Jake Pratt at Saturday NFR

Jake Pratt competes in the final round on the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Not a bad way to end the last go-round of the year: money in your pocket.

Ellensburg’s trio of ropers, tie-down roper Jake Pratt, and team roping brothers Riley and Brady Minor, all picked up go-round paychecks in the 10th and final round of the National Finals Rodeo Saturday in Las Vegas.

Pratt’s 7.4-second calf split second with Cooper Martin for $18,192 to cap off an NFR where Pratt earned $84,814 in his first year competing in Las Vegas.

“I drew a good calf,” Pratt said by phone while driving back home Sunday afternoon. “If I took care of business, I figured I’d be mid-7’s on that calf. But it was a phenomenal calf. That round was exciting. I just tried to do my job and be confident.”

It was a mantra that Pratt would repeat throughout his stay in Vegas.

For the Minors, their 5-second steer netted the duo $4,231 to put a successful end on a roller coaster week at the NFR. They earned $60,239 for their time in Las Vegas.

“Man, that last steer, he wasn’t the best steer to draw, but I had struggled the three nights before, so I just wanted to make a good run and finish on a good note,” Riley Minor said on Sunday. “Round 10 can be pretty crazy and usually a good clean run wins good money. This year it was a little tougher. I mean two-tenths quicker and I win 11-grand instead of 42-hundred.”

PRATT’S ROOKIE NFR

Based solely on performance, Pratt didn’t look the part of rookie NFR competitor. The 31-year old picked up fifth-place money in the first round for $6,769 and placed in seven go-rounds overall, which was the most round checks any roper earned this year. The successful run helped Pratt end his season ninth in the world standings with $179,108. Prior to this year, his best years on the PRCA circuit was 2014 with $57,000 and last year’s $54,000.

Despite the numerous checks, Pratt fell early in the average when his 7.9-second run in the second round was voided due to the jerk down rule which is in place to protect a calf. Pratt was diplomatic about it and went about his business, splitting second three ways the very next round. But the damage had been done to his average aspirations and were further hurt when he roped his fifth-round calf in 19.4 seconds. But like clockwork, Pratt would bounce back and place fourth in the next round to get back on track.

Pratt’s 82.3-second aggregate on nine runs was ninth place in an average that paid eight deep.

Even on the road back home, less than 24 hours after the end of the 2018 season, Pratt was focused on a repeat visit to the Thomas & Mack Center for 2019.

“We’re ready to gear back up and go,” he said without hesitation. “It starts in a few days, the Denver qualifier is on Wednesday. I’m already in the rodeo, but it starts so quick.”

Despite his success of finally getting over the hump and making the NFR this year, Pratt won’t change much going into 2019.

“The last three or four years, I’ve entered the same way, the same rodeos,” he said, adding the work outside the arena is the same as well. “Putting in the work in getting healthy, getting the horses ready and healthy.”

Pratt dealt with a hip-flexor injury this summer and through stretching and being aware of his body, it seems to be under control.

“I’ve just got to manage it,” he said. “Everybody has bumps and bruises. You’ve just go to roll with them.”

And he’s not going to let that get in the way of making the NFR in 2019.

“It’s a cool deal. Nothing like it in the world.

GOOD MONEY, BUT A ROLLER COASTER

Despite Brady Minor having 10 trips to Las Vegas and Riley Minor with nine, roping in Vegas is still a cool deal and never gets old for them either.

But they’ve certainly had their fair share of good and bad visits. The past two years saw the brothers earn roughly a combined $261,788 in Las Vegas, an incredible haul. This year’s $60,239 will go far for the brothers, but when there is a $26,231 check for a nightly go-round win and $67,269 for an average win, $60,239 can be relatively disappointing if you let it be.

“You know, some people say, ‘Sorry you had a bad Finals,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Well, it can always be worse,’” Riley said. “I have been there two different times and got one check out of 10 days, $6,000 one year and $11,000 I believe another year.”

He put the past few years in perspective.

“Obviously we have had two great finals leading up to this so you’re pretty confident and plan to win a lot and to fail isn’t fun, but it will make me stronger.”

After the no-time and a leg penalty in the second round, the brothers caught fire, earning three straight checks in rounds 3 (4.1 seconds, split second, $18,192), 4 (4.3, split fourth, $8,885) and 5 (3.9, second, $20,731).

It’s difficult to catch all 10 steers at the NFR, just one team — Trey Yates and Aaron Tsinigine — did that this year. Thus, when the brothers missed their first-round steer, they were disappointed, but not out of the average by any stretch of the imagination.

“Well, missing the first steer kind of makes you not think average as much,” Riley said, “but after Brady missed round six we were pretty much thinking, ’Try and win round money.’

“When there is 26,000 on the line you have to rope aggressive.”

Looking back at the rounds, Riley wishes he had one back.

“Missing that seventh steer was a bad one to miss because it took us completely out of the average and it broke the momentum we had going,” he said, referencing the three straight paychecks. “That was probably the most frustrating steer I missed all week.”

Riley finished with $143,592 for the season, putting him ninth among headers. Brady pocketed $142,400, 10th among heelers.

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