With a packed house, the Ariat WSTR Finale XIV kicked off with 53 teams going head-to-head on five steers in pursuit of a total $206,600 cash payout in the association’s inaugural Gold Buckle Beer Open to the World presented by The Team Roping Journal.
Oklahoma ropers Bubba Buckaloo and Billie Jack Saebens took home the lion’s share of the winnings, roping five steers in 36.77 seconds, worth $56,600 along with trophy Cactus Saddlery saddles and pads, trophy Gist buckles, and additional prizes—a refreshing way to finish the season after both ropers just narrowly missed this year’s super bowl of rodeo.
Last year the WSTR saw an increase in the outdoor arena’s Open roping during the Finale—in fact it became the fifth largest Open roping in the country—sparking WSTR’s decision to offer this official Finale division. Gold Buckle Beer jumped in to sponsor this first year’s debut adding $30,000 to the pot.
With the Top 15 PRCA ropers under contract to the National Finals Rodeo, the Gold Buckle Beer Open provides an opportunity for other professional ropers to have their shot at a piece of the $13 million in total prize money that the WSTR Finale will pay out.
After the high-call team of Casey Hicks, Sperry, Oklahoma, and Steve Orth, Guthrie, Oklahoma, went out with a no-time, NFR qualifiers Buckaloo and Saebens held on to the top spot from second call back.
Buckaloo finished 19 in the PRCA RAM World standing on the head side and Saebens finished in the crying hole, 16, on the heel side. Just one position shy of getting the call he did help his partner, Tyler Wade, Terrell, Texas, qualify for a third NFR. Wade teamed up with Cole Davison, Stephenville, Texas, at the Thomas & Mack and coincidentally Buckaloo plans to rope with Davison this coming season. Saebens plans to be back with Wade.
[Read more: Inner Strength with Bubba Buckaloo]
With a tough field the Gold Buckle Beer Open win didn’t come easy.
“It felt hard all day long,” said Buckaloo. “Our first couple steers were treacherous. The first one came straight left. The second steer, I think he smoked both of us. That was our hardest steer for sure.”
Buckaloo relied on a 14-year-old gray gelding he calls Silver.
“He’s my old horse that I rode last month at the US Finals, but he’s been crippled,” said Buckaloo. “I just got him back. I know if I do my job, he’ll let me win something. He’ll let you win at any set up from the NFR to Cheyenne.”
Saebens was riding his main mount, former AQHA World Champion mare DT Sugar Chex Whiz who was also named the 2019 Purina Heel Horse of the Year as voted on by the top heelers in the world.
“Like I always tell people if I mess up when I’m riding her that’s on me,” said Saebens. “She’s a great horses. She never messes up. That second steer split the gates and ran hard. Bubba did a great job of slowing him down and letting me catch.”
For Saebens the name of the game is to be in the zone.
“I don’t watch anyone rope,” he explained. “When my header turns them, I just catch the steer. I can’t go out there trying to win. If you draw good and take good high-percentage shots you’re going to win.”