When Brenten Hall backs into the box tonight on his first steer in the Thomas & Mack, he won't be second-guessing his horse choice.
Hall will be aboard a proven winner in 11-year-old Baylite Buster—perhaps one of the biggest winners in jackpotting history—a horse he spent years coveting before he finally owned.
"Courtney Small (now Crites) had him forever," Hall explained. "Everybody has rode that horse. In 2015, Justin Payne won $78,000 at the US Finals with Wesley Thorp, he rode TimeBomb all week."
[Read More: Inside Brenten Hall's Feed Room]
The next year, Hall won $50,000 when he and Buddy Bledsoe won the #12 Shootout at the US Finals, and Small said it would take every bit of that check to buy the horse.
"I told my mom I was going to buy TimeBomb, and she told me no I’m not, that I’d lose every dollar I just won on that horse. We argued about it. She wouldn’t let me get rid of that money. I told her if I won the World Series Finale a month or so later, I'd buy the horse."
Hall was just 17 at the time, so he had to mind his mom's orders.
"And then, sure enough, I won the World Series of Team Roping Finale (worth $75,000) . And she STILL wouldn’t let me buy him. So I bought a truck and started paying off a trailer, and the next year, I had the worst year of my life, from winning $200,000 the year before to $2,000 the next year."
Captain—the Paint horse Hall had ridden for years—was crippled, and Hall was broke. But Small, a long-time friend of Hall's, jumped in to offer TimeBomb to Hall for the 2017 World Series of Team Roping Finale.
"I had him for a month and I won on him everywhere I went," Hall said. "I rode him at the Finale and I won second on him out there, and I won sixty-some-thousand. I told Courtney I was buying him. She didn’t let me buy him for two or three weeks. She was worried sick I wasn’t going to like him. She was really deciding whether or not she wanted to sell him."
But Crites hadn't been riding TimeBomb much, as she was seasoning young horses.
"He’d been my good horse for quite a few years," Crites, who bought TimeBomb from cutter Ronnie Stuckey out of Texas, said. "We bought him when he was 2, and they'd just cut him. We make sure they’re broke enough so we can fix problems down the road. We started him on the Hot Heels, and we did ranch work on him. My brother (and NFR header) Zac heeled on him, and he got to where he did not like him. My dad rode him some, but he didn't love him. But I won probably $50,000 on him. It was very, very hard to sell him. Not only was he my good one, but I'd made quite a bit of money mounting him out."
But Crites had another good horse coming on—the yellow named Admiral that's now in Coleman Proctor's NFR string. So she decided to sell, and Hall wrote her a check at Christmas dinner in 2017 for him.
Hall bought his card that next year, and he won $54,913.79 in his rookie campaign, helping his heeler—Chase Tryan—get to the NFR after a six-year absence. This year, he secured a spot in Vegas riding TimeBomb most of the season, earning $88,926.57 and entering the Finals in the ninth spot.
"He scores," Hall said. "I can pull on him or let him sit there. If I pull on him I can see full shoulder all day. If I sit there and don’t move my hand, he never budges. He likes to squat so you have to trust him pretty good."
That sharp scoring makes up for TimeBomb's challenging personality that makes him a one-man horse.
"He sucks to be around," Hall laughed. "He’s a pest. He’s got FOMO (fear of missing out) and he freaks out when he’s by himself. He would rather not be around noise. He’s scared to death of wagons. He ran off with me half the track at Cheyenne this year because there were two mules dragging a wagon, and when we got halfway around there was another wagon so we went the whole way back to the stalls before we got stopped, and I was almost up. He’s a pain. You can't bute him or deworm him or anything because he'll paw you down. He’s not nice about it—he’ll paw you in the face."
He likes women better than men, Hall said, maybe because Crites shared him with her brother—NFR header Zac Small and father Todd—and he liked her style the best. He can prance with his feet above his head, Hall said, but he'll stop when a girl gets on him.
The horse is long-strided, too, causing Small some initial concern when she'd heard Hall was going to ride him in Las Vegas.
"When I had him, he always shined on the longer score, run them down type set ups," Crites said. "Both Zac and I have won pasture ropings on him. He’s so fast and he always finds the cow. I really wasn't sure when he said he was riding him in Las Vegas. Brenten did ride him on the mock NFR set up at the ACRA Finals, and I saw him ride him at Coleman Proctor's NFR roping, so I’m hoping for the best. I’m going to be super nervous watching."
Hall, though, with all his experience in high-pressure situations and on his best mount TimeBomb, isn't concerned.
"I can control the steer’s head so good for Chase," Hall said. "He can feel like he's trotting across the pen and face like he was hot-shotted. He's just makes it easy." TRJ
Breeder's Extra: Gina Stopher bred and raised the Baylite Buster, owning the mare—Zan Par Lena, and her sire, Cisco Lena. Stopher sold a full sister of TimeBomb's to Switzerland, and Brad Lund also owned and successfully showed sibling.
"I raised him, and I raised his mother," Stopher said. "The sire, Baylite Buster, was known for his reining horses but he sired a few cutters, too. That whole family is very close to me. So I'm not surprised because they're really good-minded, really good stoppers and really cowy. I don't keep track of the rodeo whoo-ha. Interestingly enough, there's a Cisco mare showing extremely well in the barrel racing. So if they get in the right hand or right place, they'll jerk your head off!"
Stopher was raising quite a few horses at the time, and she sold stud colts first—so TimeBomb began his journey.
"It's amazing how these things come out of the blue!" Stopher said. "It's just the best story. I love it!"