Idaho bull rider takes the lead; Bennett has a world title on his mind
GOODING, Idaho – The fans that packed into the fairgrounds for the special “Beauty and the Beast” performance of the Gooding Pro Rodeo had been raucous all night.
The first few rides of bull riding, though, had all but suppressed the loud audience. Then an Idaho cowboy, three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Garrett Smith of Rexburg, got the momentum and the electricity back inside Andy James Arena by being the first to make a qualifying eight-second ride.
“It feels really good to be the first one,” said Smith, 27, who matched moves with Summit Pro Rodeo’s Wired All D for 86 points to take the bull riding lead with three performances remaining in this year’s rodeo.
Was there pressure to perform well? Other than the typical attempt to make the best score possible, he didn’t really pay that much attention to what had happened inside the arena before his ride.
“I was trying to stay loose and cool and focused,” said Smith, who is fourth in the world standings with more than $120,000 in earnings with a month and a half remaining in the regular season. “I love this rodeo. This is just a cowboy’s rodeo. Everyone’s here to have fun, and everything’s relaxed. We’re just here to show off what we do and what we’ve been training for.
“This is one of the funnest rodeos we have going. Everyone wants to come here, and everyone knows about the Gooding Pro Rodeo’. I’ve been coming here for about eight years, and I’ll never miss one.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the “beer worthy” section of the stands thought his ride was deserving of a cold beverage on a warm Idaho night.
“There’s never anything better than that,” he said. “There’s no other rodeo that will do that, and it’s kind of legendary to do that here.”
Bareback rider Caleb Bennett was beer worthy, too, after his 89.5-point ride on Summit’s Game Trail, but he was just too sore to make it over to the stands. He also opted out of mounting a horse for a “victory lap,” nursing a pulled groin and nearly getting stepped on by his bronc after the ride had concluded.
“That’s been a great horse the last couple of years,” said Bennett, a nine-time NFR qualifier from Corvallis, Montana. “There are guys that nod their heads that will be anywhere from 88 to 90 (points) on him. We took him to the NFR last year. I knew how solid that horse was.
“I was coming here a little bit sore and banged up and was dang sure determined to make it work. He gave me a little trouble in (the chute), but he fired just like he always does and took me to the top of the board.”
Now Bennett is hoping his score holds up. There are performances set for 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and a host of other bareback riders in the mix to see who can win this storied rodeo.
“There’s a heck of a group of guys that have great bucking horses coming up, so I’d be tickled pink if that wins the rodeo,” said Bennett, 33, the No. 5 man in the world standings with nearly $114,000 in earnings. “With the caliber of guys that are here and the caliber of horses that’s here, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up second or third. I feel pretty confident that it will stay in the money; that’s the best thing, and I feel healthy enough to go on to the next one.”
With 44 days remaining until the season comes to a close, the Utah-born cowboy is in a good position to return to his 10th NFR. He plans to continue to compete at as many rodeos as possible and be at or near the top of the bareback riding world standings.
Just making the NFR isn’t good enough.
“I feel like I could go home and be pretty comfortable (making the NFR), but I’ve got a gold buckle on m mind,” he said. “My groin’s pulled and it’s a little sore, but it’s nothing with a little stem (muscle stimulation) and some ice and some therapy and, of course, the mobility exercises I do every day.
“It might not look like it with the way I walked out of (the arena), but I’ve been feeling better as I’ve been riding because of my pre-ride warm-ups. I bet by this time next week, I’ll be dang near 100 percent and riding through this.”
All the way to a world champion’s gold buckle.
Gooding Pro Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Caleb Bennett, 89.5 points on Summit Pro Rodeo’s Game Trail; 2. Bronc Marriott, 86.5; 3. (tie) Cooper Cooke and R.C. Landingham, 85; 5. Leighton Berry, 81; 6. Lacob Raine, 80; 7. Trenton Montero, 77.5; 8. Jacek Lane Frost, 73.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Tegan Smith, 83 points on Macza Pro Rodeo’s Night Attack; 2. (tie) Allen Boore, Kole Ashbacher and Lucas Macza, 82; 5. Wade Sundell, 81; 6. Jake Finlay 79; 7. Logan Cook, 74; 8. Blasé Freeman, 73.
Breakaway roping: 1. Sidney Nelson, 3.2 seconds; 2. Joshlyn Skinner, 12.6; no other qualified times.
Barrel racing: 1. Michelle Darling, 16.88 seconds; 2. Anita Ellis, 16.95; 3. Ashley Castleberry, 17.02; 4. Tarryn Lee, 17.09; 5. Macee McAllister, 17.10; 6. Cheyenne Wimberley, 17.18; 7. Lauren Butler, 17.20; 8. Lynette Clyde, 17.22; 9. Sadie Wolaver, 17.24; 10. Haven Jones, 17.27; 11. Kellie Collier, 17.28; 12. Kristy Yerrington, 17.29; 13. Sharon Harrell, 17.30; 14. Lisa Lockhart, 17.33; 15. Jane Fambro, 17.44.
Bull riding: 1, Garrett Smith, 86 points on Summit Pro Rodeo’s Wired All D; 2. Dawson Gleaves, 82.5; 3. Jordan Spears, 82; 4. Creek Young 76; 5. Dalan Duncan, 74.5; no other qualified rides.