For Luke Branquinho, the 2009 season was a rousing success right up until the final steer. During the 10th round of the Wrangler NFR, Branquinho and Lee Graves were in a hotly contested race for the world title. It basically came down to a one-header. Whoever threw their steer fastest in that final round would win the gold buckle.
Graves threw his steer in 3.5. Rising to the challenge, Branquinho threw his nearly as fast, but as the steer fell, he came out of Branquinho’s grasp. Thinking quickly, he reached out and video replay clearly showed he touched the steer as he laid on his side with all four feet out—enough for a flag. But the judge did not think he touched the steer and did not drop the flag. As a result, Branquinho got a no-time and Graves won the world.
Entering 2010, the question was, How would it affect the two-time world champion?
"What happened at the Finals, I let it bother me for a week," he said. "After that, there’s nothing I can do about it other than come out here and try to repeat what I did last year. I had a great year. If it comes down to the 10th round again, I’m going to try to make the same run. I felt like I was aggressive and things like that just don’t happen, but it did. I’m not going to let it bother me, I’m just going to go at them one at a time and hopefully have as good of a year as last year or better."
That "better year" began with a win in San Antonio, but not before Clayton Morrison put the heat on the rest of the bulldoggers in the final round with an arena-record-tying 3.2-second run.
After 4.0-second runs from Shawn Greenfield and Cody Cassidy, Branquinho was forced to throw his steer in 3.9 in order to win the title—even though it would be next to impossible to win the round.
"Since there was a 3.2, I thought I could be fast on that steer, but I missed the barrier way more than I wanted to and he tried to get out behind me," Branquinho said. "I just hustled as much as I could and it worked out. Those other guys weren’t as fast as they could have been on some of those steers.
"When I missed that barrier, it made it to where that steer tried to step at me a little bit and I had to ride around him. Then he tried to get out behind Curtis (Cassidy, his hazer and owner of the horse he rode, Willy) a little bit, so it did make me have to reach for him, but that was my fault for not getting a good start and riding up there like I should. That just proves that Willy is a great horse. He gives you an opportunity to win even when I make a mistake."
The clock did stop in 3.9 seconds, so the second-place short round finish combined with Branquinho’s earnings from the rounds came to $17,122.
"I’ve had a good winter the last five years I’ve been rodeoing," he said. "I’ve had over $30,000 won. I’m getting close to it now, I won a little in Fort Worth and I’m doing good at Angelo, so hopefully that will carry over. I won $17,000 here, that’s a great winter even if all I won was here and never won anything else. If you go in to spring with over $30,000 it sure is a big deal."