Luke Potter earned the coveted Cheyenne Frontier Days Championship with a time of 10.6 seconds on July 30, 2023.
Potter earned $15,730 in Cheyenne alone which runs his two-week total to $24,429, which should land him comfortably inside the Top 15.
“It’s definitely a bucket list win for me,” Potter, 23, said on Tuesday following the win. He was enjoying some rare time at his home in Maple City, Kansas, relaxing and golfing. “It’s nice to have some down time to relax. And we’re going to rope a little this week before we go back to it.”
Taking home the title at The Daddy was a relief as much as it was exhilarating. Potter has been without his good horse Snoopy, who was injured while carrying him inside the top 20 with a good showing in Reno in June. Since then, he has been catching rides and looking for a new horse during the busiest part of the ProRodeo season.
On top of his search for a solid equine partner is the usual summer grind which doesn’t allow for much practicing in between competitions.
“We haven’t gotten to rope much at all, practice-wise, this year,” he said. “But I just try to make my run and if you need to, go through your basics and just get a good run on the books to help your confidence and your horse’s confidence if you need it to get back on track.”
Potter borrowed horses throughout July and rode his hauling partner, Chance Thiessen’s gelding Rotel, for the qualifying round in Cheyenne back on July 17.
“He’s a good horse, I’ve ridden him a couple of times before that,” Potter said. He was 10.1 seconds on that run to land seventh in the round, picking up a check and advancing to the next round in the tournament style rodeo.
For the record, Thiessen has been on a roll as well, winning better than $18,000 in the last two weeks, prompting Potter to note, “it’s a blast when everyone is winning.”
The rig headed west after Cheyenne’s qualifier, hitting the four big Wilderness Circuit rodeos where Potter borrowed Tyler Prcin’s mare Katniss and placed at three of four rodeos.
By Wednesday, July 26, Potter made the deal to buy Katniss and took her back to Cheyenne for the quarter finals.
“I had a calf that was a little stronger but was good on the ground,” he said of the 12.3 second run that was third in the performance. Four move on to the semi-finals, where Potter took advantage of his good position draw.
“I was second to last in my semi-final so I had a good idea how fast I needed to be,” he noted. Six of the 12 competitors in the semis move on and Potter’s 11.3 was good enough for third again, sending him to the sudden-death finals on July 30.
“I also had a pretty good spot in the short go,” Potter noted. “There were only four guys after me. John Douch had made a pretty good run and was 10.9.”
“I got a good start but when I caught up to her, she stepped right and I ended up with my slack between her front and hind legs so I got a weird go there and had to get her up, and then I bobbled the feet,” Potter explained.
With the clocking ticking in his head, Potter made the decision to take a gamble.
“I thought I was running out of time so I took a wrap and a hooey,” he said. “And I needed to because when I looked up, I was 10.6.”
Despite taking the lead, Potter said he felt certain one of the ropers to follow including Meged would go faster.
“I really didn’t have a good feeling about it, but I put my name on the board on they had to come get me.”
No one did and Potter captured his first Cheyenne title.
With an almost perfect record since stepping aboard Katniss, it appears Potter has found his mount to make the final sprint for the Wrangler NFR.
“I have never run a practice calf on her, I just took her straight to Nampa, but we clicked right away,” he said of the 20-year old bay mare. “She’s an old campaigner, just super solid. She takes care of me.”
After weeks of horse struggles, Potter is ready to tackle a busy schedule of rodeos in his home state of Kansas before heading to Canada and the Northwest.
“It’s nice to have some stability,” he said.
New record at No. 1?
Right now, Riley Webb continues to dominate, maintaining a gap of $75,000 between himself and the stalking Haven Meged, Shad Mayfield and Ty Harris. Listed standings on ProRodeo.com on August 1 have him at $202,098 without earnings in Cheyenne, Deadwood and some from Salt Lake City included. Those winnings should give him the new regular season earnings record, passing the mark set by Mayfield a year ago at $203,508, with two more months of rodeo to go.
But after months of focusing on the top of the standings, it’s the bottom end of the Top 15 that begins to get the attention following Cheyenne. Looking at posted standings on August 1, the race is super tight with the bubble coming into focus.
What’s it going to take to make the NFR?
Rodeo has a lot of superstitions and er, urban legends, that its participants swear by . . . think no hats on beds, no $50 bills when you compete, don’t give your horse a haircut on competition days, no yellow shirts. The list is endless.
But one accepted truth by most is that one can guess how much money it will take to make the Wrangler NFR by looking at who is ranked No. 15 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings following the Cheyenne Frontier Days at the end of July and adding half again as much.
It may sound crazy but it’s as accurate an indicator as any and hasn’t seemed to change no matter how many big money rodeos are added to the end of the rodeo calendar in August and September.
Will it hold true in 2023?
Currently, Jake Pratt holds the No. 15 position with $67,353. By conventional wisdom, it will take just a smidge over $101,000 to hold that spot at season’s end on September 30.
For reference, Kincade Henry held the 15th spot last year with $101,946.
Other competitors in bubble territory are Cory Solomon is No. 13 with $71,692 won. John Douch is next, just about $3,000 behind. Pratt is No. 15, $1,400 behind Douch and only $51 ahead of No. 16 Marcos Costa. Four more ropers (Tuf Cooper, Luke Potter, Kincade Henry and Matt Shiozawa) are within $2,000 of Pratt.
Big picture look at heavy hitters
Haven Meged got hot at Reno, Ty Harris set a record over the Fourth of July, Shane Hanchey has been dominant and Caleb Smidt has quickly risen from outside the top 30 into NFR-contention during a busy July of rodeos.
With 30 Wrangler NFR qualifications and 6 World titles between them, it’s no surprise that these ropers are racking up $10-$15,000 a weekend and that they picked up big wins during the July 24th weekend—a run almost as rich as the Fourth of July.
The most decorated roper still going up and down the road, Smidt finds himself battling the bubble this year. From 43rd a month ago, and 18th two weeks ago, Smidt shared the win in Salinas and won a go round in Nampa to climb to No. 12 in what’s posted. That doesn’t include a fifth-place finish in Deadwood. His momentum has been undeniable, winning right at $46,000 since the Fourth of July.
Harris split the California Rodeo win with Smidt to keep his position at fourth in the standings. He won an event-best $11,597 in Salinas and picked up money in Ogden too.
Meged claimed the title at the Snake River Stampede, earning $12,348. He also picked up more than $11,000 in Cheyenne for a two-week total of $27,346.
Salt Lake City switched from a WCRA-event in 2022 back to PRCA-sanctioning in 2023 but the tie down roping results looked the same: Shane Hanchey picked up a second gold medal. He also won $18,203. He is holding strong at No. 5 in the standings.
Zack Jongbloed kept his hopes of a second-straight NFR alive with a win in Spanish Fork. Ranked No. 27, he won $8,923 in Spanish, added $2,000 from Salt Lake City and also finished second in Deadwood.
Texas Circuit leader Cole Clemons escaped the heat long enough to pick up a big win in Ogden at Pioneer Days. Though not in contention for the NFR, he earned $11,752.
Nebraska talent Grant Turek won in Deadwood, a win that should boost him up in the Badlands Circuit standings.
PRCA | RAM World Standings as of August 1, 2023
(Standings courtesy of ProRodeo.com, may not reflect all completed rodeos)