When Riley and Brady Minor won the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, it became obvious the team of brothers needed a nickname. They're two personalities couldn't be more different.
Riley, who handles the heading duties, is the younger brother and is gregarious, outgoing and talkative. Brady, who has a Wrangler NFR qualification under his belt already, is quiet, polite, direct and calm.
The perfect example is the victory lap the two took after roping three steers in 16.3 seconds in Denver. Riley sped around the arena, whooping it up, waving his hat. He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face. Brady, on the other hand, seemed to be concentrating more on fixing a little something his horse wasn't doing quite right instead of basking in the glory of the win.
After Riley dismounted, he was so excited he could hardly control himself, repeating, 'I can't believe we just won Denver!" while shaking hands, taking the splint boots off his horse and giving an interview-all at once.
Brady found a quiet corner of the warm-up arena and methodically tied his horse up, loosened the cinch and took the splint boots off.
Maybe the nicknames ought to be Fire and Ice.
"That was a nerve-wracking steer to catch right there," Riley said. "I kind of had the short-go jitters. I knew that steer was good, but I was a little cautious there at the barrier and I was a little late so I thought I might have cost myself winning some."
If he was nervous, it was overshadowed by his brother's unflappable performance. The run appeared smooth and easy-probably a credit to roping hundreds of steers together, as well as Brady's style.
Among the best runs of the round (they split third with Jake Barnes/Clay O'Brien Cooper and Reese Kerr/Jesse Echtler), their 5.4 held despite being third high call. The second high call team, Cody Tew and Justin Viles, legged up and the high call team, Speed Williams and Allen Bach ran long after drawing a hard-running steer and getting into the wall.
"This is the biggest win of my career," Riley said. "This is the third rodeo we've entered this season and the third one we've won in a row. We won Billings, Odessa and now this one. This average pays like $6,000 and to win that much later in the year is really tough, that's why you really want to capitalize on it when you can."
Brady echoed his brother's sentiments and-out of character-verbalized his hopes for what a start like this one can do for a team.
"I've never had a good winter and I've got more money won now than I did at the first of June last year," Brady said. "It'll be nice to have this kind of a start, but we've got a long ways to go. But it will be nice to have a little cushion going in."
The brothers, who are 23 and 19, have not rushed or forced their partnership, and the strategy is producing some early returns-$6,515 each from Denver to be exact.
"I let him rope with somebody else [B.J. Campbell] for a year there, to let him get seasoned," Brady said. "Then we roped together the last half of last year and he almost made the Finals, he was like 20th."
Riley has already had the opportunity to show the maturity he developed after just a few years rodeoing.
Last year, when Brandon Beers lost both his horses to injuries sustained in a traffic accident, Riley came to his friend's aid and lent him his now 14-year-old buckskin Cadillac. The horse, which came from Bill Spratt, carried Brandon through the end of the 2007 regular season and the Wrangler NFR.
"We're like brothers," Riley said. "He can borrow my horse anytime because I know I can borrow his too if I need to."
Brady, meanwhile is riding a sorrel horse he bought from B.J. Campbell six years ago called Dugout.
Perhaps the most dominant performance turned in by any competitor in Denver came from 2004 World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho. Branquinho entered the short round with a 0.6 second lead over the field by virtue of a 3.6-second, first place run in the first round and a 3.5-second, fourth place run in the second round. After a 4 flat from Gabe LeDoux, all Branquinho had to do was throw his steer 4.6 seconds to win the average-which would have put him ninth in the round and that's just not his style.
He went for broke. Wade Sumpter was leading the round with a 3.6. So Luke threw his steer in 3.5, did his signature booty shake and collected checks worth $15,787.
"I drew great," he said. "There's now way around that. They all left good and I got to take the right start. The horse worked great, I got to ride Willie."
In fact, Branquinho will ride Willie as much as possible during the rodeo season, as well as the grey horse, Skids, he rode much of last year.
"This gives you confidence in everything," he said. "If you start the winter off right, it can really help. I thrive off of confidence."
On another note, 2006 World Champion Steer Wrestler Dean Gorsuch was back in competition-and Denver's short round-after having to sit out most of 2007 due to injury.
The first of two repeat champions at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo came from a guy who only rodeos when he feels like it. Bareback rider Cleve Schmidt bounced back from injuries in 2006 to win the 2007 title, but then failed to make the Wrangler NFR.
However, missing the NFR was more by choice than chance.
"I could have rodeoed a little harder and maybe done something-I didn't use up my rodeos," he said. "I just kind of eased around and did what I wanted and enjoyed myself for a change," he said. "I was happy with where I ended up."
In Denver, he ended up with a 254-point total on three after an 84-point short round ride aboard Calgary Stampede's Grim Proof. The win was worth $14,719.
As for 2008, Schmidt's not getting ahead of himself.
"I never make any plans," he said. "I have no idea, I'll got to my five or six winter rodeos, see where that sets me and decide come spring."
Brittany Pozzi-Pharr turned in the other repeat championship after winning the average with a 46.69-time on three runs-including a short-round best 15.51-second run on the bottom of the ground.
"I didn't think you could win anything at the bottom of the ground, that's the way it was in the earlier rounds," she said. "He just laid down one of those runs."
"He" is Stitch, her 2007 Barrel Horse of the Year, who she was uncertain about after he laid off between the Finals in December and Denver in mid-January.
"I've just been letting him rest," she said. "He takes a few runs to get back so I was real worried about coming up here not having run him. You're always afraid that your horse might not come back as strong after the Finals because it's so hard on them. You're always a little bit worried that they won't be running as hard or they may have got some little injury that you didn't know about. It's nice to know that he's back and I don't have to worry about him."
In fact, after winning $13,439 in Denver, her title defense season just got a lot easier.
"You don't get comfortable until you win those first few checks and to win the first rodeo back makes it nice to be able to relax again," she said.
In the saddle bronc riding, young gun Samuel Kelts of Millarville, Alberta, rode Brookman Rodeo's Good Times for 89 points in the short round to win the average with a 264-point score on three. The win was worth a rodeo-best $16,396. The tie-down roping saw little-known Tyler Garten of Kingman, Kan., leap from the 12th hole in the average coming in to the short round to win the championship by virtue of a 8.2-second short round run. He roped three calves in 26.0 seconds and won $12,127. Bull rider Spud Jones of Tohatchi, N.M., won the bull riding with a 238 score on three bulls, worth $9,551.