RODEO NOTES: 'Smooth' Tuf Cooper takes Hammer to tie-down field

Dad’s belief in horse gives Texan first-day win at Calgary Stampede

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Slow is smooth …

And smooth is fast.

And nobody was smoother than Tuf Cooper to kick off the 2024 Calgary Stampede.

His Friday afternoon effort in tie-down roping was as graceful as it gets for a first-day $7,000 celebration.

“You want Calgary to be easy,” said Cooper, of Decatur, Texas, following his 7.3-second run. “So that’s kind of my goal in the first round always is to make it easy.

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“When you’re in sequence with your run and right where you’re supposed to be the whole run, it can look effortless,” continued Cooper. “Especially when the horse is looking good.”

Cooper likely makes any horse look good given all the accolades he’s earned over the years, including buckles from The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth for winning in both 2011 and 2018.

Plus, of course, he’s part of the hall-of-fame Cooper family — a mainstay in rodeo circles for 75 years.

So the horse might seem secondary in achieving success.

But that would be a bad call, insists Cooper.

“The horse definitely made me feel good,” Cooper said. “And I’ll keep putting my trust in the Lord in having him guide the way.”

The tie-down veteran bought his mount, Hammer, earlier this year for use in multiple-pool set-ups like the Stampede.

“When the horse came up for sale, my dad had always loved him and basically made me buy him,” Cooper said. “I didn’t have the money and didn’t have the room for a horse. But he said, ‘You buy him — he’s going to be good at the big-time rodeos.’ And this is the first big-time rodeo I’ve had him at.’

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“Dad’s going to really excited right now,” continued Cooper of his father, Roy, who was the 1996 Stampede king and is a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. “It takes a little while to build that rapport with your horse into really being confident. The more money runs you get, the better it can be. And honestly, there’s nothing better for you and your horse’s connection than winning the go-round at the Calgary Stampede.”

So look out for Cooper, Stampede brethren, after his successful first run Friday. 

He’s quickly got his horse figured out, it seems.

“You saw a lot of barriers (broken), because the guys were going at it,” said Cooper, after Oklahoma’s Chance Thiessen set a fast standard of 7.4s first out of the gate that pushed everyone early. 

That time would hold for second and a $5,500 payout, topped only by a 10th of a second by Cooper.

“My approach always in the first round is to not play it safe but just to make sure to … make a smooth run, get a cheque and build off that,” added Cooper. “Because you want to show up the second day with a good feel.”


The first go-round winner saluted at the 2024 Calgary Stampede was bareback rider Leighton Berry.

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He weighed in with a sparkling 88.5-point ride aboard Special Delivery in the opening event Friday of The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.

“I was pretty stoked,” Berry said. “Got the draw … and saw I had a horse I’ve been dreaming about getting on. And I couldn’t wait.”

At 15 hands tall and sporting a short back, Special Delivery already ticks plenty of scoring boxes given his appearance.

But Berry made sure his ride delivered even more.

“Beautiful horse — that alone is going to look awesome,” praised the cowboy from Weatherford, Texas. “He brings the heat. He’s short back, so he really hits ya, and you’ve got to sit back and hit him just as hard. When he’s making circles like that, it’s pretty much everything you dreamed of. You’re just focused on setting your feet and finishing.

“But it’s a fight the whole time.”

A worthwhile one, at least it was Friday, given Berry pocketed $7,000 for the victory ahead of Wisconsin’s Nick Pelke and his 84.5 effort.

“Special Delivery has been around a long-time before I even started riding bareback horses,” added Berry. “I was watching guys winning rounds at the NFR on Special Delivery. He’s pretty touch and go. I’ve seen guys making 90-point rides. I’ve seen guys having their lunch, eating a little bit on him.

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“So to say I had my hammer cocked (Friday) is an understatement. And to have it all work out like I wanted to is a blessing.”


Idaho’s Riggin Smith won the saddle bronc aboard Erotic Tango with an 85-point ride for the $7,000 reward. Next was a four-pack of riders — Montana’s Sage Newman, Millarville’s Layton Green and Texans Logan Cook and Sterling Crawley — all with rare matching 83.5 scores for a split of the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-place payouts. On the calculator, that’s $3,812.50 apiece … Oregon’s Dalton Massey was the fastest in steer wrestling with a 4.7-second run … Texas cowgirl Tiany Schuster turned in a 17.54-second ride for the barrel-racing payday … Jace Lomheim, of Hughenden, Alta., was best in Day 1 of the two-day novice bareback competition with a 78.5-point effort aboard Getting Friskey … And with the last ride of the opening day — not including a late re-ride — Utah’s Hayes Weight was solid on Sky Fall for an 86.5 score and the $7,200 first-place pot in bull riding.

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Friday — Day 1
1. Leighton Berry (Weatherford, Texas), Special Delivery, 88.5 points, $7,000; 2. Nick Pelke (Mondovi, Wisc.), Shadow Warrior, 84.5, $5,500; 3. Kade Sonnier (Carencro, La), Bigtimin Houston, 84.0, $3,875; 3. Waylon Bourgeois (Church Point, La.), Cinchy Whitney, 84.0, $3,875; 5. Weston Timberman (Columbus, Mont.), Tootsie Roll 83.5, $2,000; 6. Cole Franks (Clarendon, Texas), Forgetful Nelly, 81.5, $1,000; 7. Cole Reiner (Buffalo, Wyo.), Lawless, 81.0, $0; 8. Dantan Bertsch (Ponoka, Alta.), Descending Rocket, 80.0, $0; 9. Mason Clements (Spanish Fork, Utah), Weary Joke, 78.0, $0; 10. Clint Laye (Cadogan, Alta.), Hot Shot, 66.0, $0.

Friday — Day 1
1. Tiany Schuster (Krum, Texas), 17.54 seconds, $7,000; 2. Lisa Lockhart (Oelrichs, S.D.), 17.63, $5,500; 3. Jessica Routier (Buffalo, S.D.), 17.78, $4,500; 4. Taylor Manning (Yellowhead County, Alta.), 17.89, $3,250; 5. Britttany Pozzi Tonozzi (Lampasas, Texas) 17.93, $2,000; 6. Sue Smith (Blackfoot, Idaho), 18.48, $1,000; 7. Emily Beisel (Weatherford, Okla.), 19.24, $0; 8. Bailey Smith (Marwayne, Alta.), 20.98, $0; 9. Karli Cowie (Mankota, Sask.) 22.48, $0; 10. Ashley Castleberry (Montgomery, Texas), 24.33, $0.

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Friday — Day 1
1. Jace Lomheim (Hughenden, Alta.), Getting Friskey, 78.5 points; 2. Denver Leitch (Grimshaw, Alta.), Forked Yuppie, 68.5; 3. Brady Schlesiger (Sturgeon County, Alta.), Favourite Bubbles, 58.5; — Rhett Tattrie (Hanna, Alta.), re-ride, bucked off; — Chase McNulty (Biggar, Sask.), Guarded Night, BO; — Morgan Frail (Weyburn, Sask.), Get Across Betty, BO.

Friday — Day 1
1. Tuf Cooper (Decatur, Texas), 7.3 seconds, $7,000; 2. Chance Thiessen (Tuttle, Okla.), 7.4, $5,500; 3. Shane Smith (Wimborne, Alta.), 7.7, $4,500; 4. John Douch (Huntsville, Texas), 8.0, $3,250; 5. Logan Bird (Nanton, Alta.), 8.3, $2,000; 6. Kyle Lucas (Carstairs, Alta.), 8.4, $1,000; 7. Caleb Smidt (Bellville, Texas), 16.5, $0; 8. Marcos Costa (Iretama, Brazil), 17.0, $0; 9. Blane Cox (Stephenville, Texas), no time, $0; 10. Shad Mayfield (Clovis, N.M.), no time, $0.

Friday — Day 1
1. Riggin Smith (Winterset, Idaho), Erotic Tango, 85.0 points, $7,000; 2. Sage Newman (Melstone, Mont.), Einstein Quest, 83.5, $3,812.50; 2. Logan Cook (Alto, Texas), Come Along, 83.5, $3,812.50; 2. Layton Green (Millarville, Alta.), Miscrient, 83.5, $3,812.50; 2. Sterling Crawley (Stephenville, Texas), Baby Kibitz, 83.5, $3,812.50; 6. Zeke Thurston (Big Valley, Alta.), Birch Bubbles, 83.0, $1,000; 7. Tanner Butner (Daniel, Wyo.), Double Red, 82.0, $0; 8. Lefty Holman (Visalia, Calif.), Amazon Hills, 81.0, $0; 8. Parker Fleet (Axtell, Texas), Exciting Bubbles, 79.5, $0; 10. Statler Wright (Beaver, Utah), Borderline Untimely, BO, $0.

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Friday — Day 1
1. Dalton Massey (Hermiston, Ore.), 4.7 seconds, $7,000; 2. Scott Guenthner (Provost, Alta.), 4.8, $5,500; 3. Don Payne (Stephenville, Texas), 5.0, $4,500; 4. Justin Shaffer (Hico, Texas), 5.3, $3,250; 5. Tucker Allen (Ventura, Calif.), 7.1, $2,000; 6. Stephen Culling (Fort St. John, B.C.), 7.3, $1,000; 7. Jacob Talley (Keatchie, La.), 9.5, $0; 8. Will Lummus (Byhalia, Miss.), 14.5, $0; 9. Nick Guy (Sparta, Wisc.), 15.5, $0; 10. Walt Arnold (Coleman, Texas), NT, $0.

Friday — Day 1
1. Hayes Weight (Goshen, Utah), Sky Fall, 86.5, $7,200; 2. Wyatt Gleeson (Sundre, Alta.), Down With The Devil, 86.0, $5,700; 3. Mason Moody (Letcher, S.D.), Fallen Angel, 85.0, $4,700; 4. Nick Tetz (Calgary, Alta.), Ramblin Man, 84.0, $3,450; 5. Edgar Durazo (Moctezuma, Mexico), Late Nite Host, 78.5, $2,200; 6. Jacob Gardner (Fort St. John, B.C.), Whistleblower, BO, $0; 7. Tristen Hutchings (Monteview, Idaho), State Law, BO, $0; 8. Ashton Sahli (Red Deer, Alta.), Alameda Slim (re-ride), BO, $0; 9. Maverick Smith (Mountain Grove, Mo.), Skunk Ape, BO, $0; 10. Luke Mast (Hutchinson, Kan.), Devils Advocate, BO, $0.

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