Clay Tryan and Jake Long and Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves all needed the pick-me-up that came with their 3.7-second, Round 7 split Wednesday night, worth $24,166.64 each.
Tryan and Long had won $53,978.94 a man going into Round 7, but it had been four straight NFRs since Tryan last won a go-round, then with Jade Corkill. Long had last won a go-round in 2018 with Luke Brown.
“It’s been minute,” said Long, 37, of Coffeyville, Kansas, laughing. “I was starting to wonder if there was even a media room back here.”
“When you’re old and slow you don’t win nothing, so I’ve been trying to be old and fast on the last few and it’s worked out pretty good,” added Tryan, 42, of Lipan, Texas. “That’s probably the best I’ve ever done, honestly, in my life. But I tried to do it. It almost feels easier. Maybe I should start doing that. I was trying to turn him at the barrier like Egusquiza. I was trying to head the steer when the neck rope popped off, which, weirdly, almost feels easier.”
Tryan and Long now have $78,145.58 each won on the week, and $172,385.91 and $173,371.43 won on the year, respectively. They’re fourth and third in the world and ninth in the average with a time of 23.80 seconds on five head.
Tryan started the week on an 11-year-old bay mare he calls JLo, registered as BulletsOvrNiteSuxess, but he swapped to his trusty 16-year-old sorrel, Cee How Nifty, who he calls Johnson, to turn things around.
Long rode CJ, registered as The Star Pepto, an 8-year-old gelding he bought a few years ago from Trevor Kirchenschlager.
Egusquiza and Graves, for their part, had far from the week they’d hoped in Las Vegas up to this point. They entered the Finals first and second in the world, respectively, but they’d failed to get in a groove and were just 28.0 on four head.
“It’s been on me in my opinion,” said Egusquiza, 26, of Marianna, Florida. “I missed the first two steers at the NFR. You can’t do that. It’s not what you want to do. After that, I’ve hooked it on a couple pretty good, but my horse wasn’t moving them pretty good. I got back on my brother’s horse tonight, and that horse pulls really good. I feel like if I do that three more times, Travis will heel all three of them.”
Egusquiza made multiple horse changes throughout the week, bouncing between the sorrel gelding he rode at the Finals last year and the 14-year-old gelding, PB Itchy, owned by his older brother, BFI champ Manny Egusquiza. It was aboard Itchy that the younger Egusquiza split the go-round win in Round 7.
“They both felt really good coming into this,” Egusquiza said. “I started on my horse just because it’s my horse and I wanted to ride him because of the comfort level. But then I missed two. I just wanted to change ropes, change horses, whatever it takes. I rode my brother’s horse and we split second, but it didn’t feel like we finished very good. But then, I got back on my horse and it didn’t feel like he pulled very good.”
Egusquiza settled in on brother Manny’s “Itchy” again for Round 7, a horse trained by Clay Logan.
“It felt easy tonight, it really did,” said Graves, 37, of Millsap, Texas. “He had it on him really fast. It was amazing how fast he had it on him. So I could just take a breath and heel the steer.”
Graves rode Dual Chip, his 12-year-old gelding that came from Joseph Harrison and one he’s counted on to be clutch throughout the last three years.
Egusquiza is first in the world with $200,406.13 won, while Graves is second with $179,759.47 in year-end earnings. They’re 12th in the average, though, so they’ll be going at them in the rounds the rest of the week to give themselves a chance.
“This guy is amazing at what he can do,” Graves said. “I know he’s going to spin the next three for first, and I think I can heel them.”
“It’s going to be a cool comeback story,” Egusquiza posited.
The seventh round saw standings leaders and average contenders Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira get a front leg on a great steer, taking their first no-time of the week. Meanwhile, dark horse teams of Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins and Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler stayed tough and won go-round money in Round 7. Ward and Hawkins now lead the average with a time of 38.4 seconds on seven head and have won $46,576.54 each this week. Richard and Buhler are second in the average with a time of 47.90 seconds on seven head, having earned an event-best $97,087.01 each. Ward and Hawkins are 11th in the world standings with $115,418.23 won per man, while Richard and Buhler are fifth with $168,631.77 and $167,598.69. TRJ
780: Erich Rogers and Paden Bray 4.4
756: Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira NT
785: Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves 3.7
795: Quinn Kesler and Joseph Harrison 7.6 + 5
768 Coy Rahlmann and Douglas Rich 4.7 + 5
797 Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins 4.8
789 Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin NT (illegal head catch)
796 Derrick Begay and Brady Minor NT
787 Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler 4.2
779 Clint Summers and Ross Ashford 4.6 + 5
784 Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan 4.0 + 5
798 Tyler Wade and Trey Yates 4.4
792 Clay Tryan and Jake Long 3.7
773 Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp 9.1
791 Clay Smith and Jade Corkill 4.6 + 5