When the chips were on the table and the breakaway roping world championship was on the line, Martha Angelone reminded everybody why she earned the nickname “Gunslinger” at the 2020 National Finals Breakaway Roping.
A hunger for gold awakened inside Angelone in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, that year.
“I even told Jackie [Crawford] today that, ever since I won (the reserve world championship) to her in 2020, I’ve come back and wanted this every year,” Angelone said. “Last year, I didn’t have the Finals I wanted. This year, I had enough of a lead that I could go at them every go round and, if I missed, I missed, and I could try to win the rounds.”
Round 6: Where’s Martha?
Angelone entered the NFBR with a substantial lead—$37,009— over No. 2 athlete Erin Johnson, but Johnson and 2021 reserve world champion breakaway roper, Shelby Boisjoli, were doing their best to close the gap on Angelone and snag the gold buckle for themselves.
When Round 6 kicked off Day 2 of the NFBR, the crowd seemed to hush when Angelone failed to connect to her calf—she was well out of the aggregate conversation, and there was a chance that the circling sharks could bite. Nobody knew if Angelone would rally back, but longtime fans of the Virginia native had watched her make it out of choppier waters in the past.
Round 7: The Turnaround
The switch flipped for Angelone in Round 7.
She cracked out a 2.2-second run to finish in the No. 2 position behind Joey Williams’ 1.9-second run, and a grin cracked out across her face as she rode out of the pen—an exciting sight for fans in the stands, and a look meant trouble for the other 14 ropers.
Rounds 8 and 9: Gunslingin’
With her signature, snappy loop back on target, Angelone let her hair down and set to pocketing as much money as she could en route to picking up her gold buckle.
Samantha Fulton was on top of Round 8 with a dirty fast 1.9-second run, but Martha backed in the corner and blitzed a 1.8-second trip to take the win and clock the fastest time of the NFBR.
In Round 9, she held that momentum and matched Taylor Hanchey’s 2.1-second time to add another win to the pile.
Watch Angelone’s 1.8-second run from Round 8 below.
Round 10: Big Finish
“From day one, I wasn’t coming in here for the average win,” Angelone said. “I was coming in here to see how much money I could make.”
Rather than backing off in Round 10, Angelone went at a hard-running calf and was 2.4 seconds to bring her total earnings for the day to $16,378.87 and her total NFBR earnings to $19,707.20. The earnings also secured her world championship win with $130,303.91 for the year.
Jesse James: The Outlaw
“This is probably the biggest stage Jesse has been on, besides the Women’s Rodeo World Championship,” Angelone noted of her mount for the event.
Registered Gunna Shock Ya, 7-year-old Jesse James must have a thing for bright lights. On that other big stage, he earned $70,900 for Angelone inside of Cowtown Coliseum at the WRWC.
When it came time to shine at the South Point Arena, the red gelding exceeded Angelone’s expectations.
“He’s one that’s known to get a little tight,” Angelone said. “So for him to work as good as he did over 10 rounds—he never took a shot away from me, never cost me one time during this whole NFBR. I mean, he might ride around like a donkey some days; I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Angelone isn’t the only gold buckle holder in her family—her sister Sarah is fresh off a WPRA All-Around world championship win and was behind the scenes encouraging Martha in a way that only a sister can.
“The first day I was in the stands, and I think I pulled my hair out every round,” Sarah said. “It’s just a good thing (Martha) answered her phone when I called her between every round. I had some things to say. Today, I said, ‘I can’t do that again,’ so I came down here with her.”
The scariest part: Martha is only 27 years old. She grew up in Virginia, where 1.0-second runs were rarities—not what was expected at every jackpot. She moved to Stephenville, Texas, just a few year ago without a dollar to her name, a good horse or a standout reputation. Martha hustled her way into the winner’s circle in an uphill battle and has since grown as a competitor at a terrifying pace.
Now, Martha’s got one gold buckle in her collection, and all eyes are turning to 2023 to see what the gunslinger will bring to the world of ProRodeo and to the sport of breakaway roping.