OGDEN -- Caleb Bennett has some catching up to do if he wants to return to Las Vegas in December.
Trouble is, Bennett, of Morgan, won't bank a check from Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo to help him secure his second Wrangler National Finals Rodeo appearance Dec. 5-14 in the Thomas & Mack Center.
The 24-year-old Bennett, who graduated from Bear River High School, didn't have a good draw in bareback riding for Friday's first performance of the 80th annual Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo.
Bennett was only 74 points on Korkow Rodeos' First Date.
"I've never been on him," he said. "Casey Colletti (of Pueblo, Colo.) had him at Garden City, Kan., and said he was pretty good with him, 82 or 83 points. The stock contractor said he can be good or bad. Today wasn't one of his better trips."
Korkow's First Date is a 7-year-old gelding.
"He's young and it was hot today. He got here early," said T.J. Korkow, of Pierre, S.D. "You have to get on because you'll never know what he'll do."
Ryan Gray, of Cheney, Wash., and Matthew Smith, of Leesville, La., share the early bareback riding lead with 82 points.
"I felt like I did the best I could with what I had," Bennett said. "It takes two to tango. You can't win them all, even though you would like to.
"I was hoping for him to have a good day and I was coming here no matter what," he said. "They always have good horses here and this is more of a hometown crowd. I know people here and it's a fun atmosphere."
Bennett is ranked No. 19 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings with $25,982. The top 15 bareback riders as of Sept. 30 qualify for the 55th annual WNFR.
"Ryan Gray's horse, Peaches & Cream (a 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo horse), is the one I would have drawn today," Bennett said. "I've always wanted to get on him."
Bennett was a $100,000 winner July 14 at the 101st Calgary Stampede's "Showdown Sunday" with a career-high 92 points aboard Stampede Warrior -- a 2012 WNFR horse -- of the Calgary Stampede string.
Money won at the Calgary Stampede doesn't count toward Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification.
"Calgary has kind of sunk in and then it hasn't. I'm still kind of awe-struck by the whole deal," Bennett said. "The money hasn't shown up in my bank account yet, but I'm not worried. A guy draws the right horses at the right time and capitalizes on the opportunity and anything can happen.
"I drew six good horses at Calgary," he said. "They were the best horses I've been on all year.
"Going to the finals and winning Calgary have been a dream and goals of mine. I can't put one ahead of the other, they're sixes."
Bennett is now back in Morgan after living in Springville last year.
"I'm looking after my grandmother's house while she serves an LDS mission in Hawaii," he said. "I'm thinking about buying a house in the Tremonton area, which is where I grew up. I also have an investor working on some other stuff for retirement."
Bennett says $55,000 to $60,000 should propel him back to the WNFR.
"I'm right on the bubble and need to kick it into high gear," he said. "My goals are a little higher. I have a goal of being in the top three going into the finals. There are so many good, big rodeos left. It's anybody's game."
Bennett was seventh ($127,989) in the 2012 world standings with $54,772 in Wrangler National Finals Rodeo earnings despite a sore right (riding) elbow.
"I had elbow surgery in January after the finals," he said.
"I had some bone chips and cartilage floating around in there. They took it out and I have a whole new elbow. I can tell the difference. It was causing me so much pain at the finals."
Bennett didn't start going hard until the California rodeos in April. He missed a lot of the big indoor winter rodeos.
Bennett is up today at California Rodeo Salinas, a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Gold Rodeo. Hopefully, he'll make it back for Sunday's short round.
Bennett is up Monday and Tuesday at Cheyenne Frontier Days, which is also a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Gold Rodeo.
On Wednesday, he is at Days of '47 Rodeo at EnergySolutions Arena.
Bennett didn't get in Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo, a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Silver Rodeo.