Begay and Petska Get the Band Back Together and Storm Reno
Derrick Begay and Cory Petska team back up to win the 2021 Reno Rodeo with a time of 16.5 seconds on three head, worth $9,064 each.

Just how many rabbits can Derrick Begay and Cory Petska pull out of their hats? We all remember that little stunt they pulled in 2018, when they joined forces after the Fourth of July run, went on a winning rampage and came from nowhere to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Begay and Petska got their band back together just in time for the Reno Rodeo, placed in all three rounds, won the average, banked $13,864 a man and picked up their first pair of coveted silver spurs at the Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West.

“I’ve been coming to Reno since 2006, and I’d only made the short round one time with Cesar (de la Cruz) before now,” said Begay, who’s 37 now and lives in Seba Dalkai, Arizona, with his fiancee, Justine Doka, and little girl, Brindle Mae, who’ll turn 2 on July 27. “Reno’s a special rodeo. In the wintertime, we have San Antonio, Houston and The American. Then we go home, regroup and freshen up before we head to Reno, which is our summer kickoff.

Begay and Petska roped three steers in 16.5, to top reserve champs Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler by 1.3 seconds for the Reno spurs. Fernando Sam-Sin Photo

“Everybody heads to Reno happy, with clean bedsheets, pressed clothes and the rig all shined up. We all go to Reno with goals, high hopes and big dreams. The atmosphere at Reno is always great, but there was even more joy there this year, because we missed it so much last year. Everybody’s happy rodeo’s back, from the gate guys to the cowboys.”

Petska first entered the Reno Rodeo with his NFR header dad, Paul, when Cory was a pro rodeo rookie in 1998.

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“I roped with my dad at Reno the first three or four years,” said 2017 World Champion Heeler Petska, who’s 41 now and roped at 15 NFRs between 2003 and 2018. “I won second at Reno with my dad once, second with Shain Sproul one time and second with (Erich) Rogers the year we won the BFI (2015). Reno is like Salinas to me. When I was a kid, I remember very well sitting on the bucking chutes and watching slack with Wade Wheatley and Kyle Lockett. We all watched the BFI together as kids, too.

“Reno has always been such a prestigious rodeo, and it was the biggest team roping rodeo when we were kids, because they didn’t have team roping at rodeos like Houston, San Antonio and Cheyenne back then. We put some rodeos on a pedestal, and Reno’s been up there since I was a little kid. It’s amazing to finally win it.”

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Begay’s sorrel superhorse, Swagger, waited a long while to head for the Reno winner’s circle.

“I’ve roped at Reno for 15 years now, and have been riding Swagger since 2006 also,” grinned Begay, who roped at eight NFRs between 2008 and 2018. “He doesn’t have any papers, and the years start running together. I’ve lost track of how old he might be. But I figure it doesn’t matter. I still ask myself what it is about Swagger and me. I’m still in awe of whatever it is, too.”

Petska, who won the 2005 NFR average heeling for Hall of Famer Tee Woolman, rode a bay mare by the name of Annie at Reno. Annie’s by his father-in-law Mel Potter’s stud Lone Drifter, and out of a great mare Mel’s cowboy contemporary Dale Ward headed on.

Begay and Petska placed in all three rounds at Reno. Phil Doyle Photo

“Mel raised Annie, and I trained her,” Cory said. “She’s 16. I’ve jackpotted on her for 10 or 12 years now, but have been riding Chumley at the rodeos.”

About that…Rodeo horses’ best friend Bambi Robb left Reno with Swagger and Annie after the short round last night to get them to Prescott. Meanwhile, Begay and Petska just tied the 4.1-second arena record at Greeley this afternoon on Begay’s bay mare, Hannah, and Chumley. Oh, and Justine jumped on Hannah and is placing deep in the breakaway roping on her at Greeley also.