By Kendra Santos
Consistency was king for California cowboys Bart Bonfantini and Rick Fausone, who took the victory lap at the Wrangler BFI #10.5 Reno Invitational presented by YETI today at the Reno Livestock Events Center after roping four steers in 42.60 seconds. Produce shipper Bonfantini and farrier Fausone were 10.38, 10.47, 10.93 and 10.82 seconds on their four steers to seal the $36,000 deal and finish first in the 51-team field. The #10.5 featured an 85-percent payback and a boatload of prizes, including Browning Rifles, Gist Buckles, Bullkelp Bedrolls, Resistol Hats, Best Ever Saddle Pads and YETI cups to the fortunate first-place team.
“I haven’t been here to rope in Reno in about 10 years,” said Bonfantini, who’s 60 and grew up in the original Cowboy Capital of the World in Oakdale, California. “The kids are all gone—they’ve graduated from college, and are off the payroll now—so I can finally afford to come rope again.
“My biggest roping check before today was about $8,000, and that was here in Reno. I’ve placed at some World Series ropings, but nothing like this $18,000 check. This is the biggest win of my life so far, for sure.”
Bonfantini and his wife, Toni, live in Prunedale, California now, which is near Salinas. It’s the perfect location in the area known as “The Salad Bowl of the World” for a produce professional.
“I’m in the produce business, and we receive, cool, store and ship produce all over the world,” said the #4 Plus header, who rode a 10-year-old gray horse he calls Poncho, whom he purchased from California timed-event cowboy Rhett Kennedy as a 6-year-old, then finished himself as a head horse. “With work, I get to rope about three days a week. But Rick and I went to Wickenburg (Arizona) for 10 days this winter, and had a big roping adventure. We have a lot of fun roping together.”
There’s a pretty great story behind the paint mare Fausone pulled pipes on today. Rick bought Susie out of someone’s back yard as a 19-year-old prospect a couple years ago. She’d never been in an arena before.
“She didn’t cost much, so I really didn’t take that big a chance on her,” smiled Fausone, 58, who calls Chowchilla, California home. “Susie’s 21 now, and by golly, she made a heel horse.”
Rick, who’s a #5 Plus heeler, said he felt the heat coming back second high call. But he kept it simple in his mind to minimize the stress.
“I just had to rope two feet, and I knew I could do it,” he said. “This is the most I’ve ever won roping. My biggest check before today was for $7,000 heeling for my uncle Dub Cowden here at the Reno Rodeo in 1991.”
In case you’re curious, yes, National Finals Rodeo team ropers Cody and Liddon Cowden are Fausone’s cousins.
“I don’t exactly know what I’ll do with all this money,” Rick said. “I guess I’ll stick it in the bank and get to go rope more. Bart’s a good partner. We’ve roped a lot together the last couple years, and he catches a lot.”
Their post-roping game plan was to go out and celebrate with a nice dinner and a drink or two.
“But I’ll be in bed by 10,” Bonfantini beamed. “I’m roping in the #8.5 Over 50 roping here tomorrow. They do an amazing job with these ropings. I’m so impressed. We got to watch the BFI (Reno Open) yesterday, and the #12.5 (Desert Showdown) earlier today before we roped. I took a few days off, and we’re making a fun little mini vacation out of it. I love it here in Reno. And it’s impressive what happens here for the roping industry.”
Nora Hunt-Lee and Justin Johnson came from sixth high call back to finish second in the roping with 44.49 seconds on four steers. Their team took home $23,000. Jim Estill and Carl Johnson were 45.05 on four for third, and Erik Phillips and Alan Hall finished fourth in the average in 46.76 seconds. The three-steer consolation average was won by Justin Allen and Rodney Teichert with 29.82 on three.
To see complete results from Wrangler BFI 10.5 Reno Invitational, click here.