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Behind the Chutes: Billings, Day 2

BILLINGS, Mont. – Here are three things we learned from Round 2 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle at the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, on Saturday night.

Long John shows off his athletic ability against Kasey Hayes

Sweet Pro’s Long John exited the bucking chute with graceful strides towards the center of Rimrock Auto Arena during the 15/15 Bucking Battle, but once he turned back toward the chutes, the D&H Cattle Company bovine erupted with a series of powerful kicks and hang time that was a showcase of the 1,900-pound bull’s power and athleticism.

Yet, it was almost not enough to buck off Kasey Hayes before Long John was able to loosen the Liberal, Kansas, bull rider’s grip on his bull rope and fling him helplessly into the air at the 6.49-second mark for a 46.75-point bull score.

“I am sure glad to see that spring,” H.D. Page said. “We laid that bull off after the Finals and fed him. He just really stated maturing and becoming a bull. I bet he put on about 200 pounds, and I bet he was tipping over a ton. Since the last couple of weeks, he has dropped and gotten back down to fighting weight. He now has a little extra spring in his step.”

That kind of athletic ability led to a season-high marking for Long John, as well as the second-highest of his two-year BFTS career.

Page believed that Long John’s out in Billings on Saturday was similar to his 47.25-point showing against J.W. Harris at last year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Long John leads the 2015 Built Ford Tough Series with four bull scores of 46 or more points.

Page plans on probably next bucking Long John in two weeks at the Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I would like to buck him every day,” Page said. “I am as big a fan as anyone and love to see bulls buck. I would buy a ticket tomorrow to see him buck, but I think tonight was good enough. When one puts out that much effort, even though I don’t think he is hurt or sore, I just don’t want to take a chance.”

Not only has Long John earned himself some time off, he is going to get rewarded with a visit to some cows.

“I really want to get him turned out on some cows,” Page said. “He will appreciate it, but I need some calves coming out of him.”

Vieira continues to extend lead; Marchi trying to keep pace

Joao Ricardo Vieira earned another 82.5 points toward his pursuit of his first career world title when he finished second in the 15/15 Bucking Battle with an 88.75-point effort on I’m A Gangster Too.

Vieira was able to handle I’m A Gangster Too despite his rib injury, and he wound up tying with Shane Proctor, who rode Beaver Creek Beau for 88.75 points, for second-place.

The world leader is now 407.5 points ahead of Matt Triplett after the No. 2 bull rider in the world bucked off Mac-Nett’s Southern Wine (2.43 seconds) in Round 2 and Wicked (2.8 seconds) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Triplett attempted Southern Wine with a knee brace to protect his torn MCL before attempting to ride Wicked with just a taped knee.

Vieira also rode Helter Skelter for 83 points earlier in the evening to finish Round 2 in seventh place. Even though he didn’t earn world points for his round-finish, the ride does put him first in the event average heading into the final day of action on Sunday.

If Vieira, who has ridden four in a row, can continue his hot streak, he would earn 400 points for winning the event average and double up his world lead.

2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi is trying to keep pace with Vieira.

Marchi placed third in Round 2 with an 85.75-point ride on Guns & Donuts to earn 50 points in the world standings and become the No. 4 bull rider in the world.

However, his most impressive performance of the evening was not reflected on the scoreboard.

Marchi became the first rider to conquer Smooth Operator in 18 outs when he rode the bull for 83.5 points. It was a weaker-than-normal out for Chad Berger’s bull, and Marchi had to nod for the gate with the chute clock down to 1 second after Smooth Operator began to squat down inside the chute.

“That bull is hard in the bucking chute and they put me on the clock,” Marchi said. “I tried to do my best. When you get on the rank bulls you try to do your best. I do my job and covered my bull. I am happy, but I am sorry for Chad because that bull didn’t buck real good today.”

Smooth Operator was only marked 41 points – a career-low – but it didn’t stop Marchi for being proud of the accomplishment. He knows how good Smooth Operator normally is.

“I am happy for everything,” Marchi added. “I am feeling so strong and confident that I can get on any bull right now. I am here to try my best and try and win this title.”

*Fellow World Champion Bull contender Mick E Mouse was called for a foul during his out with Nathan Schaper during the 15/15 Bucking Battle when he lost his balance and dropped his back legs onto the dirt.

Cates wins 15/15 Bucking Battle and moves to No. 6 in the world standings

Reese Cates was the No. 3 bull rider in the world standings the last time he earned over 100 points at a BFTS event this season when he finished fourth in Kansas City, Missouri, almost two months ago.

Since then, Cates had only earned 60 points in the following five BFTS he competed in, tore the biceps in his riding arm and dropped to eighth in the world standings.

Cates kicked all of that to the side on Saturday by riding Boot Jack for 90.5 points to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle and earn 150 points toward the world standings.

“The first jump out that bull kind of backs up and tries to pull you down and then the rest of the ride is in and out,” Cates said. “It was a fight to the finish. I don’t know what it looked like, but I was trying my butt off and it worked out.”

Cates was originally nervous when he saw he drew Boot Jack because not many right-handed riders had been able to warm him up, but once he talked with Cody Nance he began to feel better about the matchup.

“He said that bull feels a lot like the bull they call The Game from back in the day,” Cates said. “Me and that bull got along really well when other right-handed guys didn’t. As soon as he told me that, I knew it was on and it worked out good.”

The win moves Cates from eighth in the world standings to sixth. The ride is also his first 90-point ride in nearly four years. The 2008 Rookie of the Year last reached the 90-point threshold on April 30, 2011, when he rode Cooper Tires Wild Out for 90 points in Seattle.

“Any time you are 90 it is awesome, but it is more getting one rode that means more to me than anything,” he said. “There are a lot of points in this round and I am glad everything worked out for me.”

It is the second week in a row that Cates has bounced back in the 15/15 after bucking off in the previous round. He rode Chocolate Thunder for 87.75 points in the Nampa, Idaho, 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“Any time I get bucked off in the first round it just gives me a fire to do good in the second round or in the 15/15,” Cates said. “Same thing happened last week, I got bucked off and came back and made a good ride in the 15/15.”

The 26-year-old had made it clear since returning in Nampa last week that he wasn’t concerned about coming back from surgery on his torn biceps, yet his ride aboard Boot Jack may silence any critics that were unsure of if he was 100 percent.

“I am not concerned about that whatsoever anymore,” Cates said. “I hadn’t been since my first two bulls in Nampa last week. It feels good. It is not something that scares me anymore. It used to any time an injury popped up I thought it was the end of the world.

“Look at my best friend and traveling partner, Chase Outlaw. He is at home right now and he is in high spirits, and when he comes back he will be riding better than he ever has too. It is all about how you handle that. I am not scared of that anymore. I have had to sit out my fair share and I am just having fun.”

Injury Updates

Dr. Tandy Freeman and the PBR sports medicine team were a busy group on Saturday night.

Four riders withdrew from the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday because of injuries.

First, Fabiano Vieira was replaced by Aparecido after being diagnosed with a strained right groin after he was bucked off by Barracuda in 2.71 seconds during Round 1 on Friday night.

Then Valdiron de Oliveira withdrew because of a sprained left MCL that he suffered in Round 1 after being stepped on following his 53-point ride on King George. Oliveira had tried to ride Wild For The Night in the second round, but he was bucked off in 5.05 seconds and complained of pain in his knee.

He was replaced by Hayes.

Ben Jones did not compete in the 15/15 after aggravating a pre-existing neck injury during his 2.4-second buckoff against Funkytown in Round 2 and was replaced by Mason Lowe.

J.W. Harris withdrew from the 15/15 because of numbness in his riding hand after being thrown from Bobby in the second round in 2.72 seconds.

However, some confusion over whether or not Harris would get on led to Ryan Dirteater scrambling just at the start of the 15/15 Bucking Battle to get ready in time to take on Cooper Tires Brown Sugar.

Aparecido had to be carried out of the arena following a wreck with Little Red Jacket that left the third-year BFTS rider with a concussion, lacerated chin and a left hip injury.

It was learned early on Sunday morning that X-rays at a local hospital revealed that Sean Willingham fractured his neck (C7 right facet) when he landed hard on his head during his 5.28-second buckoff against Cowboy Up.

According to Freeman, Willingham will be out for a minimum of eight weeks.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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