Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Ariat World Series of Team Roping concluded nine record-breaking days of competition, running December 9-17 at the South Point Hotel, Arena, Equestrian Center and Exhibit Hall, paying team ropers from all walks of life an unprecedented $18 million.
This, the 17th rendition of The Finale, began with the Riata Buckle Open to the World and worked its way down to the novice ropers in the #7 Yeti Finale.
For the past decade, catering to the recreational team roper, the Ariat WSTR Finale cash payout has grown steadily by a $1 million per year, at $14 million in the 14th year, $15 million in the 15th and last year $16 million during the 16th Finale. In 2023, the payout shot past all predictions and expectations, increasing $2 million and setting the new bar at more than $18 million.
“Qualification events have been very strong all year so I felt confident that the Finale would surpass $17 million, but when I totaled up the final numbers on the final day, my hands were literally shaking,” said Connie Gentry, President of the Western Sports Group division of Equine Network. “I added and re-added; but I guess since the 2020 event was cancelled because of COVID, it fits that 18 years later we hit $18 million.”
The 2023 Ariat WSTR Finale set more records than ever before. The roper attendance was a monumental 4,400 ropers making up 5,894 teams, and this high roper participation was reflected in the individual division payouts with five ropings paying out over $1 million and three divisions paying out over $2 million apiece.
The high point of the week was the incredible $2,651,800 payout in the #9.5 Ariat Finale, which paid the winning team $400,000 plus H Holden Custom Bronzes, Cactus Saddles, Yeti Coolers, Gist Buckles, Mule Deer Foundation Rifles, Ariat apparel and many more prizes. The son-and-father duo of Lorenzo and Antonio Carbajal (respectively) from Arizona captured the title by roping four steers in 31.31 seconds.
Lorenzo is one of only two ropers in 17 years to win two Finale ropings, but the first in history to win the same roping twice. He won this same division in 2018, and while he was heading for his father this time around, Lorenzo was heeling during the prior win. Adding to the emotion of the story, Antonio was heeling on the same horse that Lorenzo rode in 2018. Although no horse’s earnings records have been officially kept until recently, it is safe to say the Carbajals’ heel horse is in contention for the winningest heel horse in WSTR history.
To put on an event of this magnitude, quality roping cattle are of highest priority, and it took nearly 1,000 head of horned cattle running in three arenas simultaneously to accommodate all of the Finale contestants and an additional 1000 head for the outdoor events. Even with these large turnouts, most ropers were done in time to enjoy the nightly NFR performances or have an early dinner at one of the South Point restaurants.
The partnership between the South Point and the Ariat World Series of Team Roping evolved over the years to include what is now one of the top Western trade shows and shopping experiences in town. From the main concourse of the arena through the entire exhibit hall space, the South Point hosts thousands of vendors ranging from Western boutiques, art, toys, gifts and furniture, to roping dummies, Cactus and Fast Back Ropes and custom-shaped Resistol Hats.
“Attendance was incredible this year,” said Steve Stallworth, General Manager of the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center. “230,000 people went up the escalators into the arena and trade show this year. Compared to the same days last year, we were sometimes up 10,000 people. Whatever everyone is doing in the roping and Western world is dang sure working!”
The 2022-2023 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Cody Johnson not only graced the Finale crowds by singing the National Anthem twice, but he also took home a check in the Yeti #10.5 and #7 Finales.
Thousands of amateur team ropers were handed checks over the nine days of competition, lives were changed, champagne was poured, and lasting memories were made by recreational ropers from many walks of life who filled their pockets—already looking forward to once again qualifying for the Ariat WSTR Finale XVIII in Las Vegas, Dec 7-15, 2024.
About the WSTR: For the past 18 seasons World Series of Team Roping has strived to provide personal service to a small but influential group of ropers who share our philosophy of easier, smaller and richer ropings. It is our goal to continue improving our service to this elite group. For more information on the WSTR or to become a member visit wstroping.com Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/WorldSeriesOfTeamRoping and @wstroping on Instagram.