LAS VEGAS – When it’s time to win in Las Vegas, Jess Pope rolls the dice and trusts where they will land.
He’s a two-time National Finals Rodeo average champion, so this format suits him. On Friday night, he rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez for 85 points to finish fourth in the second go-round. He added $12,125 and pushed his season earnings to $204,235 – nearly $45,000 of which has come in Sin City.
“I thought it went really good,” he said of his ride. “He was pretty strong today and kind of had a move to him about jump three. I had to regather everything back up and start back over again.
“He’s just a solid draw, and it’s something I knew I could win money on, so I was pretty happy to have him.”
Pope entered this year’s finale No. 2 in the bareback riding world standings with just shy of $160,000 in earnings. Once he arrived, he received an NFR qualification bonus of $10,000, then he placed in the first two rounds to just pad his pocketbook.
He’s done all that even after sitting out much of July because he tore the plantar facia in his right foot. He returned and made his way into world-title contention. In two nights of ProRodeo’s grand finale, he’s just added to his chances.
“My foots doing good,” said Pope, 24, of Waverly, Kansas. “It still gets sore on me. It changed how I worked out leading up to the finals, but it’s one of those deals. You deal with the cards you’re dealt, smile and enjoy it while it’s here.”
This is how he makes a living, and earning more than $12K in one night comes in handy. When he’s not riding bucking horses, he ranches at his home in eastern Kansas and does day work as a cowboy.
“With today’s cattle prices, that will buy about nine yearlings, but whatever,” he said with a laugh. “The way I look at it, this is where my bread and butter comes from. This is where I can make the most money that I can all year long. Yeah, my friends are out here, but my main focus is to ride bucking horses. I’m taking care of business.”
Yes, he is.