If you’d hired the best script writer in Hollywood to come up with a fairytale ending for the Gold Buckle Beer Open at the 2021 Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale in Vegas, she’d have put Riley Minor and Cory Petska down as the $77,000 champs. It would have been an easy, obvious choice, after Riley and Cory barely missed making the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and had just watched their partners—Derrick Begay and Brady Minor—take the Round 2 victory lap the night before.
“It’s totally weird to be here watching (the NFR),” said 10-time NFR header Riley, who broke his leg on the Pendleton Round-Up grass this fall, and finished in the heartbreak hole at 16th in the world. “I used to come watch the Finals with my grandparents when I was a kid. I lived in Las Vegas for 10 days with my Grandpa Buck (Minor), and we had seats in the front row right behind the calf roping (and heeling) box. I remember when Cody Ohl was 6.5. But since I started making it, I’ve never watched a perf from the seats until the second round here this year.”
Brothers Minor were texting and snap-chatting each other before the rodeo and Round 2—during which Begay and Brady were 3.9—on Friday night.
“The last text I got from Riley before we roped that night was, ‘Nail this bitch,’” Brady chuckled.
“I told him, ‘Whip it in there, win the round and I’ll see you at the South Point (home of the nightly go-round buckle presentations,’” added Riley, who’s limping around town this week, figuring he’s about 75 percent healed up since the surgery nine weeks ago (which included plates and screws, and was performed by the Seattle Seahawks’ orthopedic surgeon) it took to fix his leg and ankle after that gnarly Pendleton fall. “I haven’t seen him (Brady) throw that fast in a minute. I’m getting old and slow, so he needs to take up the slack for our team. I need him to keep it up, and do that next year, too.
“I was going nuts when they were 3.9. It’s a little awkward not being down there in the arena with my brother after roping together here 10 times. Going into Reno, I was fourth in the world. It all went downhill from there. We had a terrible Fourth of July and (fall) backstretch. It was just a hit-and-miss season. Ending up 16th by $500, then having to sit here and watch is a humbling experience. But it’s over now, and I’m rooting my brother and Begay on.”
As is 2017 World Champion Heeler Petska, who finished 17th in the world in 2021 after heeling most of the year behind Begay. He, too, has been watching the perfs from the stands—with his Hall of Fame barrel racer wife, Sherry Cervi. Begay’s here without Petska, because he won $10,000 at The American heading for Matt Sherwood, and another $6,000-7,000 heading for Colter Todd this fall.
“No excuses—I’m sitting in the stands, because I didn’t rope good enough,” Petska said. “If you don’t take the blame, you don’t rope better. I’m truly happy for Derrick and Brady. I hope they win the world together.”
There was a memorable scene at the 2021 ProRodeo Tour Finale in September, when Begay and Petska won Round 2, and the Minor brothers finished second, which closed Brady’s NFR deal. Riley was still on crutches, and roped there with a rubber band holding his left foot in the stirrup, like a barrel racer.
“I know this is a tough week on Riley,” Cory said. “Like he told me, ‘It’s like half of me is down there in that arena.’”
Riley rode Bob, 19, and Cory was aboard Annie, who’s 18 now. The $77,000 Riley and Cory won after roping four steers in 31.76 seconds at the Gold Buckle Beer Open yesterday (December 4) was just what the doctor—and that Hollywood script writer—ordered. Who doesn’t love a happy ending when the good guys finish first?
“This win means a lot to me,” Riley said. “I was nervous. I haven’t roped for big money since September in Salinas, and this is my biggest check since the 2019 NFR.”