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Driggers and Nogueira Check Big Bucket List Box With 2024 BFI Win

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira were flawless to win the first BFI of their already legendary careers.
BFI Photos by Andersen CbarC Photography

It’s a roping rarity when teams rise up to dynasty status, and last names are optional. Jake and Clay. Speed and Rich. We all know who you’re talking about. The already notorious team of Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira just etched their names even deeper into roping’s record books with their $162,000 bucket-list win at the 47th annual Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic on March 30 at the Lazy E Arena. With five gold buckles, well over $5 million in combined career earnings and now a BFI “W” between them, Kaleb and Junior is all you really need. 

Winning is surely no surprise to these two anymore. And yet, this particular win meant more than a little extra. 

“I was probably more emotional today winning the BFI than when I won the world the first time,” said two-time World Champion Header Driggers, the 34-year-old pride of Hoboken, Georgia. “That’s crazy for me to even say, just because it took me a long time to get it done and we were so close (to winning the world) so many times before we won it. 

“Winning the BFI is a top-three win in my career. I would rank it right up there with the world titles, because of the prestige of it. I think this is my 17th BFI, and my best previous finish was fourth with Junior in 2018. I watched all my idols rope at the BFI as a little kid, and it’s the longest-standing roping. My idols competed in it. The BFI is the pinnacle. This win was a long time coming. This is what I’ve always dreamed of.”

The Feist features a fat 100% payback. But winning it meant so much more to Nogueira than money, too. 

“There are a couple rodeos I’d still like to win, but the BFI was ‘the one’ we wanted to win as far as the ropings go,” added Nogueira, 33, who’s from Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil, but like Driggers makes his second home in Texas. “You can’t beat the prestige of the BFI, and I’ve spent years and years trying to win this. Kaleb and I have been very successful in our careers, but never conquered the BFI until now. 

“The conditions at this roping today were like the BFI used to be, with the long score and strong steers that ran hard all day. This is a very cool win, because it felt like we were roping back in the day, like Jake and Clay did.”

Seven-time Champs of the World Jake Barnes and Clay Cooper make everyone’s Team Roping Mount Rushmore short list. They won the 1988 BFI together, after Clay first won it with brother-in-law Bret Beach in 1982. 

Junior looks up to Jake and Champ professionally, like everybody else. Nogueira made his first of now 10 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos roping behind Barnes the same year he earned 2014 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year honors. 

But it’s so personal between Nogueira and the man who took him into his heart and home when he arrived broke and with very few words of English in his vocabulary from Brazil. Junior lost his dad, Lucinei Nunes Nogueira Sr, when he was 5. Junior calls Jake “Dad” now, and named his own son Jake Nogueira. 

Kaleb and Junior FaceTiming their fams as the emotional happy tears turned to celebratory laughter.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

Junior and Jaqueline are expecting a little sister for Isabella and Jake in April. Kaleb and Nicole are expecting a boy—their first baby—in May. As their families expand, it’s prime time for a windfall win like this one for $81 grand a man. 

“With the baby coming, we’re going to buy a bus to rodeo out of,” Driggers grinned. “This’ll go a long way toward that.”

Kaleb and Junior were third high call in the short round, and stomped on the gas with a 6.84-second run to seal the deal with 44.76 on six strong, old-school Mexican steers. Beyond that $162,000, they were also awarded Coats Saddles, Gist Buckles, YETI Coolers, Resistol Hats and Hat Packs, full-quill-ostrich Justin Boots, B&W Hitches, Best Ever Pads and Equinety.

The Four-Legged Partners

Driggers rode Chics Like Hickey, a 9-year-old chestnut he calls Oliver, who’s a half-brother to Cody Snow’s renowned buckskin mare Annie. 

“I got Oliver when he was 6, and he’s my main go-to jackpot horse,” Kaleb said. “I rode him at the Lone Star Shootout (Driggers finished second, third and fourth with Wesley Thorp, Jade Corkill and Nicky Northcott, respectively, on that fast track the other day; Driggers and Nogueira also won the 2024 Crawfish Invitational with Oliver’s help), and he’s my longer-score horse at the rodeos, too. 

Corky Ullman, left, and Daren Peterson, right, presenting the big check to Driggers and Nogueira at the close of BFI ’24.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

“I think Oliver’s one of the most underrated head horses of all time. He always gives me a chance to win, no matter what. He doesn’t stand there like a statue. But when I drop my hand, he’s rolling. He can run, and his foot work keeps their heads and opens them up for Junior to heel.”

If Nogueira’s BFI buckskin looked familiar, that was old Lucky Bucky. Smokin Copper King—who’s 14 now, and is actually registered with the American Paint Horse Association—came from nine-time NFR heeler Cesar de la Cruz. 

“Lucky Bucky’s so fast, and he makes a good turn,” Junior said. “I bought him from Cesar in 2022. I jackpot very good on him, and rodeo on him, too. I love how fast he runs, and the way he follows the steer after the turn makes it easy.”

Horses of the BFI

It’s all about the horsepower at the BFI, and Jake Cooper Clay’s RLLittleBit and Trey Yates’ Marlboro Cat were named Head and Heel Horse of the 2024 BFI. Both cowboys have quite the horse history at this roping, as it was Jake’s third Head Horse of the BFI award and Trey’s second Heel Horse of the BFI honor. 

Clay, who won the 2022 BFI with Billie Jack Saebens, made this year’s short round with Yates heading on a 9-year-old sorrel he calls Louie. 

“My cousin Wayne Clay sent me this horse when he was 6 to make a head horse out of him to sell,” Jake said. “He was a ranch horse that hadn’t been roped on until he was 6. We pig hunted on him before I started roping on him. He liked the roping, and I didn’t think we should sell him. So Wayne told me we’ll just be partners on him as long as I want to ride him. And here we are. 

Jake Cooper Clay’s Louie and Trey Yates’ Sugar Daddy took Head and Heel Horse of the 2024 BFI honors.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

“Louie’s just easy to rope on. He scored really good today, was really good in the field and faced good. He just gives me the opportunity to do my job every time. I don’t know how anybody else would like him, but he’s good for me.”

This was Clay’s fourth-straight BFI short round, and the head horses he’s ridden have everything to do with that. Jake took Head Horse of the 2021 BFI honors on Kevin Williams’ LeRoy, then Head Horse of the 2022 BFI on his horse Sun before this third horse award on Louie. 

“I started heading in 2020, and have been super blessed to ride some great horses,” he said. “Sun’s 19 now, and I’ll still rodeo on him some. But this is a tough day on a head horse, so Louie got the call. Louie and Sun share a pen at home, so I figure Sun talked Louie into doing good today.”

Zac Small and Wesley Thorp won the 2016 BFI with Small on Sun, right before Small put his ropes on hold to go to vet school. When Driggers and Nogueira finished fourth in the 2018 BFI average, Kaleb was riding Sun. 

“A head horse is everything at this roping,” Clay said. “The steers run hard, it’s the longest barrier of any roping we go to, and it’s all day long. The BFI is the hardest setup, and it takes a special horse to be good at this roping. They have to be able to do it, and they have to be tough.”

Three generations of the Yates family, including patriarch Dick, JD and sister Kelly (in 1984, the three of them became the first and only father-son-daughter combo to compete the same year in NFR history), and now Trey are all about the horses. Trey calls this year’s Heel Horse of the BFI Sugar Daddy down at the barn, and the 10-year-old blaze-faced chestnut with two white socks is a former futurity and show horse that’s been in the Yates remuda three years now. 

“There were times I about gave up on him,” Trey said. “But this horse has got grit and heart, because every time I about gave up on him, he did something amazing. He wants to do right, he wants to win and he puts me in position to win. When I don’t win, it’s not his fault.

“Sugar Daddy was amazing all day today. He stayed collected the whole time, and gave me 150%. That’s what makes great horses—they give you their all every single time. And this horse does that.” 

Yates won his first Heel Horse of the BFI award in 2020 on Nic Of Shine, a black horse he called Tux. 

“Tux was one in a million, too,” Trey said. “This award means a lot to my family. When your horse stands out over 125 horses, that’s a pretty big accomplishment. My dad won Head Horse of the BFI twice, and a Heel Horse of the BFI award (JD and cousin Jay Wadhams won the 2010 BFI with Jay riding JD’s Colonel Cal Dee, aka “A”; JD’s Head Horse of the BFI awards were won in 2008 on Buster, and in 2018 on Turbo), as well. We take pride in our horses as a family. If I get my butt kicked, it won’t be because I didn’t show up prepared and my horse wasn’t ready.”

Clay and Yates were presented $1,000 bonus checks, Lost Prairie Bronzes by Steve Miller, Best Ever Pads, Classic Equine Horse Blankets and Equinety. 

In Other BFI Headlines

Clay Smith and Coleby Payne were second high call behind Bubba Buckaloo and Daniel Braman (who had a leg on their last one), and were this year’s reserve BFI champs with 45.20 on six steers to earn $101,000 plus Lazy L Saddles, B&W Hitches, Best Ever Pads and Justin Boots. 

Clay Smith and Coleby Payne were second high call, and stayed right there in the average with this snappy 7.37-second run in the short round.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

Ketch Kelton and Denton Dunning finished third in 46.77 seconds for $78,000 to continue their 2024 winning rampage, and Colby Lovell and Dakota Kirchenschlager rounded out the top four in the average with 47.7 on six for $59,000, with Dakota K riding Driggers’ gray stud Metallic Payday. 

Fast at The Feist

Reigning World Champion Team Ropers Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp won this year’s Rickey Green Fast Time Award with their 4.87-second sizzler in Round 5. It was the only 4-second run at this year’s roping, and they were awarded full-quill-ostrich Justin Boots and boot jacks in addition to the plaques in honor of the late gunslinger Green, who won the 1988 BFI heeling for the late Mark “Pickles” Arnold. 

Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp won the Rickey Green Fast Time Award with the only 4-second run of the roping in Round 5.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

California native Rickey was fearless, an early-days crossfire king, and watching him pull off wild shots over the neck of a big, black heel horse he called Cowboy was one of the most memorable sights of his era. Rickey would be so proud to see two fellow fast-and-fearless ropers of today honored in his name. 

Game Day Game Plan

Driggers has roped at 11 NFRs since his first Finals in 2011 with Brad Culpepper. The 2009 Overall and Heading Rookie of the Year won his two gold buckles in 2021-22 with Nogueira, who also owns the world all-around championship dated 2016. 

Team Driggers-Nogueira has huddled up and strategized for every possible scenario since joining forces a few years back. But they decided to keep their BFI strategy super simple this time. And it was all about the long game, as in the six-steer average crown.

“The BFI is not something you can set out and say you’re going to win,” Driggers said. “This is a roping that comes to you more than you go to it. You need a couple good steers in there, no doubt. But we’ve had to learn to crawl before we could walk. And we haven’t had very much success here before now. 

“This time, we made it about personal gains one step at a time—getting out of the barrier, sharp head loops, good handles, good heel loops and strong finishes. That was our game plan—to just go do our jobs, and let the chips fall where they would. Sticking to our game plan all day definitely helped us, and going and making our run and being 6 on our last three steers didn’t hurt, either.” 

Simple made sense to Nogueira, too, and kept him feeling comfortable and confident over the course of the grueling BFI marathon. 

“I wanted to push on the gas, but stay in my lane,” Junior said. “I messed up last year here trying to rope faster than I could. You cannot just go take this roping. You need to use the steers you get, and if it’s your turn, you’re going to win. The chances of messing up on these strong steers in this big arena are huge. 

“God was telling me all day, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ So I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t panic, and don’t be afraid.’ Negative thoughts can come into your mind, especially in a roping that lasts all day and into the night. Focusing on not being afraid brought me peace, and helped me relax and get through the roping. 

“I was happy to make that last run to finish the day strong, and to know we were going to win no worse than third when we rode out of the arena. Everybody was close, so everybody had a chance. Whoever had the best steer and made the best run in the short round was going to win it. Everybody roped good. It was just our day.”

Watching gunslinger-by-birth Driggers round out his roping game has been somewhat reminiscent of seeing Florida-raised Speed Williams do the same over the course of his career. 

“Growing up in the East, we learned how to go fast before we learned how to just go catch,” Driggers said. “This is a long-score, catching scenario that I had to put a lot of hours in to learn how to do. I’m relieved to win this roping, just because we’ve been trying to check it off of our bucket list for so long. To finally get it done is a weight lifted off of our shoulders.

“The Lazy E is special to me, too, because when I was 15 or 16 years old and my dad (Nick) and I would come to the US(TRC) Finals in Oklahoma City, we’d come rope at the Lazy E in Guthrie. We won a roping or two here together. I like how big this arena is, and that they can set the barrier out there. You almost feel like you’re roping in a field. It takes a partnership to get steers caught out in that big arena.”

Brotherly Bond

Driggers and Nogueira are getting nothing but closer both in and out of the arena. By now, they’re basically brothers, and their mutual appreciation is at an all-time high. 

“It’s more than just roping with us now,” Kaleb said. “We’ve had our ups and downs the last few years. We’ve won the world some years, and not had great years other years. It’s all just drawn us closer to each other. We have a bond. And when we do well together, it just makes the wins that much sweeter.

“Junior and I feed off of each other. If I get a good start and am aggressive, he can close it. If I have to safety up a little bit more, he’ll make up the time. I don’t have to be absolutely perfect and take all the risk on our team. Junior’s not afraid to take risk to give us a good shot to win.”

“Kaleb just got so good,” Nogueira added without being asked. “He’s always been amazing. And he’s smart. He’s the best header in the world, and he’s got great horses. He uses his horses, and can use his rope when he has to, too. We work together, and just rope good together and get along so good. That makes it fun.” 

If you noticed Nogueira’s glasses on BFI Saturday, he’s been wearing them when roping in indoor arenas, because the lights bother his left eye. The glasses have helped bring things into better focus since his sinus surgery in January. 

BFI Mission Accomplished

This was Junior’s 11th attempt at cracking the BFI code.

“I’d placed with Jake and Kaleb, but had never won much at the BFI before now,” Nogueira said. “I was second high call with Cody Snow in 2020, and slipped a leg to take the lead and maybe win it. This roping lasts a long time, and your mind gets tired. It’s easy to lose focus, but the steers don’t slow down and wait for you. They keep running hard, and if you lose your focus for a second, you’re out. You’re done. 

“The BFI is so old, and it’s been a great roping for so long. The conditions are very tough, and the BFI is so hard to win. The heroes have won this roping. That this roping has never changed is part of what makes it special. You have to be on your best A-game just to get through the day.” 

Driggers and Nogueira made a horse race out of their first victory lap at The Feist.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

And after 28 combined attempts, it’s finally mission accomplished at the BFI for Kaleb and Junior. At this stage of their careers, it’s hard to find events that have eluded them. 

“The BFI is one of the majors a guy grows up wanting to win,” said Driggers, who’s the only four-time winner of The American; he’s won $100 grand at the world’s richest one-day rodeo twice with Nogueira. “I’ve been watching BFI tapes since I was a kid. It’s a great roping, and it’s very prestigious to come out on top roping big, strong Mexican steers that run. It made for a long day, but a good day. The hardest part might be the hour and a half between runs. A guy has to try to stay mentally focused during that down time. It’s fairly easy to make a mistake at this roping if you’re not paying attention. 

“This is just a sweet win for us. It sounds weird, but this one is about a lot more than just the money. Junior and I both wanted to do our jobs today. Winning the BFI is so satisfying, and the prestige that comes with it is just the cherry on top for us.” 

“It’s always cool to win, but this is a special win,” Nogueira agreed. “I needed this. It took me a lot of years of trying, and a lot of perseverance to win it. You’ve got to be aggressive, but not beat yourself. You have to have one of your best days of roping ever to win the BFI. I’m very happy. And thankful.

“You can’t copy rodeos like Salinas (California) or Cheyenne (Wyoming). And there’s nothing else like this roping. There’s only one BFI.”

2024 Wrangler BFI The Feist Results

Aggregate

PlacingTime (on 6)HeaderHeelerMoney
144.76Kaleb DriggersJunior Nogueira$160,000
245.2Clay SmithColeby Payne$100,000
346.77Ketch KeltonDenton Dunning$76,000
447.7Colby LovellDakota Kirchenschlager$55,000
547.97Luke BrownTravis L Graves$34,000
648.39Bode BaizeYork Gill$20,000
749.28Chad MastersWyatt Cox$18,000
849.46Erich RogersPaul Eaves$12,000
950.63Pedro EgurrolaJC Flake$10,000
1050.81Bubba BuckalooDaniel Braman$9,000
1153.85Mason AppletonCooper Freeman$8,500
1254.71Brandon FarrisBraden Harmon$7,500
1341.83 (on 5)Cyle DenisonDustin Davis$7,000
1442.57 (on 5)Clint PeverleyLevi Pettigrew$6,500
1542.71 (on 5)Jake Cooper ClayTrey Yates$6,500

Round One Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
16.86Cash DutyRoss Ashford$8,000
27.23Chad MastersWyatt Cox$6,000
37.26Colby LovellDakota Kirchenschlager$4,000
47.28Braden PirrungJR Dees$2,000

Round Two Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
15.65Dustin EgusquizaLevi Lord$8,000
25.82Quinton ParchmanGarrett Smith$6,000
35.83Korbin RiceLogan Moore$4,000
45.9James ArvisoJR Gonzalez$2,000

Round Three Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
16.44Aaron TsinigineJaylen Eldridge$8,000
26.55Bubba BuckalooDaniel Braman$6,000
36.96Manny EgusquizaEvan Arnold$4,000
47.18Ketch KeltonDenton Dunning$2,000

Round Four Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
15.71Clint SummersJake Long$7,000
15.71Slade WoodGage Williams$7,000
35.9Austin BarstowJorge Pina$4,000
46.2Clay B TryanNicky Northcott$2,000

Round Five Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
14.87Tyler WadeWesley Thorp$8,000
25.09Jaxon HillJessen James$6,000
35.23Kellan JohnsonCarson Johnson$4,000
45.55Brenten HallKaden Profili$2,000

Short Go Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
16.45Chad MastersWyatt Cox$4,000
26.65Pedro EgurrolaJC Flake$3,000
36.84Kaleb DriggersJunior Nogueira$2,000
47.37Clay SmithColeby Payne$1,000

2024 Wrangler BFI Week Full Results

Wrangler BFI Week, which last year paid out a record $3.88 million, is scheduled for March 28 through April 3, 2024, in Guthrie, Oklahoma. It’s anchored by the 47th annual Bob Feist Invitational (BFI) on Saturday, March 30, which alone boasts a $650,000 purse.

Who: BFI The Feist Draw
What: Wrangler BFI Week presented by Yeti view schedule
When: March 28 – April 6, 2024
Where: Lazy E Arena, Guthrie, Oklahoma
Why: It’s the most anticipated week of the year, and the legacy lives on.
Watch: BFI Live

Roping Results

2024 Hooey Jr Championship Open Results

Average

PlacingTime (on 5)HeaderHeelerMoney
135.26Ketch KeltonDenton Dunning$50,000
236.52Ketch KeltonNicky Northcott$25,000
337.34Jaxon HillBraylon Tryan$16,000
437.65Jaxon HillWhip Peterson$12,000
538.65Lyvan GonzalezGarrett K Jepson$9,000
638.95Mason StueveGus Albertson$7,000
739.38Jett StewartChase Helton$6,000
839.97Kyon HatleyCason Hatley$5,000
940.51Rance WintersWill Smith$4,000
1041.22Canyon PennellCross Ringelstein$4,000
1141.56Spencer K WhippleBrody Freeman$3,000
1243.36Bryson BerryColton W Clayton$3,000

Round One Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
15.85Ketch KeltonDenton Dunning$3,000
26.53Kelon AndrewsChase Helton$2,000
36.59Jaxon HillWhip Peterson$1,000

Round Two Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
15.14Kelon AndrewsHayden Sanders$3,000
25.4Damian Jr PadillaLittle Michael Calmelat$2,000
35.95Walker SmithGabe Williams$1,000

Short Go Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
17.25Walker GuyConner Herren$2,000
27.7Brogan RankinJeryn Ellerd$1,500
38.13Trey HughesHayden Sanders$1,000

2024 Wrangler BFI Week 15.5 Results

Average Results

PlacingTime (on 4)HeaderHeelerMoney
129.14Spencer MitchellChase Helton$65,000
230.53Lyvan GonzalezGarrett K Jepson$45,000
331.1Devon McDanielSammy Saunders$35,000
431.13Wheston JonesJett Hillman$25,000
533.09Rowdy K JonesJustin DeLaGarza$20,000
633.48Clay DeenChad Mathes$15,000
733.66Wheston JonesBlake Barnes$12,000
833.72Westen KlenkColton W Clayton$10,000
933.73Benjamin BalowJake Pianalto$7,000
1033.86Peyton WaltersJustin Elms$5,000

Round One Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
16.68Tyler HobertBrandon Hittle$4,000
26.89Tyler TryanPorter Bryant$2,500
26.89Lyvan GonzalezGarrett K Jepson$2,500

Short Go Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerMoney
110.89Mason AppletonCole Stevens$3,000
211.6Lyvan GonzalezDaryan Gonzalez$2,000
313.13Corben CulleyJett Hillman$1,000

2024 Hooey Jr Championship 10.5 Results

Aggregate Results

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerAmountSplit
133.3Miles MuellerStetson Springs$60,000$30,000
233.93Bryce EhlingerCash Cockrum$32,000$16,000
334.27Brylee BoyceConner Wright$20,000$10,000
434.89Reed VolfBrogan Rankin$13,000$6,500
535.09Rocco FitzgeraldKase Key$12,000$6,000
635.9Sage BurressSern Weishaar$10,000$5,000
736.46Karter HedlundLucas Willeford$9,000$4,500
836.68Cameron CapshawGrady Wilson$8,000$4,000
936.95Colton WilliamsonKale Roark$6,000$3,000
1036.99Rance WintersCannan Wescott$6,000$3,000
1137.56Bryce EhlingerKyler Ohrt$5,000$2,500
1238.17Rydan WhiteBlaine Gray$5,000$2,500
1338.51Trevor BentleyTate Heard$4,500$2,250
1438.58Delton OSteenBrock Rouse$4,500$2,250
1538.82Cooper MottWylie Morgan$4,500$2,250
1639.52Braxton FosterWesson Parker$4,000$2,000
1739.81Coen CarrollBryce Klingeman$4,000$2,000
1842.97Tripp HendersonWyatt J Howell$4,000$2,000
1943.04Nolan AndersenSterling Fowlie$4,000$2,000
2043.16Mason McDanielRyan Gorham$4,000$2,000

Short Round

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerAmountSplit
113.21Hunter HeltonRyan Gorham$2,000$1,000
26.56Cameron CapshawGrady Wilson$1,500$750
37.49Reed VolfBrogan Rankin$1,000$500

Round 1 Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerAmountSplit
16.58Landon EllerMatt Leavitt$4,000$2,000
26.81Colton WilliamsonKale Roark$3,500$1,750
36.86Joe Cash AutryKlayt Staudt$2,200$1,100
47.07Kelton DenhamAustin Shives$1,500$750
57.08Coen CarrollBryce Klingeman$1,000$500

Round 2 Fast Time

PlacingTimeHeaderHeelerAmountSplit
15.07Blaine CoatesWylie Morgan$4,000$2,000
25.44Parker GuyDuke Nordby$3,500$1,750
35.45Westin BarnettSanders McElroy$2,200$1,100
45.94Trenton BacaKail Brunson$1,500$750
55.98Gus KelleySern Weishaar$1,000$500

BFI Top Head and Heel Horses

Horses of the 2024 BFI

It’s all about the horsepower at the BFI, and Jake Cooper Clay’s RLLittleBit and Trey Yates’s Marlboro Cat were named Head and Heel Horse of the 2024 BFI presented by Dixon Flowers Rope Horses. Both cowboys have quite the horse history at this roping, as it was Jake’s third Head Horse of the BFI award and Trey’s second Heel Horse of the BFI honor. 

Clay, who won the 2022 BFI with Billie Jack Saebens, made this year’s short round with Yates heading on a 9-year-old sorrel he calls Louie. 

“My cousin Wayne Clay sent me this horse when he was 6 to make a head horse out of him to sell,” Jake said. “He was a ranch horse that hadn’t been roped on until he was 6. We pig hunted on him before I started roping on him. He liked the roping, and I didn’t think we should sell him. So Wayne told me we’ll just be partners on him as long as I want to ride him. And here we are. 

“Louie’s just easy to rope on. He scored really good today, was really good in the field and faced good. He just gives me the opportunity to do my job every time. I don’t know how anybody else would like him, but he’s good for me.”

This was Clay’s fourth-straight BFI short round, and the head horses he’s ridden have everything to do with that. Jake took Head Horse of the 2021 BFI honors on Kevin Williams’ LeRoy, then Head Horse of the 2022 BFI on his horse Sun before this third horse award on Louie. 

“I started heading in 2020, and have been super blessed to ride some great horses,” he said. “Sun’s 19 now, and I’ll still rodeo on him some. But this is a tough day on a head horse, so Louie got the call. Louie and Sun share a pen at home, so I figure Sun talked Louie into doing good today.”

Zac Small and Wesley Thorp won the 2016 BFI with Small on Sun, right before Small put his ropes up to go to vet school. When Driggers and Nogueira finished fourth in the 2018 BFI average, Kaleb was riding Sun. 

“A head horse is everything at this roping,” Clay said. “The steers run hard, it’s the longest barrier of any roping we go to, and it’s all day long. The BFI is the hardest setup, and it takes a special horse to be good at this roping. They have to be able to do it, and they have to be tough.”

Three generations of the Yates family, including patriarch Dick, JD and sister Kelly (in 1984, the three of them became the first and only father-son-daughter combo in NFR history), and now Trey are all about the horses. Trey calls this year’s Heel Horse of the BFI Sugar Daddy down at the barn, and the 10-year-old blaze-faced chestnut with two white socks is a former futurity and show horse that’s been in the Yates remuda three years now. 

“There were times I about gave up on him,” Trey said. “But this horse has got grit and heart, because every time I about gave up on him, he did something amazing. He wants to do right, he wants to win and he puts me in a position to win. When I don’t win, it’s not his fault.

“Sugar Daddy was amazing all day today. He stay collected the whole time, and gave me 150%. That’s what makes great horses—they give you their all every single time. And this horse does that.” 

Yates won his first Heel Horse of the BFI award in 2020 on Nic Of Shine, a black horse he called Tux. 

“Tux was one in a million, too,” Trey said. “This award means a lot to my family. When your horse stands out over 125 horses, that’s a pretty big accomplishment. My dad won Head Horse of the BFI twice, and a Heel Horse of the BFI award (JD and cousin Jay Wadhams won the 2010 BFI with Jay riding JD’s Colonel Cal Dee, aka “A”; JD’s Head Horse of the BFI awards were won in 2008 on Buster, and in 2018 on Turbo), as well. We take pride in our horses as a family. If I get my butt kicked, it won’t be because I didn’t show up prepared and my horse wasn’t ready.”

Clay and Yates were presented $2,000 bonus checks, Lost Prairie Bronzes by Steve Miller, Best Ever Pads, Classic Equine Horse Blankets and Equinety.

Year Roper Name Horse Name
2012 RILEY MINOR KETCHUP
  BRAD CULPEPPER PREACHER
2013 BRANDON BEERS LACEY’S FAST JEWEL
  CODY COWDEN RATTLER
2014 ADAM ROSE  
  RYAN MOTES CD STARBUCKS
2015 ERICH ROGERS BUGS NIGHT ROBBER
  CLAY COOPER LB
2016 RILEY MINOR RK TUFF TRINKET
  ZANE BRUCE VALHALLA FOXY SHINER
2017 COLEMAN PROCTOR LIKE A CAT
  BILLIE JACK SAEBENS DOMINO LENA
2018 JD YATES BRONZE DUDE
  BILLIE JACK SAEBENS JACKS PROBABLY BACK
2019 RILEY MINOR RK TUFF TRINKET
  Lane Siggins Amigos Sonita Last
2020 Chris Francis Ima Monty Leo
  Trey Yates In The Nic Of Shine
2021 Jake Cooper Clay Shining Freckles
  Kory Koontz Mr JB 0839
2022 Jake Cooper Clay Streakin Sun Dew
  Joseph Harrison Freckles Instant Coffee
2023 Clint Summers Mr Joes Shadow Bar
  Logan Medlin TRR Freckles Holidoc
2024 Jake Cooper Clay Rllittlebit
  Trey Yates Marlboro Cat

2024 BFI Steer Roping Draw

For the first time in eleven years, a lucrative stand-alone steer roping will be held at the Lazy E Arena, which was built by Ed Gaylord in 1984 specifically to host the PRCA’s National Finals of Steer Roping. 

The best steer ropers in the world, many of whom hail from Oklahoma, will be gunning for Gist buckles, $10,000 cash added by Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, and a custom Veach trophy saddle, thanks to Clark Quarter Horses and Veach Saddlery. A calcutta will be hosted Friday night, April 5, at the Gold Buckle Cantina inside the Lazy E at 7 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased on the day of. $15 per person for kids 10 and under, free of charge.

DrawRoper Name
1NEAL WOOD
2CORD HODGE
3COLT WILLIAMS
4CHANCE KELTON
5MATT DAVIS
6MONTANA PARSONS
7BRADY GARTEN
8THOMAS SMITH
9JOHN WAYNE MCDANIEL
10BLAKE DECKARD
11JAY TEAGUE
12JOBY MOONEY
13ZAC REAM
14DANNY TAYLOR
15KETCH KELTON
16TANNER STEC
17JARETT HOLLIDAY
18TY WILLIAMS
19MIKE WHITE
20MIKE CHASE
21BRYCE DAVIS
22CHAD MATHIS
23LUKE BLANTON
24TY HERD
25TYREL TATON
26MARTIN POINDEXTER
27SETH SCHAFER
28KYLE CAUTHORN
29BOBBY JACKSON
30DEE KYLER
31CONNOR MCNEIL
32CHET HERRIN
33EVAN ALLARD
34GARRETT HALE
35KEO WEAVER
36QUAY HOWARD
37CLAY LONG
38DALTON WALKER
39LOGAN CURRIE
40JESS TIERNEY
41COLE PATTERSON
42DUSTIN BASSETT
43RYAN MILLER
44JACK KINSEY
45SCOTT SNEDECOR
46VIN FISHER
47SID MEYERS
48COY THOMPSON
49ROWDY BOND
50BILLY BUCHANAN
51BILLY GOOD
52COLT BRUEGMAN
53COLEMAN PROCTOR
54ORA TATON
55DAN FISHER
56KIM ZIEGELGRUBER
57STRATTON LOPEZ
58JASON BURSON
59DOUG PHARR
60J TOM FISHER
61JOHN BLAND
62CODY LEE
63TANNER DUWE
64DANE NOYCE
65TREY WALLACE
66TONY REINA
67RYAN LEFEVERE
68SLADE WOOD
69MARK MILNER
70JAKE CLAY
71RYAN WILLBERG
72DAVID WITCHER
73COREY ROSS
74BRANDON REINHART
75JOHN CLARK
76ZAC PARRINGTON
77TYLER HARGRAVE
78KELTON MC MILLEN

BFI Documentary to Air on Cowboy Channel

A brand-new film documenting nearly a half-century of footage and interviews from the Bob Feist Invitational will premiere March 23 and 24 on The Cowboy Channel at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Eastern, respectively.

The documentary, brought to you by Resistol and Ullman Peterson Events, features sit-down interviews with several former BFI champs like Trevor Brazile, Tee Woolman, Dee Pickett and Rich Skelton, along with recent slow-motion footage juxtaposed with vintage audio play-by-play.

“You had to be horseback and you had to handle cattle,” the film captures from Dick Yates, who once entered with Hollywood actor Wilford Brimley’s son. “It put the ‘cowboy’ in roping.”

Many, including Rube Woolsey, credit Rodeo Video for kicking off today’s giant wave of team roping advancement because of the sale of its wildly popular run-by-run “BFI tapes.” Every serious team roper for the past 30 years grew up watching BFI tapes, first on VHS and then DVD and finally downloaded.

“We all wanted to do good there since we were little boys,” said Woolsey, who banked $50,094 in 1995. “And that adds quite a bit of pressure.”

The film was produced by Wildhorse Motion, co-owned by Texas native Tim Endsley, over the past year. Endsley pointed out that, well before cell phones or internet, America knew who won the BFI within a day, somehow.

“I love the segments with Bob [Feist],” said Endsley. “And Dee [Pickett] talked about the fact that team ropers had fewer places to rope as they got better. There were only rodeos, and many rodeos still didn’t have team roping. I was a calf roper and Dee was one of my heroes – in fact, my dad announced the 1984 NFR when he won the world.”

For years, the BFI paid more than a team roper could make at the NFR. And a BFI buckle remains right next to a gold buckle as the holy grail for team ropers. This film nods to the fact that each steer’s tail has to clear the end of the gate – and each roper has to decide whether to go for first or survive another round.

“I loved hearing Brian Burrows talk about winning the third-ever BFI with 17-year-old Allen Bach, and then he quit roping,” said Endsley. “We had to cut so much out, but there are so many great stories. We’re already figuring out what we’ll do in a few years for the 50th anniversary.”

The film will also be shown for viewing in Edmond, Oklahoma, at 5 p.m. on March 29 preceding the BFI Dinner and Calcutta at the Hilton Garden Inn, on the eve of the 47th Annual BFI in Guthrie.

Fresh Corrientes Ready for 47th BFI

Some handy high-numbered snowbirds spent part of February breaking in steers for the 47th Bob Feist Invitational on March 30.

With a cash purse of more than $650,000 and 125 teams accepted this year in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the BFI will again demand strong, even cattle. While it’s usually not the first rodeo for cattle used at other big Open ropings, BFI steers are crossed over the Mexican border and broke in specifically for the BFI.

“As long as steers haven’t had many runs, they’re fairly similar,” said Scott Gage of 3 Point Productions, who with Jeff Smith will bring hundreds of cattle to Wrangler BFI Week for the fourth year in a row. “We pride ourselves on honest steers, and we want great cattle at the BFI.”

Partly because of below-zero temperatures at Gage’s place in Kansas this winter, the steers were trucked to his Phoenix-area home to be broke in during some sunshine. Their protocol is to trail the M branded steers to the stripping chute several times, then lead them around with a rope on their neck once, then on their horns once. Finally, the steers are live-roped three to six times, depending on how they perform.

“We run them however they need, to get them going good,” said Gage. “These sets we broke in this year have been really good. It’ll be a great set for the BFI.”

The duo will sort through and choose the 135 strongest out of 250.  They’ll do that, also, with the hundreds of veteran steers they also bring to Guthrie for the lower-numbered ropings that week. That attention to detail helps make gals pull into Guthrie to try for another thirty-thousand-dollar payday like Lari Dee Guy had in 2021, or teenagers show up to gun for $50,000 cash like what the Hooey Jr. 10.5 champs won last year.  

“All throughout the week, we have guys sitting at the back end watching, and if a steer doesn’t fit, he’s out of there,” said Smith. “Steers cost a lot of money and it’s a lot of work sorting, but If you want them to be good, that’s the way you have to do it.”