Ten years ago, Sage Kimzey set sail on his professional bull riding career with the goal of beating Donnie Gay’s record of eight gold buckles. That year, in 2014, Kimzey was one of the rare rodeo royals ever to win the world as a rookie. Sage has since been busy stacking up seven world championships, $3.5 million in career earnings and countless rodeo records. You may have noticed that we haven’t been seeing Sage around lately.


I had a couple of burning curiosity questions for this 29-year-old generational talent, so I picked up the phone and called him. Why won’t Sage be riding at The American in Arlington, Texas this Saturday night? And why won’t he be replaced in the lineup, like Ky Hamilton and Stetson Wright have been?


A top-five finish in the 2023 world bull riding standings secured Sage’s spot at this week’s 2024 American. As much as the 2017 American champ would love to be there, he won’t be because he can’t. Kimzey just underwent elbow surgery in Austin, Texas on February 16.


“I tore it up in 2017, and have been riding with a bum elbow on my riding arm for seven years, so it’s been a long time coming,” Sage said. “I’ve had bone spurs and arthritis in it, but I’d been able to manage it. In Round 8 at the NFR (in December), I got yanked on pretty hard by Universal Pro Rodeo’s Do Dat Eddie, and it fractured my elbow. My ulnar nerve has been inflamed, and we couldn’t get it calmed down.


“It got past the point of playing with pain. Issues with the ulnar nerve come with a severe lack of strength, and it started affecting my wrist and shoulder, too. It was just time.”


For those of you who’ll be curious about there only being nine bull riders at The American when there are 10 contestants in the other events, here’s what I know about why… Ky Hamilton, Josh Frost, Stetson Wright, Sage and little brother Trey Kimzey were the top five in 2023. Ky and Stetson are out of The American due to injuries, so have been replaced by sixth-place Creek Young and seventh-ranked Jared Parsonage, respectively.


The five contenders who rode their way to Arlington and therefore have a shot at the $1 million American contenders bonus include Cody Nance, Jeff Askey, Chase Dougherty, Matt Palmer and Cody Teel. Askey finished eighth in the 2023 world standings, but rolling him up on the qualifier side to replace Sage would take away his shot at that contender million.


I love that the powers that be at Teton Ridge weighed all options, and went with the decision that resulted in the fairest outcome for everyone entered. Tie goes to the runner in baseball, and to the contestant in rodeo. As it should be.


Sage hopes to be rehabbed and ready to return in time to take part in PBR Teams by mid-July. Surgery was a success, and we wish him the speediest of full recoveries. Feel better fast, Champ!