A couple of days before the West of The Pecos Rodeo, Jess Pope got the good word. He’d drawn Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket, who for years has been one of the top bareback horses on the PRCA circuit.
It was news Pope thought he might never hear.
“That was my first time on him. I was actually starting to get kind of worried about if I’d ever get on him. He’s getting up there in age. I didn’t know if I’d get on him before he retired,” Pope said.
Knowing that ride was finally coming helped spur Pope’s confidence for the West of The Pecos (Texas) Rodeo, a stop on the NFR Playoff Series.
“It gives you a good feeling for the weekend. You’re ready to go,” he said. “At the same time, you can’t get ahead of yourself. But it does make it pretty exciting that he’s who you have.”
On June 24, Dirty Jacket delivered a clean ride. Pope had an 89-point trip, edging out Tilden Hooper’s 88.5 to earn the win in Pecos.
“I knew he was gonna buck and give me a good shot to win. Kaycee Feild won Pecos on him last year,” Pope said. “It worked out the way it was supposed to, that’s for dang sure!”
Pope pocketed $3,596 for the win, continuing a big season. He’s No. 1 by a mile in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, having already racked up $115,773, nearly $45,000 ahead of second-place Clayton Biglow.
“I feel good, I feel like I’m riding good,” Pope said. “I just want to finish the year off strong, but it’s a long way to the beginning of October. There are a lot of rodeos between now and then. But I’m in a pretty good spot.”
Indeed, the two-time defending Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average champ could well be on his way to a first world championship gold buckle. The key component to his huge success so far this season: having his brain game in full gear.
“I would just say my mental game is getting stronger. I’m getting better at dealing with all the pressure,” Pope said. “That’s the biggest part of it. Just show up, do my job, and have fun.”
Other winners at the $196,000 rodeo were all-around cowboy Chet Weitz ($10,134, tie-down roping and team roping); steer wrestler Bryton Edmundson (9.1 seconds on two head); team ropers Tyler Wade/Trey Yates (14.5 seconds on two head); saddle bronc rider Tanner Butner (87.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Uptuck); tie-down roper Chet Weitz (17.5 seconds on two head); barrel racer Shelley Morgan (17.63 seconds); steer roping Clay Long (47.9 seconds on three head) and bull riders Braden Richardson (90.5 points on Stockyards ProRodeo’s Soy El Fuego); Jeff Askey (90.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Twister), and Francisco Garcia (90.5 points on Stockyards ProRodeo’s Minion).
Courtesy of PRCA