LAS VEGAS – Early success at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo goes a long ways.
Steer wrestler Casey Martin found that out Thursday night during the opening round of the 10-day championship, when posted a 3.8-second run to finish in a tie for fourth place in the round, pocketing $8,885 in the process. That was a big boost in many ways.
“It’s always good to get your confidence up and get a chance to win some money,” said Martin, who also moved up three spots to No. 11 in the world standings. “It makes you relax a little more throughout the week, so for me, it was great to be able to do that.”
It also helped that he’s riding a horse that many consider one of the best in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Ote, a speedy palomino gelding owned by good friend and traveling partner Bray Armes, not only helped put Martin in the right spot to make a solid run, he also kept the Sulphur, La., cowboy out of trouble.
“I could tell I was feeling a little excited and caught myself,” Martin said, referring to those moments before the competition began. “Finally I just sat down and relaxed. Ote just kind of moved a little when I nodded. If he would’ve moved when I wanted, we probably would’ve broke the barrier.”
The rope barrier is set to allow the steer a head start, and “breaking” it constitutes a 10-second penalty. Not only would that have taken Martin out of the money on opening night, he would’ve been saddled with an uphill climb in the aggregate as the cumulative time adds up through the rest of the championship.
“It’s funny how things work sometimes,” he said.
Yes, it is, but Martin should know pretty well. This marks his fifth qualification to the NFR, and he has finished among the top four in the world each of the past four years. If he intends to do that again, he still has a lot of ground to make up on the money list.
The good news is that he’s competing in Las Vegas, which offers the largest purse in the game. Go-round winners will pocket more than $26,000, so he has a chance to move up quickly. He is just $31,392 behind the leader, Ty Erickson.
“There’s definitely some room for improvement,” Martin said. “That steer let off a little, and I didn’t get his head caught very good. If I would’ve got the head caught better, I could’ve dang sure been fast.”
While a 3.8-second run was fast, it was four-tenths of a second slower than that by the round winner, K.C. Jones. Little details make up a lot of time and a lot of money – Jones earned $17,000 more than Martin being less than half a second faster.
“Getting a check to kick off the week is a big deal,” Martin said. “You just have to stay positive and keep looking forward. When you start off with a win, it helps you with your confidence. You know you can do it.”