It's been four years since Jake Cooper nodded his head under the bright lights of Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Arena.
In those four years, the New Mexico-native has had a revelation of sorts when to comes to the horses he's riding.
"I’ve tried to get by on horses that were nice, that maybe they didn’t quite fit me or weren’t quite up to the caliber of the horses that the guys who were making the Finals had," Cooper said. "None of those guys were asking to ride my horse, so that made me take a look inside and wonder how much easier it would be and how much better I would rope if I were on better horses. I decided one day I didn’t care—I’d figure it out, whatever it took, to get some better horses. As soon as I got better horses—I had to find horses that fit my style, and I was able to luck into Boogie and get Sun bought—it clicked."
Sun—registered with the AQHA as Streakin Sun Dew—is s 14-year-old son of A Streak Of Fling off the famous Fulton Ranch, first ridden at the NFR by Zac Small and then owned by Kaleb Driggers.
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"I bought him before Fort Smith at the end of May," Cooper said. "I always really liked him, and Kaleb had decided he didn’t fit him as good as he thought he did. I’d always talked to him about him. I just thought he would fit my program really good. He can run a lot, he scores good. He’s funny in the box because he’ll hop a little bit. But he instantly clicked with my deal."
Sun got kicked in the trailer after Reno, and sat out over the Fourth of July—and it showed.
"We really didn't have a very good Fourth," Cooper admitted. "He was just sore as crap. But he's fine now, and I've been riding him as my number one because he's so easy to ride."
Cooper rides Sun on the longer-score, multiple-head set ups—like the Cheyenne Frontier Days, where he and partner Caleb Anderson won $6,991 for third in the final round with a 9.5-second run and another $1,674 a man for their 9.2-second fourth performance run. When it comes to being fast, though, he's got an ace up his sleeve in Boogie, a 19-year-old breeding stock Paint gelding, made famous by Trevor Brazile.
"Bambi Robb was trying to get me to buy Boogie the year before," Cooper said. "I thought Trevor would want too much for him, so I never asked. I buddied with Trevor and I got to ride him all last summer. We got to be pretty good friends. So when the rumor was out that he was retiring, I didn’t believe him. He said, 'What do I got to do to make you think I’m retiring?' I said, 'Sell Boogie and I’ll believe it.' He said, 'Why, you want him?' Of course I said, 'Heck yeah I do.' I jump rode him at Ellensburg and Walla Walla, and I was like MAN. I went from not roping very good to catching. He ended up selling him to me, and that's when I finally believed he was actually going to retire."
Cooper and Anderson picked up $30,000 at RodeoHouston this winter with the help of Boogie, and they placed in a round and the average at Odessa, Texas, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, too.
"I think the reason they fit together good is Boogie scores so good but he’s not as fast as Sun. He’s easy to rope on and so solid. He does the exact same thing every time. I’ve actually been riding him at a bunch of stuff with a faster start. He’s so flat and easy. I’ve been riding Sun at the short-round rodeos when I have to catch multiple head," Cooper explained.
At the time of this writing, Cooper was 11th in the PRCA world standings with $64,252.02, with 19 rodeos left to official on the year. Cowboy lore says that to make the NFR, a contestant has to have as much money won at the end of the season as the fifth-place man had after Cheyenne. This year, that number was $72,000.
"Tee Woolman told me that when I was a kid," Cooper laughed. "I'd like to win more than that, really. I'm not planning on stopping there." TRJ