Sights set on Mantle

Rodeo Series ends Saturday with popular bronc event

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Brandon Munn, of Laramie, Wyo., rides a saddle bronc at last weekend's Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo. Munn is ranked second in the saddle bronc standings and is expected to be one of the six cowboys shooting for this year's Pat Mantle title.

— Saddle Bronc rider Marc Dickinson knows what it means to try harder.

For years, the Browns Park rancher and circuit cowboy has pursued the Pat Mantle Memorial Saddle Bronc Riding title harder than most. At first, his desire was fueled by the memory of Mantle, a longtime rancher in Northwest Colorado who Dickinson looked up to.

Recently, his desire to win has been driven by several near-misses.

"I've been second in this thing more times than I can count," Dickinson said. "There is only one way for me to improve and that's to win."

It's not for sure, but it looks like Dickinson will be among the six riders invited to take a shot at the Mantle title during Saturday night's rodeo at Brent Romick Arena. The prize for the winner-take-all event is $2,000 and a Winchester rifle. Each rider will get one shot to show what they can do on the back of a top bucking horse. The cowboy with the highest score at the end of the round will be named the 2006 champion.

"It's special to me because I knew who Pat was, and I knew what he stood for," Dickinson said.

He expects Saturday night's competition to be tough. The field is expected to include Arvada's Chance Skelton, who is leading the pack after winning a total of $1,322 in this year's Steamboat Springs Professional Rodeo Series. Brandon Munn, a 2004 Pat Mantle winner from Laramie, Wyo., follows him in second at $1,157, and Fort Collins cowboy Ian McKinney is third with $988.

Larkspur's Todd McCaughey ($934), Hugo's Chad Mosher ($903) and Dickinson ($880) round out the top six with one performance remaining.

Rodeo announcer John Shipley said there is no guarantee that those riders will make the cut following Saturday's final bronc riding session. The final roster will be decided during the rodeo. There are several riders with an outside chance to shake up this year's lineup, including Blaze Hamaker, Townsend Prince and Monte Downare.

"It's hard to predict who's going to win this one," Shipley said. "It's one chance, one horse and one ride."

Shipley said the Pat Mantle was started 15 years ago and has become a rite of passage for saddle bronc riders in the Mountain States Circuit. In part because of the $2,000 first prize, but more importantly because of the rifle and the tradition."

"The money will be gone, but a lot of guys like to win this one for the rifle," Shipley said. "That's something the cowboys like to hold onto."

Friday and Saturday night's rodeos will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday's performance will be followed by an awards presentation in which the regular season winners and Pat Mantle champion will be crowned.

"There's a lot of emotion that goes along with the Pat Mantle Memorial," Shipley said. "We always present that award last because it's so important."

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