ESTES PARK, Colo. – Billy Bugenig is a four-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Each time he’s competed in steer wrestling at ProRodeo’s grand finale in Las Vegas, he did so on the back of Dashs Dapper Star, a horse he calls Wick and owns with fellow bulldogger Wade Sumpter. On Friday night during the third performance of Rooftop Rodeo, Wick put Bugenig back in the position the cowboy needed, and the result was a first-round leading 3.8-second run.
“Wick’s been around for years,” Bugenig said of powerful sorrel gelding that was named the PRCA/AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year in 2010 and ’11. “He’s old now. I told him maybe one more good year, then he could retire, but he’s still looking good and working good.”
It showed in Estes Park. The Ferndale, Calif., cowboy took advantage of a good steer. Now he’ll wait through Saturday mornings non-performance competition – known as “slack” in rodeo terms – to see how his time falls in the first round. He will then compete on his second steer on Saturday night.
“I had a good run, but it could’ve been a little faster,” Bugenig said. “He kind of hit on a leg, but we’ll take it. I don’t know how much it’ll win, but it’ll be good.”
At Rooftop Rodeo, steer wrestlers and tie-down ropers compete in two go-rounds. The top finishers in each round will earn payouts, then the top times in the two-run aggregate will also cash in. And every dollar counts in rodeo, where there are no guaranteed earnings.
Dollars equal points, and the top 15 cowboys in the standings in each event at the conclusion of the regular season advance to the NFR. Bugenig would like to return for a fifth time. Heading into this week’s competition, he sits 41st in the standings, so he has some room to make up.
“As long as I’m doing this, it’s going to be a priority for me to go to the NFR,” he said. “When I’m done, I’ll be done. I’ve got a few good years left in me hopefully.”
Part of the reason he’s down in the standings is that he spent time working at his home in northern California.
“We just headed out at Reno (Nev.), then I had a decent Fourth (of July run), so hopefully we’ll get rolling,” Bugenig said. “It’s good to have confidence in your horse and being able to catch up. When you back in (the timed-event box) and are confident, that means everything.”
Most of the $19,500 he’s won this year has come in the last month, but that’s because of a rough and tumble few weeks of traveling many miles and competing in several rodeos in a short amount of time.
“It’s good to get out of the heat,” he said about returning to Estes Park for the second straight year. “July is a busy month for us, so to be able to come up here for a couple of days in the cool weather feels pretty good.
“It’s a great committee here. They try to do better every year. That’s what we like are people who are trying to get better and help us. It’s a great rodeo and great weather, and we’re glad to be here.”
Estes Park, Colo.
July 5-10, 2017
Leaders through third performance
Bareback riding: 1. Buck Lunak, 81.5 points on Cervi Brothers’ Silence of the Lambs; 2. Dantan Bertsch, 81; 3. Evan Jayne, 79; 4. Tyler Scales, 78; 5. Bill Tutor, 77.5; 6. (tie) Luke Creasy and Shane O’Connell, 75; 8. (tie) Mike Solberg and Jessy Davis, 73.
Steer wrestling: 1. Billy Bugenig, 3.8 seconds; 2. Cody Doescher, 3.9; 3. (tie) Justice Johnson and Errol Frain, 4.4; 5. Hunter Cure, 4.6; 6. Jarrett New, 4.8; 7. (tie) Beau Clark and Kane Butcher, 5.1.
Team roping: 1. Matt Sherwood/Walt Woodard, 5.2 seconds; 2. (tie) Marcus Theriot/Cody Doescher and Joshua Torres/Jonathan Torres, 5.4; 4. (tie) Casey Adams/Riley Pedro and Kolton Schmidt/Dugan Kelly, 5.9; 6. Caleb Smidt/B.J. Dugger, 6.2; 7. Philip Schuman/Marcus Banister, 11.8; 8. (tie) Chad Masters/Travis Graves and Rhett Anderson/Quinn Kesler, 14.8.
Saddle bronc riding 1. Layton Green, 84.5 points on Cervi Rodeo’s Payback; 2. (tie) Colt Gordon and Roper Kiesner, 82; 4. Cody DeMoss, 81; 5. Tyler Turco, 79; 6. (tie) Andy Clarys and Jake Finley, 77; 8. (tie) Louie Brunson and Garrett Buckley, 76.5.
Tie-down roping: 1. Westyn Hughes, 8.0 seconds; 2. Tim Pharr, 8.1; 3. Reese Riemer, 8.4; 4. Caleb Smidt, 8.6; 5. Seth Hall, 9.0; 6. Tweety McBride, 9.6; 7. Catfish Brown, 10.2; 8. Bailey Young, 10.5.
Barrel racing: 1. Shelby Janssen, 17.66 seconds; 2. Ari-Anna Flynn, 17.68; 3. Ivy Conrado, 17.79; 4. Ranette Taylor, 18.16; (tie) 5. Jeni Cerise and Chris Gibson, 18.23; 7. Amanda Freese, 18.32; 8. Kelly Tovar, 18.34.
Bull riding: 1. Scottie Knapp, 87 points on Cervi Brothers’ Po-Boy; 2. Remi Wildeman, 83; 3. (tie) Tyler Ray Viers and Hawk Whitt, 81; 5. Trevor Reiste, 79; 6. Shawn Bennett Jr., 65; no other qualified rides.