As the country's only independent, nationally distributed team roping and rodeo magazine, Spin To Win Rodeo has historically not been involved in event sponsorship. While we've proudly partnered with other associations-we've never "sponsored" an actual event.
We've always stood apart from the events we've covered-mainly because those associations (largely the USTRC and PRCA) already publish their own, in-house magazines. While Spin To Win Rodeo's roots are in teaching the sport of team roping, those circumstances have benefited our readers greatly because we've been able to bring objective, non-biased coverage of these events and associations. Mostly, however, no association or event has ever aligned completely with our goals and editorial mix for us to consider a partnership.
Nevertheless, sponsorship involvement is not something we're against, the right situation just hadn't come up.
Until now. Now we have an opportunity to give back to the people who have helped us teach well over 140,000 team ropers over the past 12 years.
If you've subscribed to this magazine for any length of time, you're aware of Denny Gentry. Gentry is the founder of the United States Team Roping Championships, Super Looper Magazine (both of which he later sold), frequent contributor to this magazine and more recently the founder of the World Series of Team Roping. He is widely respected in the roping community and a longtime friend of the president, general manager and founder of Spin To Win Rodeo, Tom Winsor.
"Denny and I have been friends since I started this magazine," Winsor said. "We are in constant contact about what's going on in the industry. He truly has his finger on the pulse of the roping and rodeo business. I've watched his World Series and Thunder Equigames with interest. In the course of our friendship, he shared his plan to create a new open roping. Immediately, it sounded like something Spin To Win Rodeo should be involved in. Once the fit was obvious, the details were easy to fill in."
Gentry first debuted the World Series of Team Roping at the South Point Hotel and Casino's equestrian arena during the 2006 Wrangler NFR. It was a smashing success. In it's first year, the roping paid $75,000 per man in a No. 10 and a No. 11. Over the past two years, Gentry added bullfighting, barrel racing and mounted shooting to create a concept called the Thunder Equigames. (Ropers compete year-round at local qualifiers for a chance to compete at the World Series Finale in Las Vegas. Once there, the short round of the Finale is held in conjunction with the Thunder Equigames.)
Last year, over the course of two hours, over $3 million was awarded. The highest-paying No. 10 and No. 13 ropings in history occurred there, as well as the second-highest paying No. 11.
Across the country, the World Series of Team Roping qualifiers are booming. Amateur ropers laud them as well-run, professional and fun ropings.
We covered the Equigames and Finale in our pages and virtually every competitor was completely satisfied on virtually every point.
Still Spin To Win Rodeo's focus remains on the top 15-their stories and tips for the amateur roper. So, when Gentry approached Winsor about a sponsorship arrangement, the new open roping made perfect sense.
"I feel like there needs to be a place at the NFR for those that didn't quite make it," Gentry said. "Vegas needs to be for everybody, not just the top 15. We need a pro roping in there. That's the end of the year celebration and those guys that rodeoed hard and didn't quite make it need to have a place to get their pockets filled back up and get ready for the spring."
Spin To Win Rodeo has verified that Gentry proposes a $100,000 per team payout to the champion. Of the 30 team ropers at last year's NFR, only 10 made that much or more. Plus, the rounds will pay out as well.
"We're using a modified championship format," Gentry said. "Everybody gets three full rounds and then we'll do a three-head consolation round. Then we'll take 20 percent and start over again on a five-header. It's a blend between our old championship format that you see at USTRC and Bob Feist Invitational and a quasi-George Strait rope-off. I feel like it's the best of both worlds."
Of course, the top 15 won't be able to compete under the PRCA's bylaws and the deadline for entries is October 15-two weeks after the close of the PRCA's regular season. If an open roper enters the Spin To Win Rodeo World Series Open and makes the NFR, his money will be refunded. In addition to the open entry system, there are open qualifiers around the country-much like numbered qualifiers for the rest of the World Series slate of ropings-for the mid-level open roper to earn enough money to qualify.
With 30 of the best ropers out of the way and a guaranteed payout, Gentry expects the total purse to grow quickly.
"It's doable for us to get to a half a million pretty quick," he said. Turtle Powell, a four-time Wrangler NFR header, has a world of confidence in Gentry.
"I think that Denny is the mastermind of team roping," he said. "He's helped this sport grow and grow and grow. He did this World Series deal and I think they'll take over the whole roping industry like he did with the USTRC. Eighty percent payback? You just don't get to rope like that at these other ropings.
I know it's hard to put on open ropings because producers don't get the numbers, but it's nice to know when you show up only 20 percent comes out. I'm really excited because at first he was just going to stay with the lower-numbered ropings-where they make a lot of their money and I understand that-but as open ropers we don't get to rope at those. There's not but a handful of ropings that you get to rope for that much money. So I was real excited when Denny said he was going to have the open finals, but it's during the NFR. So if we don't make the National Finals, it gives us another chance to go rope for that much money."
Still, Powell doesn't expect a cakewalk at the South Point.
"Anymore, there are so many guys who rope good," he said. "A lot of guys who don't even rodeo rope real good. If you take those 15 guys out of the equation, you're percentages are a little better, but it's still going to be a fairly tough roping."
What will take a distinct advantage away from the rodeo ropers, is Gentry's No Barrier System. (For a full explanation of the system, visit www.myhorse.com/nobarrier).
"That's the difference between an open roper versus a higher-numbered header," Powell said of the ability to rope from behind a barrier. "We usually score a little better and ride better horses, so it does take that away. But I haven't roped behind one, so I can't really say."
Nevertheless, on Friday, Dec. 4 at the South Point Equestrian Center, all but the top 30 ropers in the world will be going after the potential $100,000 per team payout. Former world champions and future world champions alike vying for their own Las Vegas glory.
That excitement, electricity and top-tier competition made Gentry's latest foray into open roping an offer we couldn't refuse and the Spin To Win Rodeo World Series Open a reality.