Photos by Seasons Sharp
Michael Bailey and Russell Perez might not have that hardcore-cowboy look down pat. They’ve got great hair that’s rarely covered up by a cowboy hat, and they both dress pretty sharp. But looks can be deceiving, and these two cool, calm and collected ropers nabbed $37,820 for their 39.86-second on four head win at the #10 Heartland in Stephenville, Texas.
Haslet, Texas’ Bailey, a cosmetic surgeon and emergency room doctor, and Quemado, Texas’ Perez, a college senior from Texas Tech, have roped together since Perez was 12 years old, but to date this Heartland win is their biggest joint victory.
While Perez grew up with a rope in his hand, Bailey learned from scratch after finishing his medical training when time actually opened up to allow for a hobby.
“I’ve been roping since 2001,” Bailey said. “I got into private practice then, and I had moved to Coleman, Texas, and I used to work out and play in basketball leagues when I lived in the city. But there wasn’t a lot of that going on. I used to go out there and open the chute for the guys who were roping, and within a month of opening the chute, I had a horse and a rope in my hands.”
The doctor, who now has a Fort Worth-based practice, had ridden horses as a kid but started going to clinics, and quickly met the Perez family at jackpots in Texas.
“My dad and Michael would see each other waiting to rope at the short round of US ropings 10 years ago,” Perez said. “So Michael and I met, and he started to turn steers for me.”
Russell’s dad came up with a nickname for Bailey, and a few of their friends picked it up over the years.
“Russell’s dad makes fun of us because we have good hygiene,” Bailey joked. “If you have good hygiene and you’re a cowboy, you get made fun of. I have some of my buddies and they call me Fabio. I will hear ‘FABIO!’ from the stands sometimes with my buddies up there giggling.”
Good hair and all, the pair has won quite a bit over the years, including a 13th place check at last year’s WSTR #10 Finale worth $8,000 a man.
“It’s kind of a reminder that you’re getting older,” Bailey admitted. “But it’s been neat having success with some of these guys I’ve roped with since they were kids.”
Bailey and wife Angela now have three grandkids of their own, in addition to their five children and stepchildren, so he fights to fit roping into his busy family and work schedule.
“I’ve always been blessed with good horses, and the one I have now I raised from a colt, he’s young and can handle me pulling him out of the pasture and getting practiced up really quickly to go rope. I know I won’t be able to do that with him forever,” Bailey said of Taco, his 11-year-old gelding. “But right now I’m so busy.”
Similarly, Perez tries to fit roping into his busy construction-engineering schedule at Texas Tech.
“My father keeps my horses legged up, shod, Coggins pulled and all the necessities. Whenever I rope, I try to get out there and throw a few loops. I practiced one day prior to the Heartland in Stephenville, but prior to that I had not gotten on a horse since the Lariat Bowl in Salado in January,” Perez said.
Perez’s parents require that he maintain above a 3.5 GPA, so team roping has taken a backseat to his intense engineering coursework. He’ll graduate in December 2015, though, and hopefully be able to fit in some more roping when he works in the project management division of a construction management company.
“My dad is a superintendent in construction, what I’ll be doing,” Perez explained. “He’s from a ranching family in Mexico. They have a ranch in Mexico, and we have a small ranch here in the U.S. I used to cowboy, up until I left for college, but now I don’t have the time anymore. The ranch in Mexico is about 130 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas. My dad spent more time on the ground from injury in 2014 than on his horse, but he’s back to roping. We’ll be roping together in Hamilton the first week in May. He’s my other partner besides Michael.”
Perez rode a 6-year-old un-papered gelding, Booboo, which his father bought him and trained as a 4-year-old, with some help tuning from Tyler Magnus.
Both ropers credit their horses with their #10 Heartland win. They helped them make four practice-style runs to keep the pressure off throughout the roping.
“We were fourth high call, and we made a businessman type of run,” Bailey said. “It wasn’t anything super fast, but it was a double. Nobody else was roping two feet. We were one of the only clean runs in the top seven. In that particular roping, on that day, it worked. Our time wasn’t spectacular, but you put a lot of money up and you get your nerves up, and people start making mistakes.”
“I’ve been high callback a few times, but I loved it being fourth callback,” Perez added. “There was no pressure on me, all I had to do was go catch. And it worked out.”
#10 HEARTLAND FINALE
TOTAL PAYOUT: $193,000
Produced by: Shelley Productions
Date: February 20, 2015
1. Michael Bailey / Russell Perez / 39.86 on four / $37,820
2. Rob Foster / Micheal Johnson / 42.07 / $28,370
3. Rock Dicke / Zack Hafley / 42.17 / $20,490
4. Luis Guzman / Leopoldo Arreola / 42.36 / $17,340
5. Cody L Johnson / Aaron Chamley / 43.1 / $14,180