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Behind the Chutes: Anaheim, Round 1

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from the first round of the Anaheim Invitational on Friday night at the Honda Center.

Gay and Eguchi go slump busting

Gage Gay didn’t even have to say the word “relieved” for anyone in attendance to see the look of relief radiate off his face when he looked up at the scoreboard to see the replay of his 8-second qualified ride.

Gay’s 86-point effort on Wilbur ended the second-year BFTS rider’s career-high buckoff streak of 16 in a row dating back to the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“It is a big relief,” Gay said. “I have never been on a buckoff streak like that, so I have never felt like the way I do now after falling off however many. It felt like it had been forever. I forgot what it did feel like (to ride).”

The 20-year-old had expected Wilbur to go left and was surprised when he went right and back into his hand.

Gay finished the round tied for fifth-place with Chase Outlaw (86 points on Muddy Smile) and Sean Willingham (86 points on Savage Moves) to earn 10 event points, which carry over toward the world standings.

“I was looking at the points last week or the week before and one or two round wins will put me up there in the Top 25 in the world anyways,” Gay said. “I don’t know. I am just going to keep doing what I know how to do and hopefully it will all work out.

While Gay’s struggles have been the most documented and talked about in the first month of the season, Marco Eguchi has also been struggling with the worst start of his BFTS career.

Eguchi notched his second ride of the season and ended a streak of nine consecutive buckoffs with an 86.5-point ride on Ground Control.

He too had yet to earn any points in the world standings until Friday night. Eguchi finished fourth in the round to earn 40 event points.

“I need a lot of rides now,” said Eguchi, who is 2-for-13 this season. “I just have to be ready for these events.”

It wasn’t all smiles for the 25-year-old. Eguchi spent the majority of the night after his ride icing his right thigh which he hurt last week in Sacramento when Super Kool Kat hooked him.

Eguchi said a large portion of his leg is black and blue, but he was able to put weight on his right leg after the event and called it is the latest injury for him this year. He has also been contending with an elbow injury on his riding arm from 2014 that has flared up on him at times this season.

“I need to fight to (stay) on the top (tour),” Eguchi said.

J.W. Harris notches first round win of 2015

Round 1 winner J.W. Harris, who also began the weekend with a significant buckoff streak (seven), had gotten into a habit of watching videos of his buckoffs this season and finally decided to shed that practice this week after his 0-for-2 showing at the Sacramento Invitational.

Harris believes that during the past few weeks he was thinking too much between his own ears and had become his own worst enemy during his 4-for-15 start to 2015 prior to Round 1.

The four-time PRCA champion was able to break through on Friday night by riding Grandpa Joe for 87.5 points to win Round 1 and earn 100 points toward the world standings.

“The bull felt really good,” he said. “I wish he would have turned back right there and then he would have felt really good. He kind of stumbled and just got long on me, which is a little harder to track, but it worked.”

Shane Proctor rode Redbone for 87 points to finish second in the round and earn 60 event points.

Ryan Dirteater was the first of the 20 qualified rides when he covered Wiley for 86.75 points, which placed him third in the round and gave him 50 event points.

Harris spent this week relaxing at home in Texas and just cleared his mind of all the doubts that were creeping into his head.

“Shoot, you start falling off of them and you are just like, ‘Man here we go again, I have to go to another one,’” Harris said. “I just went home and stepped away from it. I didn’t even think about what was going on.”

Harris originally was awarded a re-ride on Grandpa Joe after Big Sky fell over.

It is his first round win of the season and the win pushes him to 17th in the world standings.

“Finally, hell I was just glad to ride one,” Harris said. “I hadn’t rode one in a couple of weeks. Bull riding is mental and I think that is what it was – between my ears. My body feels good and I can’t use that as an excuse. I got on two bulls that weren’t the greatest in the world last week, but you still have to ride those bulls.

“I think we are good to go now.”

Triplett and Mauney continue streaks

World leader Matt Triplett and 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney extended their unique streaks in Round 1.

Triplett rode Hawaiian Hurricane for 85.5 points, which was good enough for eighth in the round, and he has now ridden all six of his first-round bulls this season.

Mauney continues to battle through his left groin and pelvis injury and stayed aboard Woody for 85 points in the first round. The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy’s last 22 rides have been scored 85 points or higher.

Injury Updates

Robson Palermo sprained his right SI joint (pelvis) when his leg was twisted between Wild Party and the chute prior to riding the bovine athlete for 82 points. According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, he is probable for Round 2.

Validron de Oliveira rode Americana for 83.25 points despite a sprained right ankle, and Willingham earned 86 points on Savage Moves while competing with a right leg strain.

L.J. Jenkins, who was competing with an unstable right shoulder, was bucked off by Classic Whoppin’ in 4.21 seconds.

Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction), Claudio Crisostomo (left clavicle fracture), Ty Pozzobon (concussion), Markus Mariluch (bicep tear), Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture) and Billy Robinson (left PCL tear) were all out due to injuries.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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