Chad Masters and Wesley Thorp got their first go-round win of the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Round 9, splitting it with Colby Lovell and Wesley Thorp—who got their second in a row—with a 3.8 second run worth 23,480.77 PRCA world standings points each.
Both teams are perennial gold buckle contenders and didn't plan to be winning go-rounds at this point of the game. But after a crossfire call and illegal head catch took the wind out of Lovell and Eaves' sails (and about $20,230 out of each man's pockets), they've still won 96,096.16 and, now, won back-to-back go-round buckles. Masters and Thorp remain fifth in the average after a first-round no-time, and have won 63,519.23.
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"When it's going bad, it always helps to go a little bit good at the end," said Masters, who also set the world record in Round 9 of the 2009 NFR.
When Masters and Thorp went at fifth out, a 4.6 was winning the round. But they knew they'd drawn a good steer and planned to make the best of it.
"I don't remember anything," Masters, 39, of Cedar Hill, Tennessee, said. "I knew how good the steer was, and I knew if I could stay behind the barrier on him, I knew he would be good. I'm pretty sure after I nodded I blanked out a little bit. And I didn't even know if I was out. I just knew that I'd caught up pretty fast, and I just tried not to miss from then on."
"That steer was awesome," said Thorp, who'd remembered a bit more from the run. "We knew that coming in. The last two steers went left pretty hard and tried, and they're pretty hard to get around when they went left. I just wanted to take advantage of one going straight, and Chad did an awesome job of setting them up for me."
Masters rode Jimmy, the yellow horse aboard whom he won the NFR average in 2017. He started the week on an 8-year-old gelding he calls Frosty.
Are you tired of reading? Listen to Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves and Chad Masters and Wesley Thorp on "The Score" HERE.
"With us not knowing the situation, with the barrier and the arena, I thought my sorrel would be a better bet for me to go catch all my steers, except I missed the first one," Masters said. "If I was going to swap I should have swapped in the second round, but we still didn't know how it was. But it's worked out good. I don't think my sorrel has faced as great as he needed to. I'm not going to say he's green, but he's a little bit inconsistent in certain areas. In the sixth round, I had a pretty good steer, so I knew it was time to try Jimmy and see what he'd be like."
Thorp won the world in 2019 on his brown gelding he calls Lexus, but he made a horse change in 2020.
"Ray J's given me a good throw," Thorp, 25, of Throckmorton, Texas, said. "I actually had Lexus ready for this a couple months ago, but the more I knew about the setup and how much room we had, it just seemed like, behind Chad's sorrel he was going to ride, the run felt better with the black. He's a little bit faster and, angles-wise, it worked a little better. I kind of quit riding Lex just because I was afraid I was going to want to get on him, so I turned him back out."
Lovell and Eaves went 11th in the round, and they too knew they'd drawn the good one.
"Snow and Junior won the round on him," said Lovell, 33, of Madisonville, Texas. "I text Paul this morning and told him we're going to draw that steer, and we did."
Lovell again rode his grade, roan gelding, Bartender, and Eaves stayed on his bay mare, Jade.
"It was probably the easiest run we've made, because the steer was so much better," Eaves said. "Left-leaded, slow and good. It just felt like an everyday run."
When the round ended, Lovell and Eaves jumped to first in the world standings with 161,604.80 points and 152,255.20 points. But they won't be able to get any average money, so their chances at holding that lead are slim.
If the rodeo ended tonight and average money were calculated in as it stands, the world title would be split between Luke Brown and Paden Bray. Brown would have $187,382 to Erich Rogers' $168,733, while Bray would have $168,733 to Joseph Harrison's $168,016. That's a difference of $717 between Bray and Harrison. TRJ
Kolton Schmidt and Hunter Koch: 4.0 + 10
Nelson Wyatt and Levi Lord: 9.6 (clean)
Erich Rogers and Paden Bray: 4.6
Chad Masters and Wesley Thorp: 3.8
Charly Crawford and Logan Medlin: 4.5 + 5
Levi Simpson and Shay Carroll: NT
Clay Tryan and Jake Long: 4.1
Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins: NT
Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves: NT
Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves: 3.8
Cody Snow and Junior Nogueira: 4.5 + 5
Clay Smith and Jade Corkill: 4.4
Luke Brown and Joseph Harrison: 6.9
Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan: NT