Blaine Mathews kicked off his summer at the Jackson Hole Rodeo with back-to-back saddle bronc wins last week, but as he was shedding riding gear Saturday night at the Teton County Fairgrounds, his win wasn’t yet assured.

Victor, Idaho’s Cooper Cooke, who missed in bareback and saddle bronc, was awarded a reride in the latter roughstock event. That time the Junior National Final Rodeo veteran made his ride, but his 82 wasn’t enough to knock off Mathews’ 84 earned atop the bucking horse Triple Aught.

“He’s really good, I’ve been on him several times and he’s always awesome,” Mathews said. “He almost kind of got me behind at the start, but we caught right up. Finished out our run, just in time.”

Mathews watched as bucking horse after bucking horse sent their cowboys to the dirt well shy of eight seconds.

That didn’t seem to faze the 26-year-old Pinedale cowboy.

“These horses are fresh,” he said. “It makes for good watching when the horses are tough to ride.”

Mathews is no stranger to the Jackson Hole Rodeo, considering it’s almost his backyard. But while he aims to wrap up a saddle bronc title come fall, there are rodeos to hit all across the West before the season runs its course.

While he’s at Jackson, though, he has nothing but praise for the stock that’s already given him two first-place checks.

“These guys have some horses that’ll buck,” he said. “There’s a few of ’em that’ll try any guy.”

His two victories netted him a total of $636.15 last week, but when he speaks of goals it’s not so much about saddles and checks. He’s just hoping to stay healthy so he can continue to improve ride after ride.

“I’ve done pretty well the last two years, knock on wood,” he said. “But just to see how far I can go with it every year, just be successful and feel like I’ve put it all out there.”

Elsewhere in the arena, header Kevin Smith came away from Saturday night with the two best performances in team roping. He paired with Jim Stoddard to set the quickest go in 7.71, before closing the roping performance with Boone Snidecor to best that time with a 6.41. For both performances Smith earned $515.20.

Barrel racing opened with a close battle for the top spot. Kodee Williams had the fastest time in the performance at 17.029, but was bested by Trina Wheeldon’s slack run of 16.996 for the $70.98 first-place check.

The rodeo continues this week, with one performance each on Wednesday and Saturday night.

Contact Chance Q. Cook at 732-7065, sports@jhnewsandguide.com.

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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