PAGE 16 ROPERS SPORTS NEWS JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 Riata Buckle Breaks Onto Scene As Fifth Richest Roping In its inaugural event, the Riata Buckle stallion incentive, held Nov. 3-6, 2022, in Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Lazy E Arena, paid out a massive $2 million and rocked the all-time earnings charts of the rope horse industry. Early in November, Equine Ne twork announced t ha t team ropings operating on the GEMS software will have paid $90 million in payoffs by the end of the year. As more and more ropers invest in highquality horses to give them an advantage, the founders of the Pink and Ruby Buckle paired with Denny Gentry to create the Riata Buckle Stallion Incentive. The Riata group put up the $2 million—challenging ropers everywhere to find themselves a horse sired by a Riata stud, upping the ante on the rope horse game as we know it. To be eligible for Riata Buckle money, horses must be sired by a stallion enrolled in the Riata Buckle program. If your horse is sired by a Riata Buckle stallion, you must pay a $200 nomination fee annually. In essence, the nomination fee is a membership fee for horses—buying a chance at more money than ropers have ever competed for in the futurity or horse show game. And it buys ropers a quantifiable method of tracking their horses earnings through the program alongside AQHA’s QData and Equine Network’s Global Handicaps, raising the tide of the rope horse business and the Western industry as a whole. Unlike other stallion incentives or futurities geared to professional ropers and trainers, the Riata Buckle operates like a jackpot, enters as a team and caters to all ropers with the use of slide ropings. One of the unique features of the event is that it allows teams, if necessary, to utilize unnominated horses within a team. Therefore, potentially half the money was available to ropers that did not have a Riata horse in this program. If there was any question that combining jackpot roping with a stallion incentive would work, that most certainly no longer exists. The roping was a success and did in fact produce the fifth richest roping in the world, and it appears the third richest Open Roping, on their first try. THE STALLIONS Prior to the first steer running at the Lazy E, ropers were hunting Riata Buckle horses. Oldtimers can’t recall any instance in the cowboy world where anticipation of an event changed the marketplace before the first event ever took place. In the aftermath, the impact of the event was immediate. On AQHA’s QData (statistical tracking of earnings) of Ropings Top Sires, Riata is clearly going to make a seismic impact. Hickory Holly Time moved from the 13th all-time leading sire to 3rd all-time in a few short days. Metallic Cat, with offspring earning more than a half dozen big checks, unseated Shining Spark from his long-held top spot. The actual Riata stallion performance summaries are posted on their website, Riatabuckle.com . THE ROPINGS Very clearly, Riata demonstrated the power of recreation ropers and their willingness to participate in futurities and incentives. The top money earner of the event was a #5 lady header, Brooke Wilson, Canyon, Texas, winning $54,600. Two of the five ropings were won by ladies. Recreational ropers immediately made a statement about their role concerning rope horses in the larger scheme of the horse market and in the global sports scene. From a roper’s perspective, there were a little over 600 teams that split up $2 million in purses, which included the stallion and breeders’ share. The Open Futurity paid 800% over entry fees. The #12.5 AllAges paid about 200% and the rest were 400%. The starting advertisements for the 2023 year will once again be guaranteeing a minimum of $2 million. However, organizers hope to be able to announce by the end of next summer, that the guaranteed minimum might approach $3 million. Concerning the slides— the roping world has been curious, did they work? As it turned out human nature stepped in and there was a very small percentage of #11.5 teams in the #12.5 slides, and the number of #10.5 teams was nearly 4-to-1 over the #9.5 teams and five #8.5 teams. Clearly if heelers could get higher-numbered headers, they took their chances in the upper end of each slide. Even with low #11.5 team counts in the #12.5 Futurity, two #11.5 teams placed and a team moved from 17th to 9th. The #12.5 All Age it looked like it was going to be super tough with only a 5-second split in the short round, but just as quickly half of all #12.5 teams took no-times in the short round. The last call back at 25th ended up grabbing the last aggregate check. Two #4 headers placed, and three ladies got a check. The #10.5 Futurity was extremely soft with 42 as the short round cut. This roping ended up paying the 10th check on three head. Plenty of teams with 40- and 50-second times all got large checks. Riata Buckle will change the horse age on #10.5 futurity horses to 6-years-old and younger for 2023. That will be the low slide only, and that should give ropers who don’t have a futurity horse a real opportunity to survey the 5-year-olds in the #12.5 Futurity. The roping that surprised everyone was the $400,000 Open Futurity. Top ropers in the country on some outstanding young horses made for some interesting twists. In the short round, five teams roped legs, See RIATA BUCKLE On Page 17 Brooke Wilson and Tripp Townsend won the #10.5 Futurity and split $71,000. Brooke is from Canyon, Texas. She placed in several ropings and was the high dollar winner of the event with $54,000 in earnings. Tripp Townsend, from Earth, Texas was riding the Riata horse, TTR Lucky Hometown. The Riata Buckle Open Pro-Futurity paid 800% over entry fees. Pros Colby Lovell and Dakota Kirchenschlager managed to secure the championship even with a leg roped in the fourth round, winning the average with a time of 39.55. Jake Smith and Douglas Rich were close on their tails with a time of 39.57. Colby and Dakota split $102,650 for the win.