kings

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira Shatter Cowboy Christmas Team Roping Record with $47K in 2024
Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira broke the Cowboy Christmas record they set in 2022, raking in $47,275 a man in 2024.
Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira taking a victory lap at the 2024 St. Paul Rodeo.
Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, St. Paul Rodeo 2024. | Roseanna Sales photo

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira once again wear the Kings of Cowboy Christmas crowns, smashing the record they set in 2022 after raking in $47,275 a man in 2024.

The 2021 and 2022 World Champions were the top money earners in the team roping this Cowboy Christmas, surpassing their 2022 record by $12,000 and beating the 2024 field by more than $25,000.

“Records are meant to be broken,” Driggers, 34, said. “As rodeo grows as it has been, it will continue to be broken. But that is a very positive thing. A lot of times you hear about how great the NFR is—and by no means am I saying that it isn’t because it is a blessing to us who rodeo—but I would like to focus on the committees who step up each and every year and bring more added money and provide us with hospitality and quality stock to rope. They are the unsung heroes who allow us to do what we do, and it does not go unnoticed for their support in rodeo.”

While three-time World Champion Nogueira believes every rodeo throughout the season is important in NFR dreams, one can’t deny the significance of Cowboy Christmas.

“Cowboy Christmas is the week you get to go to a lot of rodeos and for lots and lots of money,” Nogueira, 33, said. “I think for sure it’s very important to do good, and that week can help you kind of get a good clutch and jump up in the standings and get close to make the NFR. Some will even get the NFR wrapped up in the next two weeks.”

Moving on up

Driggers and Nogueira had an unusual start to 2024 with Nogueira missing a good portion of the winter rodeos, like Denver and Fort Worth, due to sinus surgery. Nogueira returned at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, and they made their way to ninth and 12th in the world prior to the start of Cowboy Christmas.

“We were down in the standings going into Reno,” Driggers said. “We hadn’t been to a lot of rodeos—we got our circuit count in and went to the main buildings, and Junior was out for a couple of them and we had just won average at those. Then we took April and May off from rodeoing too much to spend time with our families, so we needed a shot in the arm in the standings to climb up a little bit.”

The top five money earners this Cowboy Christmas

Their Cowboy Christmas domination fulfilled their goal and then some, pushing Driggers to No. 4 in the world and Nogueira to No. 5. Their record-breaking week kicked off June 27, North of the border where they later claimed the Ponoka Stampede title and $17,131 each on July 1, setting the tone for the rest of the Fourth run.

“We had a very blessed week, and we went to Canada and did really good in Ponoka,” Nogueira said. “I think that’s what really helped a little bit more with our earnings. We ended up dropping the ball a few times on some of them, but not many—we caught most of them. We did good, but we didn’t really win first place a lot but we placed a bunch and won a few seconds. But winning Ponoka was a big rodeo for us, so that helps a lot.”

Over the week, the world champs would see 10 rodeos, picking up checks at 70% of their destinations.

  • Ponoka Stampede, Second place in Round 2, 5.4 seconds: $4,014 a man
  • Ponoka Stampede, Tie for third, fourth and fifth in the Finals, 7.5 second: $500 a man
  • Ponoka Stampede, First place in Showdown Round, 5.5 seconds: $7,500 a man 
  • Ponoka Stampede, Third place in average, 19.3 seconds on three head: $5,117 a man
  • Greeley Stampede, First place in Round 2, 3.6 seconds: $4,206 a man
  • Home of Champions Rodeo (Red Lodge, Montana), Second place, 4.0 seconds: $4,230 a man 
  • Basin City Freedom Rodeo (Basin City, Washington), Second place, 4.1 seconds: $4,442 a man
  • Eugene Pro Rodeo (Eugene, Oregon), Fifth place, 4.4 seconds: $1,995 a man
  • St. Paul Rodeo, First place in Round 1, 4.8 seconds: $4,469 a man
  • St. Paul Rodeo, Eighth place in Round 2, 5.4 seconds: $194 a man
  • St. Paul Rodeo, Second place in Average, 10.2 seconds on two head: $5,829 a man
  • World’s Oldest Rodeo (Prescott, Arizona), Fourth in Round 1, 6.0 seconds: $1,918 a man
  • World’s Oldest Rodeo (Prescott, Arizona), Fourth in Average, 14.1 seconds on two head: $2,876 a man

Made for the Fourth run

Now having set the team roping Fourth-of-July record twice, there’s no doubt that Driggers and Nogueira thrive off the chaos of Cowboy Christmas.

“We seem to do better when we get to rodeoing and running two to three steers a day,” Driggers admitted. “We have only had one or two pretty good winters, and I believe it is because the rodeos are more spread out. During the summer, you get to go each day, more or less.”

Make no mistake: Success over the busiest week of the season isn’t for the faint of heart. Running a steer—if not two or three—each day takes a level of mental toughness that takes practice.

“To go over the Fourth, you have to go a lot, get tired, stress out, fly, drive,” Nogueira said with a laugh. “You have to really keep your emotions together, I would say, if you’re doing good or bad. You need to really stay focused, and that’s something I learned from Jake Barnes. It can get too high or too low, and I used to go both ways; I used to get way too excited or way too sad, so I’m trying to get more level.”

It takes a village

Breaking records and traveling thousands of miles in the matter of a week also takes a strong support system, both at home and on the road. On the home front, Driggers and Nogueira are both grateful for their wives, Nicole and Jacqueline.

“We have a great support system,” said Driggers, who welcomed his first child, Ledger, at the end of May. “Junior and I both just had babies, so our wives are the true heroes in this story. Between Nicole, her parents and my parents, they have been pulling double duty to keep everything on the home front running smoothly.”

Out on the open road, Driggers and Nogueira had two rigs going over Cowboy Christmas with some of the best helpers and friends, Carlos Reynoso and Benjamin Eals, helping them drive and take care of the horses. They also had friends lending them horses for their Canadian runs while their horses remained in the United States in the care of more trusted friends.

“They go above and beyond each time to make sure that everything is running as smooth as possible for us and allowing us to get as much rest as possible,” Driggers said. “Also, we mounted out at Ponoka, and for them guys to let us on their horses was special. The Schellers in Ault, Colorado, always invite us in with open arms, and we get to practice for a couple days between Reno and when the Fourth kicks off, and that is very important in my eyes.”

The horses of the Fourth

Driggers cracked out new mount Hot Freckled Leo, aka “Cowboy,” at Reno and called on the 15-year-old gelding for much of Cowboy Christmas.

“I rode Cowboy quite a bit,” Driggers said. “I rode Riley Minor’s and Logan Bonnet’s horses in Ponoka, and I rode ‘Chevy’ at Prescott. But everywhere else was Cowboy. He went a lot of miles and did a good job for me. I was pleased with him and was able to become more comfortable with him.”

Nogueira primarily rode his trusty “Timon“, registered as Kiehne’s Frosty Pepto, when in the States ,and rode Smokin Copper King, better known as “Lucky Bucky“, at Prescott. In Ponoka, Nogueira hopped on one of Brady Minor’s horses in the first round and Trey Yates’ Marlboro Cat in the Shootout Round and Final Four.

“That’s very good when your good friends let you ride their horses,” Nogueira said.

Both Driggers and Nogueira pride themselves on the horses they have under them.

“I’m very, very blessed, in my whole career, having amazing horses,” Nogueira said. “I try to get the best horses I can and try to make good ones—get some good young ones and hope they come along good. A good horse for sure makes a big difference, and I’m very blessed. I don’t just have good ones—I think I have great ones. I don’t have a very long career, but over 10 years I’ve had some amazing horses. I’m very thankful for God to let me have them.”

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