The new team of Clay Smith and Jake Long started their year off on a high note winning the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo after roping three head in 15.1 seconds, worth $3,050 a man.
"I'm excited to rope with him," Long said. "He's obviously a great header, has great horses and does a great job. I think we're going to be a good fit. I think we're both wired just aggressive enough that we'll be able to go fast enough, but also be consistent at the same time. As far as the circuit finals, he did a great job. He really nailed the barrier on two of them and spun them probably faster than anybody and I was able to clean them up. The other one was a little bit of a tougher steer and we got by him."
Smith, the reigning world champion header, and Long, a former BFI, Wildfire and George Strait champ, won the first round with a 4.4-second-run, worth $2,034 a man.
"In the first round I think everyone was being a bit conservative because the average is so crucial there," Long said. "We drew a good steer and Clay got the best start that you could get and got it on him really fast. My horse stumbled in the corner just a little bit but still stayed with the steer good and I got him heeled. I pantyhosed him which allowed us to get tight really good and get the win on that one."
On their second steer Long needed to take an extra swing which ended up putting Smith in the wall when it was time to face.
"Nothing really happened," Long said. "I was a little bit out of wack with him and had to take another swing. We got in the wall finishing and weren't able to get a strong finish like I think we're capable of getting. That extra swing kind of put us in a funky spot in the arena and made us go quite a bit longer than it should have. We were able to rebound and make a good run on that third."
[Read More: Take The Shot with Jake Long]
They did make a strong comeback roping their third round steer in 4.2-seconds to put pressure on the last three teams and win the round, worth another $2,034 a man.
"With the three teams that were ahead of us we needed to go make a run and not make any mistakes," Long said. "We had to go fast enough to at least make them have to make a good run. We knew we had a decent steer on the third one and we talked about it beforehand that there wasn't really any reason not to try and go the fastest we could on one. Clay run the barrier out of there and got it on him really fast. I didn't really get that one as fast as I would have liked to but Clay did such a good job to let us be fast."
Smith was riding his grey horse, Marty, on whom he won the 2018 world title with Paul Eaves.
"Clay is so good at riding horses, and all of his horses are great," Long said. "That kind of sounds cliche, but he really does do a good job on anything that he's on. Obviously Marty is a special horse but I have confidence in our team no matter what he's on."
Long roped on Colonel who is the back-to-back-to-back PRCA/AQHA Heel Horse of the Year.
"He kind go stumbled on that first one, but he's never quit trying to get to the cow," Long said. "He did good like he always does. He stayed strong for me and let me do my job."
[Read More: Cashing In With Colonel: Jake Long's Heel Horse]
After winning the TCFR, Smith and Long will head to the Ram National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee, Florida March 21-24 with the year-end Texas Circuit champions Dustin Egusquiza and Kory Kootnz.
"I went back in 2015 with Coleman Proctor," Long said about the RNCFR. "It didn't count back then. I haven't been back since then so I'm definitely excited to go, especially with it counting towards the world standings. It's a good opportunity to get your year off to a good start."
First round: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 4.4 seconds, $2,034 each; 2. Tyler Wade/Ryan Motes, 5.3, $1,525; 3. Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 5.6, $1,017; 4. (tie) Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira and Tyler Waters/Dustin Davis, 5.8, $254 each.
Second round: 1. (tie) Tyler Wade/Ryan Motes and Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 4.7 seconds, $1,779 each; 3. (tie) Chad Masters/Jade Corkill and Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, 4.8, $763 each.
Third round: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 4.2 seconds, $2,034 each; 2. Charly Crawford/Will Woodfin, 4.4, $1,525; 3. Luke Brown/Paul Eaves, 4.8, $1,017; 4. Tyler Waters/Dustin Davis, 5.0, $508.
Average: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 15.1 seconds on three head, $3,050 each; 2. Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 15.7, $2,288; 3. Tyler Waters/Dustin Davis, 26.1, $1,525; 4. Tyler Wade/Ryan Motes, 10.0 on two head, $763.