Bulldogger hoping to cash in at Okotoks

Rodeo: Lee Graves aiming for CFR invite

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 06:00 am

Black Diamond bulldogger Lee Graves, here at the 2010 Calgary Stampede, is hoping this year’s Okotoks Pro Rodeo will help catapult him to another Canadian Finals Rodeo.
Black Diamond bulldogger Lee Graves, here at the 2010 Calgary Stampede, is hoping this year’s Okotoks Pro Rodeo will help catapult him to another Canadian Finals Rodeo.
Wheel file photo

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A Black Diamond steer wrestler is looking at the 2014 season like the Paul Brandt hit Canadian Man.

“I have been staying in Canada, I am kind of slowing down,” said the 43-year-old Graves. “I am focused on making the Canadian Finals Rodeo this year. People don’t realize how hard it is to make the CFR and NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in the same year. It’s a lot of miles and I have done it for a long time.”

Graves would like to bulldog at one of the biggest Canadian rodeo parties of the year, the CFR in Edmonton in November. Graves has won the CFR five times and has two world titles in his illustrious career. He sits one out of qualifying for the CFR, as Graves is 13th in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association standings with $12,675 as of Aug. 20.

The Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, sits in 12th with $14,340.

“I have been in that spot before — I have gone to the CFR in first-place and I have gone in last. I just have to go to rodeos and do as good as I can,” Graves said.

A high priority on Graves’ 2014 Western Canada tour is the Okotoks Pro Rodeo this weekend. Graves comes out of the gate at the Murray Arena Saturday night.

“Okotoks has a nice little rodeo,” Graves said. “I can’t recall really the last time I have won a cheque there before… Last year, I had a no time. It’s a small venue, the conditions are a little tough there, but it’s the same there for everybody.”

One of the reasons Graves hasn’t been to Okotoks as much as he would like, is because he already secured his spot in the CFR in the past.

“I’m usually going to Armstrong (B.C.), Ellensburg (Washington) and Walla Walla (Washington) that weekend to try and make it to the NFR,” Graves said. “I haven’t been to Okotoks that many times.”

Although Graves doesn’t plan to dip south of the border this weekend, he will still be putting in enough miles to rival a Red Arrow bus driver.

He will be going to Armstrong and Merritt, then a bulldog in Okotoks Saturday. Then it is back to Armstrong.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s a casual drive when you are used to competing in rodeos in two countries for past Labour Day weekends.

“I will be leaving on a Thursday and home on a Sunday night,” Graves said with a chuckle. “That’s a lot easier than the Planes, Trains and Automobiles it used to be. Last year I went to Okotoks, Armstrong, Merritt, Ellensburg, and Walla Walla in four days.

“This year is pretty easy.”

Although Graves will be in Okotoks, he doesn’t know if his better half of his highlight reel career will be there.

His horse, Jesse, a multiple Professional Rodeo Horse of the Year winners, might not make the trip to Okotoks.

“I am not even sure I will have him there,” Graves said. “I might just live him in Armstrong because I have to go back and forth.

“Jesse is doing real good. He’s enjoying just cruising up here.”

Graves won the $100,000 Calgary Stampede in 2010. He was inducted in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

Other bulldoggers from the foothills area competing at the Okotoks rodeo Brock Radford and Jonny Webb.


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