By: Justin Felisko August 31, 2014@ 12:00:00 PM
THACKERVILLE, Okla. – On a night of champions colliding under the stars in southern Oklahoma, there just happened to be an Asteroid sighting that clearly did not go unnoticed.
All it took was 3.04 seconds for 2012 World Champion Asteroid to arch his back extra high into the nighttime summer breeze and rear off 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round to remind everyone that this champion bull still wants to keep his nose in the world title race.
“Asteroid was awesome tonight,” two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network color commentator Justin McBride said. “I thought he was great. He is always a bull that when the gate cracks, man, he tries to leave so hard.”
The majority of the talk this season has focused around two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker making one last march to a world title after stock contractor Julio Moreno announced he would be retiring the bull following the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals. Then there has been the next wave of contenders such as Air Time and Mick E Mouse making a potential claim at the title.
But on Saturday night, it was all about Asteroid.
He had one of the rankest bull riders in the BFTS pick him in the championship round and he dispatched Mauney, who came into the final go with two of his best rides since the PBR Passport Invitational in Tacoma, Washington, back in March.
“It is just knowing any day, any week he is still capable of winning,” stock contractor Gene Melton said. “It was kind of freak deal. I think J.B. nodded before the bull thought he was going to and he got in and got out. It caught everybody all surprised at first. The bull has been getting a little harder to get on and he was standing up square and straight. It was just one of them nights where he really bucked.”
The judges agreed and marked Asteroid a season-high 46 points even though he slightly hipped himself leaving the bucking chute. Stormy Wing wound up hitting the challenge button on behalf of Mauney, who had walked off to the locker room grimacing after being stepped on in the lower back. However, the judges felt the slight error by Asteroid wasn’t enough to merit a re-ride.
“It wasn’t one of them where he swung around and just whacked it and knocked the guy loose,” Melton said. “He just come flush with it and shot out of there. They could have gave him a re-ride either way, I don’t know. I don’t think it had anything to do with the buckoff.”
It has been a common struggle for Asteroid over the years; he even was called for a foul leaving the chute in Springfield, Missouri, the last time these two met on the BFTS. It was especially a factor in 2011 when Asteroid hipped himself leaving the chute at the World Finals, costing him a potential World Champion Bull title.
“That has always been kind of the downside to Asteroid, him hipping himself, and he did hip himself tonight,” McBride added. “It wasn’t enough though; they didn’t feel like it changed the momentum enough for a re-ride.”
The World Champion pedigree certainly exists in Asteroid when he is able to clear the chute. This weekend he edged I’m a Gangster Too (45.75 points), Mick E Mouse (45.75), Raven Flyer (44.5), Southpaw (44.5) and All Shook Up (44.5). Air Time saw his streak of two consecutive BFTS events on top come to an end with a 43.25-point bull score.
It is Asteroid’s first Salem National Lease High-Marked Bull title of the season.
Thackerville was Asteroid’s second consecutive BFTS event and only his fifth this year. Melton said the main reason for Asteroid, who began to aggressively spin back and forth in his pen prior to the championship round, competing sparingly in the first half was because with only three bulls – Shepherd Hills Trapper and Jack Daniel’s After Party being the other two – he didn’t want to be traveling from coast to coast. Melton has been focusing on the central states near his home state of Louisiana and will ramp it up in the second half before Finals.
“I have been doing this for 40 years, I am slowing down too,” he said.
The long-time contractor added that he had no worries about the first-half layoff for Asteroid. Melton hasn’t changed any habits for the bull. No special training, no extra feed. He has kept everything the same for Asteroid and, for one night, much did appear the same.
Asteroid has been awarded an average bull score of 45.2 points this year and has bucked off two-time World Champion Silvano Alves twice, as well as Gage Gay, Chase Outlaw and Mauney.
Was Thackerville a sign of things to come by the time October rolls around?
“I never count him out,” Melton concluded. “I know it is tough to beat Bushwacker, but I wouldn’t bet against my bull. Each time I think this might be a chance to do it again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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