Behind the Chutes: Anaheim, Round 2

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Here are three things we learned following Round 2 of the Anaheim Invitational at the Honda Center.

Triplett remains perfect in Rounds 1 & 2

One of the main reasons Matt Triplett is the No. 1 bull rider in the world is because of his ability to get off to quick starts during Built Ford Tough Series events.

Triplett rode El Capitan for 87 points in front of 10,828 people on Saturday night to remain perfect (12-for-12) this season in the first and second rounds of BFTS events.

“It gives you a boost of confidence going into the last day,” Triplett said.

Triplett is averaging 86.25 points per ride in the opening two rounds this year.

The 87-point ride on Saturday tied Triplett for second in the round withTanner Byrne. Each rider earns 55 points toward the world standings.

The points also extend Triplett’s lead over No. 2 Silvano Alves in the world standings to 220 points.

Triplett will head into his Round 3 matchup against Super Cella tied for second in the event average with Ryan Dirteater and is in good position to qualify for his sixth consecutive Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

“The only thing, like I have said 100 times, that I have to deal with is the short round,” Triplett said. “My dad (Pat) talked to me and said, ‘When the short round comes, take it as a long round. Go hunting, go fishing, and get your mind off the short round. Quit putting so much pressure on yourself.’”

Triplett is well aware that to get to the next level in his career he needs to convert in that round, where he is 0-for-5 in 2015.

“I know that I can ride the best bulls in the world,” Triplett said. “I just have to go out there and do it and not think about it and just ride bulls like I do in the first two rounds.

“Tomorrow I am just going to come out , have fun and let the chips fall as they man.”

Byrne impresses Gaffney by riding with broken spur

Byrne was preparing to nod his head in the second round on his re-ride bull Cash Ya Out when the bovine athlete jerked forward on him inside the bucking chute.

The fast movement caused Byrne’s left spur to get caught in the chute and ripped the wire off the bottom of his spur.

“Something must have caught in the chute and it ripped the wire off the bottom of my spur that holds your spur on and ripped my boot side that holds your boot on in half,” Byrne said, “but I already had one bad go in the chute and didn’t want to mess around. I just nodded and went and in the first jump I felt nothing there.”

Cash Ya Out then broke into a spin and began cutting underneath him, which forced Byrne to keep throwing his damaged foot up forward to try and maintain some sort of control during the ride.

“That is what helps you stay forward and ride and you get ahold with your feet,” Byrne said about not having his spur. “When you don’t have that extra help it is pretty much like you are trying to ride them with your sock because my boot wasn’t even tied on. It worked out and I am happy with it.”

Byrne decided not to ask for a re-pull of his bull rope because he already had a rough go of it earlier in the night when his original bull – Pay It Forward – left the bucking chute early and tossed him onto the arena floor almost instantly.

The effort left Michael Gaffney, head coach of Jared Allen’s Pro Bull team, impressed.

“I told him, ‘Way to keep your composure,” Gaffney said. “That is one of the ingredients of being a true professional. Whatever little kinks or wrinkles you have, you have to overcome them, forget about them, adapt to them and move on and do your job. That is what he did.”

Byrne has posted a qualified ride in all six BFTS events this season, and his second-place finish in the round bumps him to 12th in the world standings. He is set to face Super Kool Cat in the third round.

Saturday was a bounce back performance by the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, after he was bucked off by Cowboy Phil (4.75 seconds) in the first round on Friday night.

“One thing I have noticed is that he has this ability to stay cool,” Gaffney said. “He doesn’t panic. One thing you have to do in professional bull riding is not panic.”

Willingham wins Round 2 with highest-scored ride since April 2014

Sometimes the wily veteran can come through and beat out the young guns in the PBR.

Thirteen-year BFTS rider Sean Willingham rode Hair Trigger for 87.5 points to win the second round of the Anaheim Invitational and earn 100 points toward the world standings.

His first round-winning ride of 2015 was one of 12 qualified rides in Round 2.

“It was a great bull,” Willingham said. “I had been wanting to get on that bull for a long time and I had never drawn him. Today it just worked out good. The bull usually fakes left and goes back right away and today he changed it up a little bit and made a couple of rounds to the left and was really pretty hard to ride – a real heavy bull. Then he went back right and I kind of got a good seat on him and got in position where it worked out a lot easier.”

Triplett and Byrne tied for second in the round, while Guilherme Marchi rode Ranga for 86.5 points to place fourth in the round and earn 40 points toward the world standings. Stetson Lawrence finished fifth with his 86.25 points aboard Rough ‘em up Tuck for 30 world standings points.

However, Lawrence’s better moves may have been when he was able to stutter step out of the way of the charging bull post-ride.

Prior to his round win, Willingham had only 110 points in the standings.

“On a three-day event, there are a lot of points up for grabs and I feel like I had been riding really good,” he said. “I have been covering a lot of bulls, but it hasn’t been showing up on the scoreboard so far. To come away with this win today – the points are there – is going to boost me and to come back tomorrow with a positive attitude.”

It has been just over a year since Willingham, who is 8-for-17 this season, won his last BFTS event in Duluth, Georgia, last season.

“I’ve been coming here for 13 years and never had an event win here,” Willingham said. “It would be nice to come away with an event win here in Anaheim, California.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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