east coast reppin'

Eric Fabian and Derek Carey Triumph at 2023 First Frontier Circuit Finals
New Yorkers Eric Fabian and Derek Carey won the 2023 First Frontier Circuit Finals, adding to their rich First Frontier achievements.
Eric Fabian turning a steer for Derek Carey to win the 2023 First Frontier Circuit Finals.
Eric Fabian and Derek Carey won the 2023 First Frontier Circuit Finals. | Casey Martin photo

Year after year, Eric Fabian and Derek Carey are one of the First Frontier’s top teams, and they’ve proved it yet again, winning the 2023 First Frontier Circuit Finals on Jan. 13, 2024.

The New Yorkers have had their fair share of circuit success—Fabian has won the year-end multiple times and the aggregate at least four times, and Carey won the circuit finals in 2014 and has had multiple reserve finishes in the standings. As guys with “regular” jobs—Fabian is an elementary physical education teacher, basketball and track coach, and Carey works in construction—the circuit system is their slice of heaven.

“I don’t leave the circuit,” Carey, 37, said. “I’ve been reserve year-end champion, I think, almost 10 times; it just hasn’t ever worked out to win it. But the year-end and average are really the two biggest things on my list to win because I don’t travel. So, it means a lot to win that and get that sense of accomplishment.”

For Fabian, it’s also a way to share his love of rodeo with his wife and past First Frontier breakaway champ, Emily, who secured the top spot at the circuit finals but was unable to compete as they’re preparing to welcome their second child this February. 

“My wife has definitely been a huge factor in this whole rodeo life,” Fabian, 32, said. “She and I travel a ton together now that they have breakaway at a lot of the PRCAs. Now we’re able to travel a lot and that’s been great. Since she ropes, she’s a huge part of it, to kind of go back and watch the runs and [she] helps see things from a different angle.”

Fabian and Carey’s First Frontier Circuit Finals steer-by-steer breakdown

In Round 1 of the First Frontier Circuit Finals, Fabian and Carey aimed to just knock down their steer. With a 5.9, they accomplished their goal and won second in the round for $1,737 a man.

Their second steer pushed off to the right, but they made a solid run of 6.8 to both take home $1,158 for third in the round. 

With a 12.7 on two steers, they entered the third round the No. 1 team in the aggregate. 

“The third one, we really just had to stop the clock in a respectable time to win the average,” Carey admitted. “So, we really didn’t try to do anything too crazy. If we placed in the round, we did, but we just wanted to get him captured.”

They were out of the money in that final round with a 6.6 but clinched the average title with a 19.3 on three head for $3,474 a man.

Fabian and Carey’s 10-year-plus partnership

Fabian and Carey have been building their run for more than a decade.

Fabian was just a teen when he first saw Carey at a roping driving a truck he had just won. When Fabian turned 18, the two started their ProRodeo partnership. 

“We’ve been pretty long-term partners,” Carey said. “It’s real exciting to win that with him. We just kind of make the same run over and over—nothing really ever changes. The chemistry and consistency just makes it work so easy.”

Across the decade, they’ve each had second partners, too, but Fabian and Carey are friends first.

“It just always worked,” Fabian said. “We’re really good friends, and it never really has impacted our friendship. When things go great, it’s great. And when things are a little of a struggle, we can talk about it and not get upset with each other. It’s been a great partnership.”

Carrying Northeast pride to the NFR Open

Both men have a lengthy history with the National Circuit Finals. Fabian has made the trek  more times than he can count, roping in Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Kissimmee, Greeley and Colorado Springs for top circuit bragging rights. Carey’s seen Oklahoma City, Guthrie and Colorado Springs for what is now the NFR Open, and this will be his fourth trip.

For the team, the NFR Open isn’t just a chance for a good payday, it’s also the opportunity to represent the Northeast on one of rodeo’s largest stages.

“That’s kind of where the New York and Northeast representation kind of comes into play,” Fabian said. “I’ve kind of gotten to know a lot of the guys over the years and people make their way up this way and, a lot of people, they think of New York and think of New York City, but there’s a lot of the rest of the state that is mountains and rodeo and the Western way of life.”

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