Winning his third round of the 2022 National Finals Rodeo, the young calf roping veteran Marty Yates flanked and tied in 7.8 on a “soft pen” of calves. At the age of 28, Yates is competing in his ninth NFR and currently sits sixth in the world standings with $215,981.
“It’s all a little kid dreams of, getting to rodeo for a living and then getting to come out here and rope against the toughest guys in the world,” Yates said. “It’s everything you ever dreamed of and it just shows that hard work does pay off. That’s probably been the best part about it for me.”
Making the Most
Yates’ 7.8-winning run came on a calf he wasn’t thrilled with, but a quick start out of the box on gelding “Jag” lined the two up for success.
“The calf was down there on the rope, and I got him straightened out,” Yates said. “Then just two wraps and a hooey. [I was] hoping to get some round money and it turns out that it was a soft round of calf roping. Going into tomorrow, I’m absolutely not changing anything. Draw a good calf, get a good start, hang it on him and make a good run.”
Heading back to the hotel $28,913 richer, Yates joked that his $93,710 total cash earned at the NFR wouldn’t entirely pay for his January 2023 wedding to Loni Kay Lester, but it would certainly contribute to their new lives together.
A New Crew
After riding Lights On Hickory or “Buster” for six years, Yates needed to find a new horse to fill the 20-year-old’s shoes. He had a few choices and took a gamble on a horse he’d purchased in early November.
“We didn’t get to rope on him enough; I didn’t get to ride him any rodeos or anything,” Yates said. “So I kind of came out here cold turkey hoping that it might work out. And it didn’t—I missed the very first one when I got on him.”
Despite the shock that came with his new horse fizzling out, Yates quickly pivoted back to the horse that carried him through 2022: Smooth As A Powercat, or “Jag.”
“Sometimes he’s a little funny in the corner as far as getting a start,” Yates explained. “And I finally got my start figured out on him here. He’s the same trip every time. He’s a little flat and front-endy, so he’s really good on stronger cattle.”
Yates and Jag bagged the Round 4 win and split Round 5 with a 7.4 and 7.3, respectively. He described Jag a big, strong horse that’s quick and “everything you’d want in a gelding.”
Caleb Smidt remained solid atop the world and aggregate standings in Round 9, posting a 9.5 and maintaining his $30,651 lead over Shad Mayfield in the world standings. Currently, Smidt has nine tied in 73.70 and has a chance to break Shane Hanchey’s 2013 aggregate record of 80.10 seconds on 10 head.
Mayfield had a heartbreaker of an evening, missing with his first loop after dismounting and was unable to remount and try his second loop due to a skittish horse. The bobble took him out of the average race, where he’d been sitting fourth and aimed at a $34,976 check.
Cory Solomon is still holding on to the second-place spot in the world standings with nine tied in 85 seconds.