Photo by Kirt Stienke
Arizona’s Derrick Begay has never been a winter rodeo kind of guy. Editors at this magazine have written stories, year after year, about him getting rolling come the spring’s California run.
But 2015 has been a year like no other for Begay. Roping with Clay O’Brien Cooper, Begay has amassed over $33,000 in earnings, capping off winter’s building rodeos with a win at Rodeo Austin worth $9,268.
“I ride the same horses, and I’m the same guy,” Begay said. “But there’s two things I can say that have made the difference: I want to say that the main reason is my partner, and maybe I was finally due to have a good winter. Roping with Clay, I want to make it count. Not that I didn’t with my other partners, but each run is a chance to rope with the Champ. Even though we are going to get to rope together all year, I can’t think about that. Every chance feels like it’s important.”
Their Rodeo Austin appearance didn’t start out the way either partner would have liked. They were up at Austin the same day as the George Strait Team Roping Classic, just a few hours after Begay missed his high call steer for Cory Petska in the San Antonio Rose Palace.
“I drove over there to Austin and the hype wasn’t there,” Begay said. “I drove all the way home after Clay roped a leg and we were 11.4 to win last hole in our set. We had to drive back to Texas one last time to finish up over there.”
They were 4.4 on their steer in the clean-slate semifinals, and would get their last steer down in 5.0 to win the rodeo with Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill and Tyler Waters and Matt Kasner on their heels with a pair of 5.4s.
Begay won Rodeo Austin in 2011 with Cesar de la Cruz, also aboard his “older” unregistered gelding, Swagger.
“He’s like the way I am, I think. He likes Texas sometimes, but doesn’t like sitting around there,” Begay said, only half joking, about why he didn’t just leave his sorrel in Texas in the two weeks between running their first one in Austin and the semifinals.
While Begay hauled Swagger back to Texas after a two-week break in Arizona, Cooper opted to fly down and jump ride an up-and-coming 7-year-old grey mare named Whiskey owned by Corkill.
“Jade Corkill sent his mare down there, and I got along real good with her,” Cooper said. “He’s brought her along slow and has her good and solid.”
For both Begay and Cooper, the new partnership was a long time coming. Throughout Begay’s professional career, he’d joked with Cooper about roping. In 2012, Cooper asked Begay to rope for the summer, but Begay was roping with Cesar de la Cruz, and things were going well.
“It just happened to bounce around where last year at the end of the year, Chad (Masters) had a good opportunity to rope with Travis Graves and I told him that I thought it would be a really awesome opportunity,” Cooper explained. “So when I left the US Finals in Oklahoma, I didn’t have a partner. About a month previous, Derrick had texted and said he didn’t have a partner for the new year. On the drive home, we texted back and forth and made plans to rope.”
The plans are working out: they placed second at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and second at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, netting some $24,469 at those two rodeos alone.
“The moral of the story is to keep our head down, keep swinging and keep the ball rolling and keep catching steers,” Cooper said. “We’re going with the Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill design, which is to out catch everyone. Two horns and two feet every single time. Now we move outdoors, and the scores are different, and everything is pretty much outdoors until the fall… Derrick is one of the elite guys that has the ability to do all parts of the game, and he can rope right with the top guys no matter what the situation is.”