The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is Las Vegas. The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (which runs December 6-15) is our make-or-break event. For all the guys who rope for a living, all our eggs are in this one basket. This is the big-money event. There will be 15 teams hoping they'll be the one who peaks right there and rises to the top. Financially, it's all on the line. Some teams will walk away from this one rodeo with $80,000-$100,000 a man. A couple teams won't win anything. The NFR is the one with all the fame and all the money. It's televised, and the world titles are on the table. It's the event of the year, the Super Bowl of rodeo and roping.
You better be prepared when you show up in Vegas. We all know what the conditions are going to be like. This is our 23rd year at the Thomas and Mack Center. We know the arena conditions are small and times are fast. It's no secret the way we all practice before the NFR. We set our arena dimensions up at home the same as the NFR. We line up several practice horses and go at it all day long, trying to get in a rhythm for that type of fast run.
The NFR has its own mystique, and so much of it depends on the cattle each year. The steers dictate the outcome of every rodeo all year long. When the cattle are the right size and have been prepared properly, it makes for a fast track in that little building. We've also tried older cattle that got tricky real quick, and it didn't make for a very good event at the Finals. Stace Smith has the contract for the steers this year, and Boogie Ray is helping oversee the preparation of the steers.