By: Justin Felisko
April 16, 2016
BILLINGS, Mont. – Time isn’t necessarily running out, but the clock is running for 2012 World Champion Bull Asteroid.
Chad Berger’s bovine athlete has only bucked three times for an average bull score of 43 points since coming out of retirement in February, and Asteroid’s past two outs have left more questions about whether or not he can still be a World Champion contender compared to a front runner.
Berger’s decision to switch Asteroid’s delivery in Phoenix last month from the left side to the right didn’t pan out as expected and Asteroid was marked only 43 points for a 7.25-second buckoff of Robson Palermo. Asteroid didn’t appear comfortable inside the right chute and appeared to prefer to be on the opposite side.
Then you combine that out with Asteroid’s 40.25-point bull score at Iron Cowboy for dumping Shane Proctor in 3.68 seconds and talk of a second World Championship for Asteroid has begun to go silent.
“I think he will either show us he is a contender or it could be his last weekend,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said during this week’s CBS Sports television production meeting. “I don’t expect to be bringing him to events if he is not as good as he used to be.
“If Asteroid doesn’t have it, we won’t see him anymore, but I expect him to have it. I still think he is going to be right there at the end of this year. I expect him to be really good.”
Asteroid (52-4, BFTS) will face off against Lachlan Richardson during Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle at Rimrock Auto Arena. The matchup can be seen on CBS national television Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Berger decided to rest Asteroid for the past month after noticing “minor swelling” on the bovine’s back. The reigning Stock Contractor of the Year believes Asteroid will bounce back this weekend despite the back-to-back subpar performances.
“He looks good. He really does,” Berger said. “I think he is in better shape than we saw him before. I am pretty confident he will (bounce back). Part of it was my fault rushing him in there like that. I think he is ready and he is feeling good and moving good. I guess there will be no excuses tomorrow.”
Berger added that the Asteroid experiment of switching deliveries will be put to the back burner for now.
“I don’t think he did terrible bad, but it was hard,” he admitted. “He didn’t want to go out that way. I think we will get him over on the other side where he belongs.”
Asteroid previously bucked off Richardson in 1.47 seconds at the 2014 Nashville event for a 45.5-point bull score.
“Oh, I just got raised up,” Richardson recalled. “It was something I shouldn’t have done on him. He is rank and it is going to take a bit, but I will get it done.”
Richardson doesn’t expect it to be a walk in the park. The No. 16 rider in the world standings believes Asteroid will revert back to his previous form soon enough.
“He is just so rank,” Richardson said. “He is just real athletic and quick. He kicks and he has everything you want in a bull. He has had a few bad trips lately, but I am sure he will be good. You can’t expect a bull that good to not be decent.”
Berger thinks Asteroid has drawn well for his first event back since the mini-break.
“Lachlan rides good, but he is also easy on a bull in the chutes,” Berger said. “He doesn’t put a lot of pressure on them. I am very happy with the matchup.”
However, Berger did then joke that he won’t take the fall for Asteroid if the bull doesn’t bring it. It is time for Asteroid to show his A game.
“I want to see a 45-plus bull score,” Berger said. “Anything less and I would be a little bit disappointed. It’s on me now, but if he doesn’t buck tomorrow it is on him. I will take the fall for now.”
GAY READY FOR LONG JOHN IF NEEDED
Robson Palermo is doubtful for competition on Saturday night after sustaining a concussion in Round 1. If Palermo is unable to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, he would be replaced by Gage Gay.
Gay said he will be ready for 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John (26-7, BFTS) if Palermo is unable to go.
The two met in Anaheim, California, with Long John bucking Gay off in 5.18 seconds for a 44.75-point bull score.
“I am ready for him,” Gay said. “I’ll take him. Yeah I got on him in Anaheim and hell it really blows my mind how he bucks everyone off as good as he feels. If I got him, I will be looking forward to it.”
Dillon Page said it doesn’t matter which rider gets on Long John this weekend. Long John is bucking for the first time since being marked 46.75-points for a 7.56-second buckoff of J.B. Mauney at the Ty Murray Invitational.
“I don’t think he will ride him, but he has his best opportunity,” said Page. We just jerked him off the cows before we came here. Really, I don’t care who gets on him. I have a great bull and the riders just have to do their job. They can. He is rideable.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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