Blane Cox is living proof that timing is everything, and 2023 could be his comeback year after last advancing to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016.
At just 29 years old, Cox is a veteran of the sport but has finished in the crying hole at 16th in the PRCA | RAM World Standings a heartbreaking two times (2017-18); he’s also been inside the top 20 a couple of times including last season.
“I’ve been rodeoing but things just haven’t lined up for me,” Cox said.
Things lined up perfectly for Cox during a dominating performance at the Red Bluff Round-Up held April 19-23, 2023. The Cameron, Texas cowboy placed in all four rounds to earn nearly $9,000 and the championship with a four-head total of 39.9 seconds.
The big win kicked off the spring run for the tie down roper following a solid winter and helped move him from 16th to 11th in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with earnings above $32,000 for the year.
Redemption at Red Bluff
“I think in three of the four years I’ve been there, I’ve come back high call in the short round but this is the first time I’ve won it,” Cox said.
Red Bluff, a stop on the PRCA’s NFR Playoff Series, began with two long rounds held in slack on April 19-20. The top 24 from the average advanced to the performances for a third round before the field was whittled down once again for the championship round of 12 held on the final Sunday, April 23.
The multiple go round format coupled with the long score and huge arena suit Cox just fine.
“It seems to fit my style of roping,” Cox agreed. “I normally do good at these kind.”
Cox was solid in the opening rounds, picking up checks for a share of sixth and for fifth.
“The first round I had a good calf that they hadn’t done much on at the previous rodeos,” Cox said. “I missed the barrier a bit but ran him down there and was a 10.3.”
In the second round, he drew a calf world leader Riley Webb had placed on in round one and was able to turn up the heat with a run of 8.9 seconds.
Cox and hauling partner Shad Mayfield shared the lead going into the progressive round with matching times of 19.2 seconds on two head. While Mayfield had some bad luck, Cox just got better, winning the progressive round on Saturday afternoon with his best run of the week at 8.5 seconds.
“In the progressive round I had a great calf,” Cox said. “Richard Newton was 8.4 on him in the second go. I got a really good start, my horse worked good and it all came together.”
His work on Saturday made for an easier go on Sunday as he carried a lead of 2.3 seconds over second ranked Lane Livingston into the short go.
As the final round unfolded, several ropers struggled, particularly Cox’s closest competitors. With time to spare, Cox stayed off the barrier and ran the calf down to close out the rodeo with a 12.2 second run, good enough for another round check.
“I actually had the calf Shad had in the second go and I knew she was a good one, ran a little but good,” Cox recalled. “I had a pretty decent lead so I knew I just had to go tie her down to win it.”
While Red Bluff was just his second win of the season, Cox has been consistent all winter, advancing to the finals in Denver and picking up checks in San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Mercedes.
Blane Cox credits the horse Flea
The key to his hot start? The return of an old partner in the powerhouse mare Flea.
Sweet As Time is a rock star in rodeo, earning the 2016 AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year title under the saddle of Marcos Costa. Renato Antunes’ Sweet Ranch in Brazil owns the mare.
“Marcos won the AQHA World title in the senior tie down roping in 2016, the same year she was named the PRCA Horse of the Year,” Cox said. “I think she is the only horse to win both of those in the same year.”
Serendipity put Flea in Cox’s trailer.
“I used to live with Fred Werneck in college,” Cox explained. “Fred was the caretaker for Flea.”
Costa rode the mare for several years, earning his first Wrangler NFR berth in 2016 with her help. In 2017 Cox got the chance to take her to a few rodeos toward the end of the season before Antunes brought her to Brazil to raise some babies.
It was Werneck who introduced Cox to Antunes.
“I train a few horses of my own and Fred called me and asked if I had anything for sale,” Cox said. Werneck had Cox bring a horse to his place for a trial run and Antunes turned out to be the buyer.
It was the start of not only a friendship but a partnership between the men. Cox actually flew to Brazil to show Flea at a huge event, the ABQM, and eventually convinced Antunes to send her back to America to hit the rodeo road again.
“I got her back about mid-year last year,” Cox said of the now 16 year old mare. Because she’d been showing in Brazil, Cox took some time to make the adjustments to remind her how to be a rodeo horse. Luckily it didn’t take long.
“I took her to San Juan Capistrano last year and four of us rode her there on Sunday,” Cox said. “We won first, second and fourth and she won $26,000 in one day.”
Flea has carried him throughout his winter run but now that the rodeo season has shifted outside, it’s really her time to shine.
“She is one of the best on long scores, big arenas. Walking fresh calves, big calves,” he said, adding she also helped him place good in Cheyenne last summer. “She’s a key player on my team this year.”
“She’s pretty special.”
The plan is for this to be Flea’s farewell tour as she will be retired at the end of the year. Her connections hope that last run will be in Vegas at the Wrangler NFR.
The timing would be perfect.