outlaw Buckers’ Afraid to Nod to collect the first-place cheque of $9,335. The win bumped Gleeson up to sixth in the standings, $25,000 back of season-leader Coy Robbins, who bucked off his first two bulls at this CFR.

The magic number is still 3.9 seconds in the steer-wrestling event. Three-time and defending champ Scott Guenthner shared the honours with Ponoka bulldogger Chance Butterfield. Season-leader Dalton Massey continues to struggle, dropping to second spot — about $10,000 behind Guenthner overall.

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Bareback rider Clint Laye demonstrated the consistency that earned the cowboy from Cadogan, Alta., the 2021 Canadian title and two NFR qualifications. Laye climbed aboard Big Stone Rodeo’s 313 Mayhem for 85.5 and the Round 2 win.

The Smith brothers and their tie-down horse of the year, Moon, kept it all in the family on Night 2. While Jason earned the Round 1 win, it was Shane who enjoyed the victory lap Thursday after an 8.8-second run.

In the novice bareback, Austin Broderson of Turin, Alta., was 74.75 for first, while Dylan Young marked 79.75 to earn the top cheque in the novice saddle-bronc event. Brooks steer-rider Hayden Mulvey picked up first in the junior steer riding with a 78.25-point ride.

Go to for Canadian Finals Rodeo results. Check out for additional event details.

CFR ’49 third-night performance on Friday starts at 6 p.m. Sign up to follow the action on The Cowboy Channel.

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