Bring the Payne
Chani Payne takes Rookie of the Year honors in the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Jan. 29, 2006 -- Chani Payne has ridden her way to victory in the Women's Pro Rodeo Association and brought home the title, "2005 Resistol Rookie of the Year."

The 19-year-old daughter of Gordon and Mary Ann Payne and Karen and Travis Cook, all of Sulphur Springs, ended the 2005 year with $48,869,68 in winnings. That's $8,087.58 more than another competitor from the area, Meagan Reichert of Mount Pleasant, who brought home $40,782,10. 

In the professional rodeo circuit "money is points," according to Chani's father Gordon, who is very proud of his daughter's first year with the WPRA.

Chani's latest win at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque, N.M., assured her the WPRA Rookie of the Year title and placed her 16th in the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 World Standings, as well.

In addition to the title, the talented jockey was awarded a trophy belt buckle, a Resistol Black Gold Hat, a specially made WPRA Rookie of the Year saddle and a generous cash prize.

Chani started riding when she was around 12 years old, according to her step-mother, Mary Ann. Soon after, she was paired up with Princess, a 4-year-old sorrel mare bought fresh off of Mary Bonham's race track by her father.

"He really knew what he was doing," laughed Mary Ann, who was doubtful in the beginning. 

It wasn't without a lot of determination and a bit of stubbornness that Chani turned the race horse into a barrel racer.

According to Chani, it was slow going at first, because track racing was all Princess knew. The pair worked their way up through the ranks beginning with area play days and then futurities and derbies where the pair continually placed in the top five, according to Gordon. It wasn't long before Chani and Princess started participating in area rodeos within a 200-mile radius of Hopkins County.

In 2003 and 2004, Chani and Princess raced in the United Professional Rodeo Association (UPRA), winning Rookie of the Year in 2003 and Reserve Champion in 2004 with $30,000 in winnings each year.

Chani said that during her career she has made almost all of her money close to home, but that is expected to change as she sets her sights on the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo circuit in 2006.

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