LAS VEGAS – Jess Pope has a new title; he’s the No. 1 bareback rider in the world standings.
He’s not satisfied with it.
“That’s where I wanted to be all year,” said Pope, 23, of Waverly, Kansas. “It’s all in God’s plan. I’m here to do my job for 10 days. It’s out of my control. I can’t out-do the draw; if everyone else draws better than me, I can’t control that. If I show up and do my job, it will work out at the end of the week the way it’s supposed to.”
He’s earned his spot high on the mountain so far at the National Finals Rodeo. After winning the first two go-rounds, Pope matched moves with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s San Angelo Sam for 88 points during Saturday’s third go-round to add another $16,111 to his NFR earnings.
In just three nights, he’s pocketed $80,105 and pushed his season earnings to $190,129. He owns an $11,000 lead over the No. 2 man, five-time and reigning world champion Kaycee Feild.
“That horse felt really strong,” Pope said. “He had a lot of moves in his head. He’s built a lot different than other horses, and my rigging was a bit further back on him than most horses. When he throws his head back, it’s a lot stronger than most horses, and he whacks you in the back a lot stronger than other horses. That’s why he’s really hard to get by.”
He not only got by the big paint horse, he posted the third best score of the night. By doing that and by placing in the first three nights, the Kansas cowboy who competed in rodeo at Missouri Valley College has plenty of confidence for the seven nights remaining in the ProRodeo campaign.
“I know how to ride bucking horses, so I’m here to do my job,” he said. “All 15 of us ride bucking horses great; that’s why we’re here. If I can just do my job, if I can stay focused on what I’m supposed to do, it’ll be good.
“I do this all year long. It’s what I do for a living so I can do what I’m here for.”
After winning the second round Friday, Pope took family and his rodeo coach, Ken Mason, on stage at the South Point for the Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Buckle Presentation. After Pope left the stage, he handed that buckle to Mason as thanks for all the coach has done for the young cowboy.
“He deserves that; he’s the best bareback riding coach there is,” Pope said. “It was emotional. I hope he enjoys it.”