LAS VEGAS – The dollars and cents of rodeo are starting to add up for saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper.
Through nine rounds at the National Finals Rodeo, he has placed five times, the latest coming after an 86.5-point ride on United Pro Rodeo’s Awesome Sauce to finish in a tie for third place in Friday’s ninth round.
“Getting down to these last days, making as much money as you can is what it’s all about,” said Casper, a four-time NFR qualifier from Miami, Texas. “I’ve seen Awesome Sauce a bunch. I’ve never been on it, but all my traveling partners have. I knew he was going to be a pretty tough horse but probably one of the better ones in the draw; I was pretty excited to have him.”
Friday’s round featured the eliminator pen, the hardest-to-ride broncs at the NFR, but Casper was up to the task. It was his biggest payday so far. He is seventh in the aggregate race with 751 points on nine rides; if he maintains that through Saturday’s final performance of the 2023 season, he’ll add a bonus of $13,372.
Heading into the 10th round, he’s pocketed $63,241 in Las Vegas and is 10th in the world standings with $205,662.
“We’re nine for nine now, and I think that’s the most I’ve ridden out at the NFR since we were in Arlington (Texas in 2020),” he said. “I’m pretty pumped about that.”
Cowboys arrive in the Nevada desert with rodeo’s gold on their minds. To win that coveted buckle, it takes talent, consistency and a little bit of luck. Casper has the talent and proved his consistency, but he needed a little more luck in order to walk away with the world championship.
“Anytime you surround yourself with the top 15 of anything, it’s going to be pretty great,” he said of the field of bronc riders in Sin City this week. “I’m pretty lucky to be able to be around these guys in the locker room. There are guys in there like Zeke (Thurston) that were making the NFR before I thought I could even make the NFR.
“It’s pretty cool to look up to them, but they’re good competition and make it a lot of fun.”
That talented group of men is just one reason why Casper hasn’t made more NFR money. When he’s scored well and had a chance to take the top prize in a round, someone else has taken the luster from him. Take Friday, for example. Dawson Hay had already scored 86.5 to match Casper, but Lefty Holman was the last to go and was a point better. Thurston, the reigning and three-time world champion, won the round with an 88.5. Having the right horse matters just to get a check.
“You can go through the list and pick out who you feel sorry for and who got the better end of the draw,” said Casper, the 2016 intercollegiate champion while at Clarendon (Texas) College. “I feel like I was one of the guys who got the better end of it tonight, so we just tried to capitalize on it.”
Every experience can be a lesson, and he’s received that this week.
“You just have to enjoy it while you’re here,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest lesson. We work all year to get here for these 10 days, so it’s best to just be patient. If it doesn’t work out, that’s OK. Just enjoy it.”