It only took one nomination for Clay Smith and Jake Long to get to the Sparkling City by the Sea, and they made the most of that nomination. Smith and Long won the first Progressive Round performance Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at the World Championship Rodeo Alliance’s Rodeo Corpus Christi after roping their steer in 4.5 seconds.
The team took home $1,600 for the win and have a chance at the big $15,000 payday on Saturday May 13, an opportunity they’re looking forward to.
“For what it pays, it’s great,” Smith, 32, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, said. “That’s why we come, is for the money. I mean, Saturday you got a chance to win pretty good money and we nominated one time. And we got through and didn’t have to pay any fees to go rope for some pretty good money in the qualifying day on Monday and then have a chance to win some good money Saturday.”
Smith and Long won second in the first Qualifying Round with a 5.73, good for $1,200. The second round may not have gone as planned, but the men still managed to make it through to the clean-slate Progressive Round where they drew a slower steer and took full advantage of him.
“We knew he was pretty slow, and so my game plan was to not break the barrier and turn him,” Smith, a two-time PRCA world champion header, said. “I thought we’d probably be fast enough. Just main thing was score and catch him.”
Though they knew the nature of the steer they drew, the herd as a whole ran differently in the American Bank Center than they did in the Qualifying Rounds in Robstown.
“They were pretty strong out there at Robstown on Monday, but we knew our steer was really good,” Long, 39, of Coffeyville, Kansas, said. “But then Tanner (Tomlinson) and Patrick (Smith) were first out, and I think their steer was supposed to be ok, but he wasn’t supposed to be like really slow or nothing. And I think after we saw him, that kind of gave us a pretty good hint that ours was going to be even better.”
The difference in performance by the steers may have been in part due to the different setups they were roped in.
“That arena on Monday was kind of a bigger arena and a little more of an outside feel even though it was a covered arena,” said Long, a 12-time NFR qualifier. “But I think the steers felt like they could really run and then they got back in that little building, it just kind of makes them feel trapped a little bit.”
Regardless, the team took advantage of drawing one of the best on the herd. As for the equine components, Smith was riding a bay gelding named Chief, owned by a friend of his, Clay Dean. Smith has ridden him majority of the winter.
“This horse can run, but he can make it happen really fast,” Smith said. “Just like tonight, we had a pretty slow steer. He’s also easy enough to where like if you draw a good steer, he’ll stay out of your way and let you win something on him.”
Long was riding Scout, a horse he’s trying to expose to the road more.
“He’s honestly been doing pretty good in the practice pen, and I just kind of wanted to see how he would handle things,” Long said. “So I’ve rode him the whole week down here so far. I’ll probably make a switch for the finals, but I kind of just wanted to see how that horse would take stuff.”
Heading into the ShowDown Round, Smith is feeling positive.
“I feel pretty good about Saturday,” Smith said. “I mean obviously it’s a long ways away, but just keep catching. Like catch one more, then hopefully get down to the final four and catch one fast.”
- Clay Smith/Jake Long, 4.5, $1,600
- Kaston Peavy/Shane Edmonson, 5.01, $1,200
- Conley Kleinhans (DY)/Bray Fenoglio (DY), 5,57, $800
- Kreece Dearing (DY)/Rendon Powledge, 5.6, $400