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SPRINGVILLE, Utah — Mason Clements liked what he saw in J Bar J Rodeo’s Colorado Bulldog, his dance partner Thursday during the opening night of the National Finals Rodeo.

“You know when you look down a list of horses that they put out, and there are always one or two horses that stand out,” said Clements, 26, of Springville, Utah. “I had that feeling when I looked at that list; that horse was one of those that stood out. I was pleased to get on him. It turned out well, and I finished strong.”

Yes, he did. He and Colorado Bulldog matched moves across the Thomas & Mack Arena dirt for 86.5 points, good enough for second place in the first round; that was worth $20,731 and pushed Clements’ 2018 earnings to $130,267. He also moved up four spots to sixth in the world standings.

In rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event who finish out the season with the most money will be crowned world champions. For Clements, who was born in Las Vegas, he likes the idea of having 10 nights to shoot for as much money as possible while in the City of Lights.

“It’s a great start, and I’m excited to hold that momentum and continue through all 10 nights,” he said. “Each night is a brand-new night. No matter the outcome, I learn what happens tonight to capitalize better for the next night.

“I was very happy and very pleased with the way I performed, but there were obviously things that I could have done better and implemented into my ride to be first. Tomorrow is a new night. I want to capitalize on what you made mistakes on and come out on top.”

This season marks just the second time in his young bareback riding career that Clements has earned the right to compete for the biggest pay in the game. A year ago, he qualified for the NFR for the first time and left Las Vegas with more than $80,000 in earnings. He’d like to surpass that this year.

He’ll have his next opportunity in Friday’s second round.

“Every horse we had out tonight was kind of a warm up,” Clements said, referring to the horsepower on opening night. “(Friday’s) horses will have a little more kick, a little more juice. Tomorrow night I have Yippee Kibitz of the Calgary Stampede. Two years ago, I was 87 or 87.5 on that horse in the short round in Ellensburg (Wash.).

“I’m so happy to have a rematch with it. It should be fun. Everybody said she performed really well at the Canadian Finals Rodeo, so I’m excited to see what she’s going to do in the Thomas & Mack.”

Not only does the NFR feature only the top 15 contestants in each event, but it also is host to the top 300 bucking animals in the game. Each bareback horse was selected by the bareback riders who will compete on them over the 10-night championship.

“This is our chance to shine,” he said. “I’m excited for it.”

He should be.

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