Throughout the year, bareback rider Ty Breuer will attempt to earn his fourth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo back number.
To accomplish that goal, it’s imperative that the North Dakota cowboy draws high quality livestock throughout the regular season at the larger rodeos where the bigger prize money is at stake.
Breuer found what he was looking for at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo’s renowned Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show. He drew three broncs that in turn helped him earn remarkable scores.
During the opening performance on Jan. 19 for example, he scored 85.5 aboard a salty bronc named Painted Bunny, which is owned by the J Bar J Rodeo Co.
But it didn’t stop there. During the Jan. 20 morning performance, Breuer scored an 85 atop a bronc named Rags to Riches, which is owned by East Texas stock contractor Sammy Andrews.
If that wasn’t enough, he posted an 81 on Cecil, which is owned by the Dakota Rodeo Co, during the Jan. 20 matinee performance at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
The J Bar J, Andrews and Dakota rodeo companies are among 17 subcontractors that Fort Worth Stock Show senior livestock producers Neal and Jim Gay of Terrell have hired to make certain that each of the 29 performances of the Fort Worth Stock Show’s PRCA rodeo is well stocked.
The Gays hire an array of stock contractors and ask each to bring only their top animals to make sure each competitor has a chance to finish in the money.
Breuer has all but clinched a berth in Saturday’s final round with a three-ride aggregate score of 251.5.
Breuer praised the work of Neal and Jim Gay.
“One of the hardest things is to find the stock for this rodeo because there are so many [performances] and so many riders,” Breuer said. “I think they do a pretty dang good job.”
The Gays must cover 36 performances during the Stock Show’s 23-day run. In addition to the PRCA shows, there’s the Ranch Rodeo (two performances), Best of Mexico rodeo (one performance), the Cowboys of Color Rodeo on the Martin Luther King holiday (one performance), the Bulls’ Night Out PRCA Xtreme Bulls tour stop (two performances) and the Super Shootout Rodeo (one performance), which is an all-star rodeo that’s all-about featuring credentialed cowboys against the toughest broncs and bulls around.
Fans expect to see high-profile bucking horses and bulls during the PRCA rodeo’s final, which will feature the top 12 qualifiers in each event. But what about the other 28 PRCA rodeo prelim performances where cowboys grind it out in their attempts to reach the final?
“We’re always trying to make every performance entertaining where a cowboy has a chance to win in every round in every performance,” Jim Gay said. “There’s always going to be something in it for somebody when they’re watching it. It might not be in every event, but it could be in every event. On some days, the bronc riding might outshine the bull riding. On other days, steer wrestling might be the standout event where you see six different 3-second times.
“We want to entertain folks no matter whether they are a seasoned veteran or a tourist from Russia. We want them to leave there saying, ‘I want more of it.’ ”
Matt Brockman, Stock Show spokesman, said the cowboys and fans deserve the best stock available.
“You’ve got more than 1,000 contestants coming to your rodeo, every last one of them wants a shot at the short go,” Brockman said, using the rodeo jargon term for the final round. “So, if you’re crawling on three bareback horses, or two bulls, to be able to get to the short go, you have to be able to draw something. If you don’t provide the stock that a contestant can feel pretty confident that can help them qualify for the short go, then he’s not going to come and the rodeo’s entries dry up. So it’s imperative. We owe it to the cowboys just like we owe it to the fans.”
For the whole Fort Worth run, more than 1,100 bronc and bull rides will be made.
“Not anybody in the business is qualified to do it alone,” Neal Gay said. “There are three or four guys, maybe, who think they can, but after the first year they put it on, they will find out that they will need some more help. When you try to pick out the stock for Fort Worth, you do a lot of picking, you do a lot of talking.”
Neal Gay, a ProRodeo Hall of Fame member who founded the Mesquite rodeo in 1958 and ran the weekly spring and summer rodeo for several decades, began providing the stock for the Fort Worth rodeo 1979.
“We’ve tried to advertise all of the years that we’ve produced the rodeo that you can see as good of a performance on Wednesday afternoon as do on Saturday night,” Neal Gay said. “I think that’s why we’ve had more than 30 performances and have gotten people to come.”
Over the years, the Gay family has owned numerous high-profile broncs and bulls with names such as Ringeye, Joe Cool and Kowabunga. They currently own a bronc named Assault, which has been one of the sport’s tougher bareback horses to ride in recent years.
Three years ago, Assault helped Tarleton State University student Richmond Champion clinch the bareback riding title at RFD-TV’s The American rodeo at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Champion earned $1.1 million for his victory, which was an earnings record for one cowboy at one rodeo.
The Gays’ rodeo company is based in Terrell. They own about 150 bucking horses and about 100 bulls. Out of that herd, they will use about 75 broncs and 50 bulls throughout the Fort Worth Rodeo, Jim Gay said.
The Gays also recruit other firms such as the Oklahoma-based Frontier Rodeo Co., which has won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Stock Contractor of the Year Award for the past three years. Frontier owns an array of outstanding bulls and broncs including Medicine Woman, the PRCA’s 2016 Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year.
Longtime stock contractor Sammy Andrews also is on the card. He owns a rank bovine named Midnight Bender, the PRCA’s 2016 Bull of the Year. During the 2017 NFR, an Andrews-owned horse named Brutus, was named the top saddle bronc at the 10-day Las Vegas championships. Andrews also owned the late Bodacious, a legendary bull that was the PRCA’s top bull in 1994 and 1995 and retired to breeding in the mid-1990s.
“You respect the heritage that goes with the Fort Worth rodeo so you bring the best,” Andrews said. “For guys who have a lot of little rodeos later on in the year, this is one place you get to have the good guys come get on your horses, so you take advantage of rodeos such as Fort Worth and San Antonio for that reason. The good guys are going to be here and this is one chance for them to see your good stock.”
One high-profile cowboy who has had the stock he has needed at Fort Worth’s pro rodeo is defending world champion bareback rider Tim O’Connell.
During last year’s Fort Worth Stock Show PRCA rodeo, for example, O’Connell won the second round atop a bronc named Dirty Rags, which was owned by the J Bar J stock contracting firm. When the title was at stake in the final round, O’Connell tied for first in the short go with an 87 aboard the National Finals Rodeo bronc, Ankle Biter, which is owned by Neal and Jim Gay’s Rafter G Rodeo Co.
The 87 helped O’Connell clinch the overall bareback riding title at the 2017 Fort Worth Rodeo. O’Connell earned $11,966 at last year’s Fort Worth rodeo, which helped him qualify for the December 2017 National Finals in Las Vegas.
“It’s tough,” O’Connell said. “It’s like 30 something performances. They bring all sorts of stock. You have to get on three horses before you make the short round. It’s tough to draw three outstanding horses, but the Gay family does their absolute best. To have to put together that rodeo for that long for that many performances, they do the best they can. They do their best to keep every performance even. I’ve been so blessed to go there and draw great and do great.”