ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico—The Ariat World Series of Team Roping announced the association will host a Practice Pen Finale Qualification competition, challenging teams in the #10.5, #9.5 and #8.5 divisions to beat a standard "par" time in order to get a spot in this year's Vegas Finale at the South Point Hotel, Casino, Spa and Equestrian Center. 

"Until the threat of the virus passes, old match team ropings are out of the question," WSTR Director of Roping Operations Ty Yost said in a video posted to the association's site. "And of course, we're missing the key qualification months of March and April. So we had a thought. How cool would it be for you to qualify for these million-dollar Finales, right from the practice pen on your own cattle?" 

[WATCH: WSTR Director of Roping Operations Announces Practice Pen Finale Qualifications]

The association tapped its old challenge-pen format, setting a "par" for each division—45 seconds for the #10.5, 50 seconds for the #9.5 and 55 seconds of the #8.5—and tasking teams with roping four already-loaded steers in under that time limit. Fees are $150 a roper, and as long as the team beats that par, they will win a $4,000 team qualification to the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale. 

Before You Rope and Record Your Runs

1. You must have or register for a Facebook account to record live. Your Facebook account must be shared with WSTR and/or USTRC.(You can allow your account to be public for a short time, then turn back to private once we obtain the video.)

2. Both sides must be paid at time of entry and a day and morning or afternoon must be designated.

3. Arena Set-up: We will run this like an old-fashioned barrel team roping, obviously you can set the distance with a flag or some type of marker. Marker (or barrel) should be set at 60ft. Before the competition begins, ropers will have the distance pre-measured and mark with a barrel, flag, or some other approved method with a designated distance.

4. Cattle: For the first time, you can’t complain about the cattle because you are using yours. Rule is simple, you must pick four different steers, and have them loaded before we begin.

A World Series or Key Card membership is required, and ropers must be 21 or over to participate. 

"Our goal was to develop a system to make this idea work," Vice President of Roping Operations Connie Gentry said. "If you follow the Facebook posts you have quite a few talking about how ropers might cheat. But every scenario has been discussed and beyond that we have faith that the vast majority will play it fair. If there is any question that there is some hanky panky, we have three options: call it no time and forfeit, refund the fees or start them over. We are more worried about poor video quality, weak internet and/or poor camera positioning, than we are cheating. But if it was out of their control, we’ll either reschedule or draw them out."

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As of Monday, April 13, about 30 teams have entered, with three teams winning so far. The first winners, Texans Jason Burson and Polo Cavazos, were the first who beat the challenge and qualified for Las Vegas. Their video was the “how to” and others are following suit.

"We’ve only done it a couple days, and we might have to make adjustments," Gentry said. "The odds are 14-times your money, which is nearly triple what has ever been done before. In addition, these starting par times are really loose. They are eight seconds longer than the average par of each division. This gives us room to adjust if it begins to look too easy. It will take a lot of teams to pay for the entries if we get a lot of wins. Timing is really important, and we have our flagger timing each run three different times to ensure accuracy."

The competition utilizes the barrel-roping format. As the WSTR barrier succeeded in narrowing the turn zone in each competition to a particular area of the arena, the barrel concept should provide the same effect because the header must turn the steer beyond the barrel. The competition will utilize Facebook Live videos for verification and timing. When the WSTR staff watches the video, each run will be timed from the time the chute gate opens, until the run is completed. 

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"We’re trying to provide an opportunity and fun during this crisis," Gentry said. "This is a reaction to what’s going on in the country. This isn’t a gimmick, and we aren’t trying to cheapen or trash up our qualification program. This is an extraordinary time; we need an extraordinary option. We want to facilitate events for ropers staying at home. So far this has been so popular that we actually have had a couple of teams who were already qualified trying to draw out of that qualification so they can play. But we can’t do that. On their $150 entry fee, to be qualified they’ve won at least $5,000. They’ve already won at least $1,000 more than these ropers are winning. We qualify ropers all year long at different events and venues, and we've never allowed people multiple qualifications in a single division anyway. In our minds we want to keep moving forward toward the Finale with a new option."

For more information or to enter, visit Global Handicaps' explainerTRJ 

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