By just seven-hundredths of a second over six steers, professional team ropers Kal Fuller of Bozeman, Montana, and Reagan Ward of Purcell, Oklahoma, won the richest event of their sport and split a first-place paycheck worth a record $150,000 at the 43rd Annual Bob Feist Invitational. The event is part of Wrangler BFI Week presented by Yeti, held for the first time inside the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, since its usual venue in Reno, Nevada, was shut down due to the pandemic.
“Words can’t describe this,” said Ward, who won in virtually his hometown, riding a horse he bought from world champion Kollin Von Ahn. “My header is pretty phenomenal. I’ve never met a 20-year-old that can do the stuff he can do. Most people can’t even do what he can do.”
The BFI is the most lucrative but challenging team roping event for professionals in America. Under the traditional format, the 100 best teams in the world are invited to rope six steers that have an 18-foot head start, for a purse of more than $600,000 in cash and prizes. Organizers allowed 140 teams this year behind a 20-foot head start, due to the location change, which pushed the purse over $700,000.
Fuller and Ward, 32, were fourth-fastest going into the finals and made a snappy run of 6.04 seconds to win the round and add $5,000 to their total haul. National Finals Rodeo veterans Billie Jack Saebens and Junior Nogueira each roped just one leg. Then the leading team after five rounds, Utah’s Pace Freed and Cole Wilson, roped their last steer in 8.35 but fell just short in the aggregate to settle for second and split $100,000.
The number of contestants competing in so many rounds meant the first team roped in Guthrie at 9 a.m. and the final round kicked off at 8 p.m. The BFI has long been a test of mental endurance, which adds to the bragging rights of a championship. Ward actually took a nap in his trailer in the three hours between his first two runs, while Fuller said he tried to keep moving throughout the day.
“I blocked all the pressure out in my mind and tried to just think of it as another practice steer,” said Fuller, who had practiced at the home of two-time world champion Chad Masters and at Ward’s place prior to the event.
Fuller had only entered the BFI once prior to this year. He credits much of his win to the sorrel horse he calls Marshall that he purchased from Nick Pullara. Meanwhile, Ward’s brother Andrew placed fourth in the aggregate with former BFI champ Buddy Hawkins, which meant the Ward brothers took $104,500 back to their native Edmond – less than 20 miles from Guthrie.
The annual Rickey Green Overall Fast Time Award went to Cory Clark and Wyatt Cox, whose 4.65-second time won the fourth round and was the only sub-5-second run of the day. The Montana Silversmiths Head Horse of the BFI Award went home with Chris Francis. He and Cade Passig, both of Las Vegas, N.M., placed seventh in the aggregate this year. Today and in 2018 when they won the BFI together, Francis rode Ima Monty Leo (“Dude”), the 13-year-old sorrel he bought from Kaleb Driggers.
And Trey Yates of Pueblo, Colorado, won the Heel Horse of the BFI award for his black gelding, In The Nic Of Shine. “Tux” was a tie-down roping horse before the Yates family converted him to heeling. Yates said he’s ridden the horse at the past four or five BFIs.
Several more competitions are on tap in Guthrie as Wrangler BFI Week continues. For more information, visit www.bfiweek.com.
Complete results from the 2020 Bob Feist Invitational:
First Round: 1. Cody Snow and Junior Nogueira, 7.04 seconds, $8,000; 2. Austin Crist and TJ Watts, 7.10, $6,000; 3. Casey Hicks and Steve Orth; Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves, 7.24 each; $3,000 each.
Second Round: 1. Justin Johnson and Cole Curry, 5.85 seconds, $8,000; 2. Aaron Macy and Jason Johe, 5.95, $6,000; 3. Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler, 6.09, $4,000; 4. Wyatt Imus and Joseph Harrison, 6.6, $2,000.
Third Round: 1. Brooks Dahozy and Brandon Bates, 5.30 seconds, $8,000; 2. Cole Morgan and Jett Hillman, 5.95, $6,000; 3. Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves, 6.06, $4,000; 4. Riley Minor and Brady Minor, 6.08, $2,000.
Fourth Round: 1. Cory Clark and Wyatt Cox, 4.65 seconds, $8,000; 2. Clay Tryan and Jake Long, 5.24, $6,000; 3. Clay Smith and Jade Corkill, 5.31, $4,000; 4. Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves, 5.58, $2,000.
Fifth Round: 1. Cory Kidd and Clay Futrell, 5.15 seconds, $8,000; 2. Clay Smith and Jade Corkill, 5.67, $6,000; 3. Riley Minor and Brady Minor, 5.83, $4,000; 4. Jake Barnes and Rich Skelton, 5.85, $2,000.
Wrangler/Priefert Short Round: 1. Kal Fuller and Reagan Ward, 6.04, $5,000; 2. Chris Francis and Cade Passig, 6.33, $3,000; 3. Casey Hicks and Steve Orth, 7.11, $2,000; 4. Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins, 7.13, $1,000.
Aggregate: 1. Kal Fuller and Reagan Ward, 46.89 seconds on six, $150,000; 2. Pace Freed and Cole Wilson, 46.96, $100,000; 3. Paul D. Tierney and Matt Kasner, 49.46, $74,000; 4. Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins, 49.92, $54,000; 5. Tyler Wade and Billie Jack Saebens, 50.67, $41,000; 6. Casey Hicks and Steve Orth, 50.79, $30,000; 7. Chris Francis and Cade Passig, 51.37, $24,000; 8. Matt Sherwood and Trey Yates, 51.63, $16,000; 9. Cody Snow and Junior Nogueira, 52.47, $14,000; 10. Derrick Begay and Ty Romo, 52.66, $13,000; 11. Riley Minor and Brady Minor 54.07, $12,000; 12. Trey Blackmore and Kory Bramwell, 61.16, $11,000; 13. Tate Kirchenschlager and Ross Ashford, 41.16 on five, $10,000; 14. Lane Ivy and Dillon Wingereid, 41.39, $9,500; 15. Jr Dees and Cody Cowden, 44.87, $9,500.
About Wrangler BFI Week:
Phoenix-based Ullman-Peterson Events has owned and produced the Bob Feist Invitational since 2012. Founded by notable rodeo announcer and publisher Bob Feist in 1977, the BFI is the richest team roping event for professionals and one of the most prestigious, due to its limited roster and long head-start for steers. Founded by Perry Di Loreto in 1996 and now with additional categories, the high-stakes amateur roping events surrounding the BFI are the most lucrative one-day events of their kind.
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