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Behind the Chutes: Huntington Beach

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday afternoon.

1. Triplett solidifies himself as wild card contender for world title

Matt Triplett rode Oklahoma Bell for 87 points to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle, but it was the 200 additional bonus points that helped push him to within 2,026.67 points of world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira.

Oklahoma Bell exited the bucking chute to the left and settled into an easy spin for Triplett to handle, which eventually gave the Montana native the victory. Triplet is the second rider in eight BFTS attempts to ride the bovine athlete.

“This is a bull I have been watching for a long time,” Triplett said. “He is really strong and powerful and I just made the right moves to ride him correctly.”

Vieira was bucked off by Fire Rock in 2.64 seconds, allowing Triplett’s ride to bump the 21-year-old and sixth-ranked bull rider in the world standings closer to that ever-important deficit of 2,000 points.

Many experts believe that for a rider to have a shot at the World Championship, he needs to be within 2,000 points of the world leader before the start of the Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Triplett has now ridden five bulls in a row and is as confident as can be heading to Las Vegas in a few days.

“I feel great,” Triplett said. “Last week helped me a bunch riding all three bulls. Coming to a 15/15 Bucking Battle where they have the best bulls in the world competing and being able to stand on one and ride with confidence and land on my feet is a big boost.”

This year’s World Finals will be much different for Triplett compared to 2013. Triplett barely qualified for last year’s World Finals as the 35th bull rider in the world. This year, he will be in the hunt for his first career world title.

“I am jacked to go to the World Finals,” he said. “Last year, the Finals treated me really well and, hopefully, this year I can have the same outlook.”

Triplett finished ninth in the event average at the 2013 World Finals by going 3-for-6.

In terms of the other world title contenders, No. 3 Silvano Alves and No. 5 Mike Lee both turned down re-ride options to kept their respective scores.

Alves made 8 seconds on Alright, Alright, Alright for 80.25 points to head to Finals 516.19 points behind Vieira after receiving an additional 140 bonus points for his fourth-place finish.

Lee rode Ridin’ Dirty No Restraint for 81.25 points in the bull’s BFTS debut. The 2004 World Champion earned 160 additional bonus points for a third-place performance. He trails Vieira by 1,433.44 points.

No. 2 Fabiano Vieira lasted 5.36 seconds on Walk Off and No. 4Guilherme Marchi was dispatched by Mick E Mouse in 7.19 seconds.

2. World Champion Bull contenders take care of business despite low marks

Mick E Mouse and I’m a Gangster Too bucked off their challengers on Saturday afternoon, but their bull scores were not reflective of being World Champion Bull contenders.

Marchi nearly became the first rider to conquer Mick E Mouse before Marlene Henry’s bull was able to get rid of the 2008 World Champion in the final second. The bull’s buckoff streak improves to 26 in a row and he was marked 42.25 points – a career-low on the Built Ford Tough Series.

It appeared as if Marchi was going to make a successful ride as he remained in control despite Mick E Mouse’s two aggressive jumps out of the gate. The bull then settled into an average spin before turning back at the last moment.

“I’m not worried,” Henry said. “He did good. I really thought Guilherme had him though.”

Jeff Robinson shared similar thoughts about I’m a Gangster Too, who was also ridden past the 7-second mark. However, just like Mick E Mouse, I’m a Gangster Too was not to be defeated and he threw off Chase Outlaw at the 7.33-mark.

I’m a Gangster Too was given a 43.25-point bull score.

“That bull usually bucks better a couple weeks in a row and he had three weeks off,” Robinson said. “We were trying to get him freshened up. He will be fine.”

Outlaw added, “Man, I should have rode him. That son of a gun got lucky. Next time, he will be cruising for a bruising.”

Mick E Mouse and I’m a Gangster Too will take their first stabs at earning the 2014 World Champion Bull title on Thursday night during the second round of the World Finals. They will likely need to score over 45 points to have a shot at earning the title against a range of challengers including Bushwacker, Asteroid and Jared Allen’s Air Time, among others.

3. Buck Dynasty returns in style

Buck Dynasty’s first BFTS out in five months was a solid success as Bobby Martin’s bull took care of Kasey Hayes in 0.97 seconds.

He was marked 44 points and tied Walk Off for the second-highest bull score of the day.

Buck Dynasty had been rehabbing the past couple of months at the bull pool, regaining his strength after being diagnosed with infections in his bull horns in May. Both of his horns had to be removed.

Hayes said that he had to give credit where credit was due despite feeling that it was a lack of effort on his end that led to the quick buckoff.

“He really wasn’t that bad, but I just slapped him right out of there, sat up and pretty much quit. Gosh, damn, I hate putting out that kind of effort. I didn’t ride very good and he did buck me off.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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