Justin Smith gets much-needed win with San Angelo Rodeo title

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Justin Smith didn’t have the season he wanted a year ago, but in rodeo, cowboys must look out the windshield instead of the rear-view mirror.

Smith qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2021, but then adversity struck. His good horse Doc went down with an injury, which forced the Leesville, La., tie-down roper to find a new mount.

The rest of the season didn’t go as planned. He finished outside of the top 50 of the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $17,545, which kept him out of qualifying for a majority of the big winter rodeos, except for one. That was the San Angelo (Texas) Rodeo.

He made the most of his opportunity at the PRCA Playoff Series rodeo on Friday night. After laying down a 6.9-second run in Round 2, he came into the finals with the lead on two head. He took care of the rest with an 8.4-second run in front of a sold-out crowd at the Foster Communications Coliseum to secure the average title with 23.7 seconds on three head.

“I didn’t get into any of the other big rodeos this year,” said Smith, 25. “I just kind of took some time off and seasoned a horse last year after mine went down. That made it to where this was about the only one that I got into. So, to capitalize like this in San Angelo it means everything.”

He said having Doc back underneath him is a feeling unlike any other and the crowd got to experience their chemistry firsthand the past two weeks in the heart of Texas.

“I’ve rode that horse since I was in junior high,” he said. “We bought him as a two-year-old and broke and trained him. I’ve rode him my entire life, he’s pretty much the only horse I’ve really ever had. So, to have him back really makes a difference and I couldn’t be more comfortable on him.”

Smith pocketed more than $18,000 for his three runs in San Angelo, which will likely move him into the top 30 in the world standings. He said even with the slow start to the year, he still has his eyes set on Las Vegas come December.

“It’s absolutely still my goal to be in Las Vegas this year. My horse is getting a little age on him now being 19, but he’s as sound as ever,” Smith said. “I’m going to ride him at the big ones this year and try to capitalize when I’m on him. I think that’ll be key to me having success.”

Other winners at the $699,710 rodeo were bareback rider Leighton Berry (175.5 points on two head); steer wrestler Jay Williamson (12.1 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Dawson Hay (178.5 points on two head); team ropers J.C. Yeahquo/L.J. Yeahquo (12.3 seconds on three head); barrel racer Kassie Mowry (43.86 seconds on three runs); and bull rider Deklan Garland (174.5 points on two head).

Courtesy of the PRCA