LAS VEGAS – Casey Colletti knows the enormity of the event in which he’s competing this week. He takes nothing for granted, and he’s having a lot of fun in the City of Lights.
That paid off Thursday when Colletti, a bareback rider from Pueblo, Colo., matched moves with the Carr Pro Rodeo horse Black Coffee for 87.5 points, good enough for second place in the opening night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and as check worth $14,135.
“It’s Vegas; 90 or nothing,” said Colletti, a first-time qualifier to rodeo’s season finale. “This is the best experience of my life so far. It’s been phenomenal, from walking into that locker room, where I look around at my heroes, every guy in there, to climbing in the bucking chutes.”
How does a newcomer handle being on the biggest stage in ProRodeo?
“It’s so awesome right there, especially at first,” said Colletti, who attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College on a rodeo scholarship. “As I tied my glove on, I was still nervous. But I just looked around at all those people, 17,000 packed into this building to watch this thing. I just took it all in right before the national anthem, and I realized that there aren’t very many guys who get to experience it. I think that helped calm me down a lot, because I could just go at it like I needed to.
“This is the best experience of my life so far. It’s been phenomenal.”
That mental approach worked fantastic until Black Coffee had a couple of shy moments just before the ride. The 11-year-old black mare stalled, and Colletti had to wait several seconds on her to make the decision to perform. Once the tandem left the big yellow bucking chutes, it was spectacular.
“That horse leaves really hard anyway,” he said. “I knew with her stalling, she was going to come out like a lightning bolt. When the gate opened the second time, she turned and looked, and I was like, ‘Here we go.’
“She went like a rocket. My feet were going 100 miles an hour, and all I could think about was, ‘It’s the NFR; leave no doubt.’ ”
Now the difficult thing is to keep up that level on the world’s best bucking horses. That can be a tough task, but there’s plenty of incentive in the pay window.
“This rodeo pays so good that it can change things for you drastically in two weeks,” said Colletti, who said he had 28 Facebook friend requests half an hour after his ride was televised on GAC. “It’s just a great experience, and doing this well on my first horse is awesome. I guarantee my mom is losing her mind. She’s my biggest fan, and this is my dad’s dream, living through me. I’m excited.
“I also donated two tickets to the Western Wishes kid, so, to me, it’s pretty exciting that he gets to see that.”