Bareback rider Caleb Bennett dominates Super Series IV at RodeoHouston

Caleb Bennett reacts after his ride in the bareback riding event during the championship round of the Super Series IV at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at NRG Stadium, Saturday, March 12, 2016.

 Photo: Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle

By Jason McDaniel Houston Chronicle

 

Caleb Bennett reacts after his ride in the bareback riding event during the championship round of the Super Series IV at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at NRG Stadium, Saturday, March 12, 2016.

Bareback rider Caleb Bennett isn't out to win a championship in his eighth-consecutive appearance at RodeoHouston.

He's in pursuit of personal perfection.

The 27-year-old's preoccupation with precision technique and body control powered him to three round wins and the series victory with $8,000 Saturday in Super Series IV at NRG Stadium.

"My goal's to win first, but to do it in a way where I'm focused on my performance," Bennett said.

"I'm focusing more on me, worrying about me and riding to the height of my ability. If it wins me first in the arena, then awesome. If it doesn't, and I still feel like I rode my best, I'm still winning first.

"So I'm just here to win first."

The Utah native is a proven winner.

He made the 10-man final in Houston and finished in the top 15 in the world for the fourth straight year last season.

But he's never made the $50,000 Shootout, which takes the top four from the finals.

He's hoping he finally gets there by controlling what he can control, which starts with his upper body.

"There are a lot of basics in bareback riding, and one of them is keeping your core engaged and your upper body locked down a little bit, and sometimes mine gets a little wild, or has in the past," Bennett said.

"So that's been one of my biggest focuses this year."

Tie-down roper Marcos Costa, 25, is focused on living his dream in the United States.

Costa, the first Brazilian to make the National Finals Rodeo last year, moved to Texas three years ago with his mentor, 2010 Houston champ Stran Smith, who let him stay in his guest house in Childress.

"There's some rodeo there, but it's not like here, (with) more jackpots," Costa said. "I came here after Stran went to Brazil to put on a roping school, and we met there, and he wanted me to go live with him."

Costa is heading back to the semis in his second trip here.

He won the first go-round and placed second in the series, $250 behind 2012 champ Adam Gray ($5,000).

Smith didn't survive the series, but he had some parting advice for his protégé.

"He told me just to rope and have fun," Costa said.

Trey Benton ($5,000), from Rock Island, Texas, was 85 or better in all three rounds of bull riding, lifting him to the series win.

He scored 87 points to win Round 2 on Ben Johnson.

Three-time reigning barrel racing champ Nancy Hunter is out to four-peat. She won two rounds and the series with $6,000.

She was the only rider under 14 seconds in the series, and she did it twice.

Coburn Bradshaw ($7,000) was the high earner in saddle bronc, Stockton Graves ($3,750, a 2011 Houston winner, won the steer wrestling series, and Shane and John Phillip ($12,000) were the top team ropers.

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer.