The Windy Ryon win comes as a first for two-time PRCA World Champion Smith. After a decade of entering, it was a long time coming for the 32-year-old.
“The Windy Ryon is a prestigious roping,” Smith, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, said. “The name’s cool, and it’s a cool setup. Score them out; [you] have to use your horse a little bit. That’s what makes it cool for me. I wish it had 150 teams but, at 40 teams, with it being the way that it is, it’s still worth coming to for me. This is the first time I ever won it.”
Smith roped with three-time PRCA World Champion Nogueira—also the 2017 Windy Ryon champion. They came back first high call to show just why they’ve taken to each other as second partners.
“It’s been pretty good so far,” said Nogueira. “Everywhere we’ve went, we’ve placed. I’m very, very blessed to rope with the two best guys in the business. I’m enjoying it.”
Smith also knows he’s paired with two of the best in the game on the heeling side.
“Junior, obviously he heels decent; all you have to do is get them out of the way,” Smith said with a laugh. “No, he heels great. I’m excited. I know for a second run it’s going to be fun. I enjoy roping with him. The two partners that I’m roping with right now—Colby and Junior—I’m really excited about roping with them. Everybody’s kind of on the same page, as far as I think they kind of know what they expect from me, and so, if I do my job, they don’t mess up.”
Smith and Nogueira didn’t get ideal draws in the first two rounds of the Open.
“I always try to start off and kind of get a little bit of a lead,” Smith said. “We actually drew the same steer in the first and second round. He cut underneath the head horse pretty bad, and Junior did a good job getting him. The second time we knew him, so he held back a little bit, so the steer didn’t follow as bad, and he got him.”
The luck of the draw turned in their favor, though, as they finally drew some steers they could capitalize.
“We drew maybe two pretty good steers that kind of helped us move up in the roping a little bit,” Nogueira said. “We always know the setup out there. Windy Ryon’s kind of tough—long barrier, huge arena, steers run really hard—so it’s pretty much just have to go catch. But nowadays, everybody ropes so good, so you still need to be tough enough to win the top three holes for sure.”
Smith and Nogueira did their jobs and stuck to their game plan: Win. In the third and fourth rounds, teams that were in the race alongside the World Champs began to bobble, and the field opened up even more. In the short round, they made a no-brainer run.
“Clay did a great job handling every one good and roped pretty aggressive,” Nogueira said. “We ended up being high call back and the short round fell apart a little bit, so we knew we had little bit of time to play with. We just slowed down and went to catch the last one. So, we just went and just caught.”
Smith and Nogueira finished with a five-head average of 35.36 seconds to take home the $12,260 average check.
Beauty of the jackpot
As the spring run comes to an end and the summer run nears, a weekend of big jackpots was just what they needed. For Smith, jackpotting allows him to stay close to his family before he’s gone more days than not.
“I like jackpotting about as much as I like doing anything,” Smith said. “I’m going to be home here in just a little bit. That’s what I like about the jackpotting deal: We get to go to them and then go home seems like right after. And, I mean, to win what the Windy Ryon paid today, you have to be pretty good at a rodeo to win that in a day.
“I get that the fees are a little higher at a jackpot than a rodeo,” he continued,” but also, like I said, you’re not in California either. So, that’s what makes it nice being at all these jackpots in Texas this week. This is kind of what I like doing. I love going to jackpots, and I love being able to go home at night, too. But that’s fixing to not happen, either. I know in 30 days we’re all going to be gone for a while.”
Smith was riding BoomBoom Firecracker, the 7-year-old gray gelding raised and trained by Trevor Brazile. “Firecracker” is now owned by Smith’s father-in-law, Jason Richey, and the Windy Ryon marks the first jackpot where Smith rode him.
“I practiced on him a couple of days ago, and he’s a really good horse,” Smith said. “This week, there’s a lot of ropings going on, so we’re mixing up some horses. I rode him over here and then we’re going to take a couple because, from now until Tuesday, there’s a jackpot every day.”
Nogueira called on his 13-year-old gelding, “Lucky Bucky,” who he bought from Cesar de la Cruz. The buckskin, registered as Smokin Copper King, fits the long setup of the Windy Ryon.
“He’s been a blessing,” Nogueira said. “Especially in this long setup, he is really good. He really, really runs. Sometimes, he moves around a little bit; he kind of gets excited. But he does his job really well and can just really run down the arena and stay hooked on the cows. Especially big setups like that, it’s kind of tough to get going so fast and then have to catch. It takes a special horse to do that.”