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Branquinho Stays Hot at Champions Challenge

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Steer wrestler Luke Branquinho made it 2-for-2 this month at the Wrangler Champions Challenge, presented by Justin Boots, when he won the Scottsdale event Feb. 26. Branquinho, of Team Coors, also won the Feb. 4 Rapid City (S.D.) Champions Challenge.

It made him the first competitor to have four wins in the Wrangler Champions Challenge series.

“It’s the best of the best, and I get excited for that,” he said. “They have really good stock at these rodeos, and I drew a good steer at both of them.”

The other common factor was that Branquinho rode Dakota Eldridge’s horse, Rusty, at both WCC events.

“I ride Rusty whenever I can,” Branquinho said.

He also rode Rusty at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last December, when he won the average title and earned his fifth career gold buckle.

“Rusty is so honest,” Branquinho said. “He runs hard, he scores well, and he gives you a chance every time.”

Branquinho won the steer wrestling in Scottsdale with a time of 4.0 seconds and doubled his official season earnings with the $5,440 check he earned. He’s also won checks at two Texas rodeos that end this weekend, including $1,711 in San Antonio and $3,713 in San Angelo – where he also leads the average and could earn a good deal more.

“Winning in Scottsdale, especially if I win the average in San Angelo, would make for a pretty good winter,” Branquinho said. “It’s too early to worry about the (world) standings, but it’s good to win some money early.”

The 34-year-old from Los Alamos, Calif., won his third gold buckle in the last four years – his world titles came in 2004, 2008, 2011-12 and 2014 – despite missing more than two months at the end of last season with an injury. He’s healthy now, and is chasing ProRodeo Hall of Famer Homer Pettigrew’s record of six world championships.

“I knew (Pettigrew’s) name before I started rodeoing,” Branquinho said. “That stuff about records doesn’t really matter; I just want to do my job and make a living. I’m not really chasing Homer, but to win six, seven or eight would be great. That would mean I have had a very successful career and did my job well.”

Other winners at the $123,600 rodeo were all-around cowboy Trevor Brazile ($6,240 in team roping and tie-down roping), bareback riders David Peebles (84 points on Rocky Mountain Rodeo’s Lightning) and Tim O’Connell (84 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Show Boat), team ropers Erich Rogers and Cory Petska (4.6 seconds), saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright (88 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Craig At Midnight), tie-down roper Hunter Herrin (8.1 seconds), barrel racer Lisa Lockhart, (17.84 seconds) and bull rider Cody Teel (87 points on Salt River Rodeo’s Big Hoss).

Wright’s score in the saddle bronc riding equaled the Wrangler Champions Challenge event record set by his older brother, Cody Wright, last year in Rapid City, S.D., and then equaled by Taos Muncy a few months later in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Thanks to Lockhart’s win and two checks from Trevor Brazile, B&W Trailer Hitches was the team champion in Scottsdale with total earnings of $20,960. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was a close second with $18,880 and Coors was third with $16,104.

Courtesy of PRCA