Brandon Cullins and VQ Sucker Punch Knock Out Round No. 2 of RFD-TV's The American Semifinals

Brandon Cullins and VQ Sucker Punch win performance No. 2 of RFD-TV's The American Rodeo semifinals February 16, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas, and advance to their first trip to AT&T Stadium.

By Blanche Schaefer

Feb. 16, 2017, Fort Worth, Texas --- VQ Sucker Punch laid down a lights-out run inside Cowtown Coliseum to carry trainer Brandon Cullins to victory in the second semifinals performance of RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo on February 16, 2017. Cullins’ and “Rocko’s” 13.833 earned $3,604, and the win gave the pair a berth to The American Rodeo on February 19 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.BrandonCullins AmericanSemis2017 webBrandon Cullins and VQ Sucker Punch power out of the first turn en route to a 13.833 to win performance No. 2 of RFD-TV's The American Rodeo semifinals February 16, 2017. Photo by Kailey Sullins

“His run felt real good; he did everything he was supposed to. I’m real happy with him,” Cullins said of the 2011 gelding, who’s by Dash Ta Fame and out of Honor This Nonstop by Mr Honor Bound. Rocko is owned by Robin Weaver and trained by Cullins.

Cullins earned a run in the semifinals with a 28th-place finish in slack February 14 aboard KN Fabs Mist Of Fame—a full sister to Kelsey Lutjen’s mount KN Fabs Gift Of Fame, who won performance No. 1 of the semifinals February 15. Cullins made the decision to run Rocko in the performance, going with his gut instinct that Rocko could clock much faster than the 14.140 he posted for 34th place in slack.

“I actually qualified on a full sister to Kelsey’s and [Rocko] was [34th], but I feel a lot more comfortable on him, so I took him,” Cullins said. “I knew he could clock a little better than he did in the long go.”

For performance No. 2, Cullins adjusted his run to account for the small setup and blind alleyway inside the coliseum.

“I really sent him harder from the alleyway. I started to get him uphill and never really went to my horn, because he’ll go where you put him, and I almost put him a little bit high. He came right back to me when I pulled on him,” Cullins said. “His second, he was really working it and I had to set it back up, and his third was just about perfect. He ran out really hard; it felt real good.”

Cullins is one of three men to place in the top 30 in slack and qualify for the semifinals performances—Chris Martin and Jimmy Bryant also share the honor. However, it comes with the disadvantage of not being able to season their horses in the loud rodeo environment of professional rodeos that limit barrel racing entries to women. Cullins says Rocko didn’t struggle with the intensity of his first rodeo performance, though the young gelding was a little apprehensive about the roughstock.

“The Fort Smith [Old Fort Days Futuriy] finals, the [All-American Quarter Horse] Congress and the [Barrel Futurities of America World Championships] in Oklahoma City are kind of loud, but nothing like this,” Cullins said. “Leading him down there behind the trailers he was spooking at the calves in the pens, so I was a little worried about the bulls going down the alley. When he went in there, he wasn’t paying attention to it—it seemed like he ran harder with the crowd. It all worked out.”

Cullins believes Rocko has the potential to shine inside the notorious AT&T Stadium. Thanks to his stellar performance in Fort Worth, he’ll now get the chance.

“I always thought from the start that’s where he would be the best. I was worried about getting him around them in [Cowtown Coliseum] because he’s so worky. I train him outside on a standard pattern,” Cullins said. “He should be good in [AT&T Stadium]. I think that’s where he’ll do the best.”

Texas A&M college rodeo cowgirl Hailey Kinsel of Cotulla, Texas, placed second in the second performance with a 13.900 aboard DM Sissys Hayday, a 2011 mare by PC Frenchmans Hayday and out of Royal Sissy Irish by Royal Shake Em. From the February 14 slack round, 30 barrel racers advanced to three semifinals performances February 15–17 in groups of 10. From the group of 30, the 10 fastest will advance to the long round of The American Rodeo on Sunday, February 19, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

For results from The American semifinals and The American Rodeo, visit Be sure to pick up a copy of the April 2017 issue of Barrel Horse News for in-depth coverage of RFD-TV’s The American.KelseyLutjen AmericanSemis2017 webKelsey Lutjen guides KN Fabs Gift Of Fame into the third turn to close a winning run of 13.804 in performance No. 1 of RFD-TV's The American semifinals February 15, 2017. Photo by Kailey Sullins

Results from Thursday (Feb. 16) Semifinals Performance

1. Brandon Cullins, VQ Sucker Punch, 13.833, $3,603.6
2. Hailey Kinsel, DM Sissy Hayday, 13.900, $3,003
3. Wylee Mitchell, Smokey Gold Jack, 14.012, $2,402.4
4. Victoria Williams, Three Jets Olena, 14.053, $1,801.8
5. Amy Jo Farella, Streakin Jet Remedy, 14.076, $1,201.2
6. Kathy Korrell-Rach, Smoke N Sunshine, 14.086
7. Ari-Anna Flynn, Tobys Poco Mysterio, 14.108
8. Shannon Jones, Frenchmans Royal Guy, 14.269
9. Haley Wolfe, Mia Fabulous Fame, 14.347
10. Shelby McCauley, Handlin Doc, 24.071**

Results from Wednesday (Feb. 15) Semifinals Performance
1. Kelsey Lutjen, KN Fabs Gift Of Fame, 13.804, $3,603.6
2. Chris Martin, Frenchmans Perks, 13.910, $3,003
3. Brianna Trepanier, DHR Phoebes Rose, 13.924, $2,402.4
4. Kellie Collier, Streakin Easy April, 14.020, $1,801.8
5. Kassie Mowry,Firewatermakemehappy, 14.027, $1,201.2
6. Stevi Hillman, Cuatro Fame, 14.056
7. Abby Penson, 14.129, Pearl Snappin
8. Brooke Rix, Gypsy Hat Oh Fame, 19.041*
9. Jessica Leach, Rich Money, 19.103*
10. Leslie Willis, Gimme Damoney, 23.820**

*Time denotes five-second* or 10-second** penalty

Blanche Schaefer is associate editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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