LAS VEGAS – Heading into Friday’s second round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Uncle Jerry had never been ridden.
Garrett Smith changed that with an 87-point ride, good enough to tie for second place on the second night of ProRodeo’s grand championship, earning $18,192 in the process.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Smith said of the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bull. “I saw a couple videos, but everybody said that bull would fit me because he’s got a lot of up and down and going left, so it all worked out.”
The 7-year-old yellow bull threw everything it could at the 21-year-old cowboy from Rexburg, Idaho, but Smith countered every move well. Making the qualifying eight-second marking also gave the young cowboy a boost as he prepares for the final eight nights of the rodeo season.
“It’s nice to break the ice and get one rode, especially after last night and not doing all that great,” he said. “It’s nice to have tonight and get the ball rolling.”
Like a good game of craps, having things rolling your way is vital in Vegas, but bull riders can’t stress about a bad beat.
“You can’t worry about the last one,” Smith said. “You just thrive off of the good and forget about the bad. You’re going to learn something whether you buck off or stay on, so you just keep going, look forward and keep your head up. Your luck is going to turn around sometime.”
It takes a little bit of luck to have success in rodeo, but it also takes tremendous skill and superb athleticism. Only the top 15 bull riders on the money list at the conclusion of the regular season advance to the NFR. In addition, the cowboys will face the best bulls in the game over the 10-night championship.
There’s much for Smith to take in during his stay in the City of Lights. As a first-time qualifier, every aspect of his experience has been somewhat aw-inspiring. From standing on the back of the bright yellow bucking chutes to hearing the crowd of more than 17,000 scream after a qualified ride, his stay so far has been everything he expected.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “This is literally what we’ve all dreamed of. Even through the grand entry and we’re all riding, it’s crazy. That’s one of the funnest things to do here is having all the bull riders that haven’t really rode a horse, and we all get on one and are hauling butt around the arena.
“This place is a blast.”
It’s also been profitable so far. He has moved up five spots to fifth in the world standings with $122,621. He trails the world standings leader – reigning two-time world champion Sage Kimzey – by more than $85,000. But with go-rounds paying more than $26,000 a night, that world championship is still in sight with just eight more nights in the ProRodeo season.
“It’s still within reach, and that ride (Friday) made everything real and made everything seem possible,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can just stay on the roll, keep going and keep having fun.”
Las Vegas is a great place to have fun, especially for rodeo’s brightest stars.