Clay Smith and Jake Long are weathering the winter storm at Denver’s National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, having advanced to the rodeo’s Jan. 21 semifinals.
They’re rolling off a win at the Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo, where they won $4,228 a man for first in the average with a 9.8 on two and split fourth in the first round with a 4.7-second run. They advanced from their set at Denver, too, with a 10.6 on two.
“That’s one of my least favorite places on the planet,” said Long, 38, of Coffeyville, Kansas. “I’ve missed more steers than anybody there. It was a pretty big shock to do good there. I don’t go very many places where I have a history like that.”
Luckily, a fresher set of cattle paired well with Smith and Long’s run this year.
“It’s hard to win money there,” Smith, 30, added. “I’ve placed a couple times in the average, but I’ve never won it. I don’t think Jake had ever won it either. The steers were more fresh than normal, so it was a little more tricky and a little slower. They were strong but not just leaving super honest.”
Smith jump-rode a 15-year-old gelding named Chief, owned by NextGen Rodeo’s Clay Deen.
“Clay called me a week or two before Odessa and said he was going to Arizona for business, and he was just going to be leaving his rodeo horse kicked out in case I wanted him,” Smith said. “I said heck yeah, because he really fits into my string right now. That horse is fast. He’s flat and easy. He’s easy to throw fast on, but he has enough speed that if you need to go catch one, he can run. He can come up the walls good and fast. He’s real fast-footed. He’s pretty cool to ride, especially at Denver with that left wall.”
Smith had brought his No.1 CJ to Odessa, but the horse’s legs swelled during the jackpot. So he jumped on Roger, his 11-year-old backup horse that came from Casey Stipes, at the rodeo.
“Roger was about 40 miles from town at a friend’s house, so I had to borrow a horse for the jackpot,” Long said. “But I got on him for the rodeo and he let me get out around them, which was good because I needed that there.
“I thought our first steer at the rodeo was just medium,” Long continued. “There were a handful of really good ones and he was in the middle of the herd. I got in a bad spot and had to take another swing. We made a decent run on him anyway. The second one we thought he was a step better. He went left and we were 5.1. I don’t know that we could have done much more.”
At Denver, they simply knocked two down in the tournament-style setup, falling outside the money holes but still securing their spot in the semifinals.
“We just had two medium steers,” Long said. “There are two ends of them, really really good or a little sharper. Ours were sharper, and you’d have to expose yourself if you want to be mid-four. We survived the storm and get the chance at more money on the next ones.”
Smith and Long are coming off a tough Finals for both men, where they stopped the clock on only four of the 10 steers they ran and walked away with $42,955 in earnings. So early money in 2023 feels pretty all right. Smith finished 14th in the standings with $131,807 won, while Long was 11th with $173,287.
“Odessa was a circuit rodeo for us,” Smith explained. “And since the circuit deal is so screwed up that you have to count your circuit rodeos, it makes it more important to do good. You have to count 15 circuit rodeos this year, and 10 you wouldn’t usually count at all. It makes it more important to do good at spots like that. A guy focuses harder to catch two steers. It feels good to start off the year with some money. “
Full Team Roping Results, Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo:
First round: 1. Nelson Wyatt/Chase Tryan, 4.3 seconds, $2,137 each; 2. Chet Weitz/Jace Davis, 4.4, $1,859; 3. Payden Emmett/Lucas Falconer, 4.5, $1,580; 4. (tie) Ty Arnold/Kaden Profili, Clay Smith/Jake Long and Cole Thomas/Clay Green, 4.7, $1,022 each; 7. (tie) Jake Cooper/Tyler McKnight, Jr. Dees/Ross Ashford and Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 4.9, $217 each.
Second round: 1. (tie) Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins II and Slade Wood/Logan Moore, 4.2 seconds, $1,998 each; 3. (tie) Manny Egusquiza Jr./JR Gonzalez and Cory Kidd V/Lane Mitchell, 4.4, $1,440 each; 5. Tanner Green/Caleb Green, 4.5, $1,022; 6. (tie) Keven Daniel/Douglas Rich and Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, 4.6, $604 each; 8. Clayton Van Aken/Rich Skelton, 4.7, $186.
Average: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 9.8 seconds on two head, $3,206 each; 2. Jake Cooper/Tyler McKnight, 10.0, $2,788; 3. Cole Thomas/Clay Green, 11.0, $2,370; 4. Dalton Turner/Clay Clayman, 12.4, $1,951; 5. (tie) Tanner Green/Caleb Green and Chet Weitz/Jace Davis, 14.6, $1,324 each; 7. Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 15.2, $697; 8. Jake Clay/Kollin VonAhn, 15.3, $279.