Behind the Chutes: Jones Impresses at Ty Murray Invitational Once Again

By: Justin Felisko
March 19, 2016

Ben Jones got a strong start in defening his Ty Murray Invitational title Friday night. Photo: Andy Watson/

Ben Jones got a strong start in defening his Ty Murray Invitational title Friday night. Photo: Andy Watson/

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Ty Murray Invitational at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit, on Friday night.

Jones in position to defend title in front of idol (3-18-16)

Ben Jones needed only one name to explain his motivation this weekend.

“Ty Murray,” Jones said with a grin. “It is his event and Ty has done so much for me throughout my career. The least I could do is ride good for him.”

Jones began the three-day Ty Murray Invitational with an 83.25-point ride on his re-ride bull American Sniper to finish seventh in Round 1, earning five world points.

The 13th-ranked bull rider in the world standings immediately sprinted back onto the dirt during his PBR LIVE interview when a judge’s review confirmed he had kept his hand in his bull rope for the full 8 seconds.

“I couldn’t remember him before I got on, but I am glad it worked out,” Jones said.

The 37-year-old went 4-for-4 to win the 2015 Ty Murray Invitational, and Murray himself said earlier this year that Jones’ victory was one of the greatest in the 20-year history of his event.

“It really was,” Murray said. “It was really exciting for me. I remember thinking, ‘Can Ben win this thing?’ It was really exciting because I am a fan of Ben Jones and because I know how bad Ben wanted to win it.”

Jones, the oldest rider on the Built Ford Tough Series, has been a mad man in the last two weeks ensuring he wouldn’t be cut from the BFTS and miss the chance to defend his title in Albuquerque.

He began the Phoenix event 36th in the world standings and has earned 640 world points in the last three weeks, including his five-point showing Friday. He now sits at 13th in the world heading into Saturday night’s Round 2.

Jones has finished in third place in the last two events and is riding a 5-for-8 streak.

What would happen if the New South Wales, Australia, bull rider made it two years in a row with a Ty Murray Invitational title?

“Words couldn’t even explain it,” Jones concluded. “I don’t even know.”

Mauney moves to within 50 points of world lead; wins BFTS-leading seventh round of the year

J.B. Mauney hasn’t won a Built Ford Tough Series event all season, but he is churning out BFTS round wins like a factory to keep him in good position to potentially win a third PBR world title.

The No. 3 bull rider in the world standings rode Oklahoma Bandit for 87.5 points for his BFTS-leading seventh round win of 2016.

The two-time World Champion made a smooth adjustment on the back of Oklahoma Bandit early in the ride before cruising to the 8-second mark.

“That was a new bull that had never been out and everyone said he was really good and could go either way,” Mauney said during the PBR LIVE post-show. “He backed up a little and stepped forward. The name of the game is keep trying.”

Mauney’s last regular-season victory came during the 2015 finale in Tucson, Arizona.

“Every weekend when I show up, the plan is to win the event,” Mauney said. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out just yet this year, but I wouldn’t count all of your chickens before they have hatched just yet.”

The round win earned Mauney 100 points toward the world standings and moved him to within 50 points of world No. 1 Paulo Lima.

“I am not worried about that,” Mauney concluded. “End of the year I will worry about that.”

Lima lasted 1.97-seconds on Mister Mean Friday night.

2004 World Champion Mike Lee placed second in Round 1 after riding Cowtown Slinger for 87.25 points. His finish earned him 60 points in the world standings.

“That bull is welly in and out and kind of spins flat,” Lee said. “He is just a balance game and right there at the end, I was like, ‘Man, I couldn’t get off him.’ Thank goodness we are at this level and we have the best bullfighters in the world because I have been at some bull ridings where I would have gotten my butt hooked pretty bad over that deal.”

The ride was the 493rd of his BFTS career. He is seven rides away from joining Guilherme Marchi in the prestigious 500 club.

Dickies Bullfighters Frank Newsom, Jesse Byrne and Shorty Gorham were hard at work for most of the evening due to smaller dimensions of The Pit. The arena size leaves less room for the bullfighters to work and makes it easier for the 1,500-pound bulls to put the riders or fighters in tough binds.

Tanner Byrne rode Red Cloud for 86.5 points and a third-place finish (50 world points), while Marchi (86 points on Glory Days) placed fourth for 40 world points.

Nevada Newman finished fifth, earning 30 world points, with an 85.5-point effort on Lain Man.

Stetson Lawrence used an 85-point ride on Strictly Business for sixth place and 15 world points.

Byrne continues to build off event victories

Duluth Invitational winner Tanner Byrne has developed quite the knack this season for building momentum of his two BFTS event victories.

Byrne’s third-place finish Friday night comes a week after going 3-for-3 in Duluth.

“I had seen him at the World Finals last year with J.W. Harris and he was kind of doing the same thing, but a little bit longer,” Byrne said of his 86.5-point ride on Red Cloud. “When he came around he pulled J.W. down on his head, so I knew he had some suck back to him. I just ran my knees up a little more. You can’t really change your game plan on any bulls, but I knew he was small and I like to run my knees up on them small bulls anyway.”

Byrne, the No. 7 ranked bull rider in the world standings, picked up 50 world points to move within 522.5 points of Lima.

A week after winning the Anaheim Invitational earlier this season, Byrne went 2-for-3 to finish sixth at the Sacramento Invitational.

“I expect myself to stay on every time, no matter if I won the weekend before or got bucked off everything,” said the 23-year-old. “I just go at every bull like there is nothing else going. I didn’t think about last weekend or this weekend. It was just one jump at a time.”

The only hiccup for Byrne was his get-off, he got stuck underneath Red Cloud and was nearly stepped on before the Dickies Bullfighters, including his brother, Jesse, stepped in to save him.

“At these events like this, you have to take advantage of them and make them pay,” Byrne said. “I did my job tonight. Obviously, I had a pretty bad get-off there, but luckily we have the best bullfighters in the world and even when you are in the worst positions they can somehow get you out of it.

“I’ll try and not make a habit out of that and get us all in a wreck, but when it does happen you are pretty thankful those guys are here.”

Injury Updates

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, there were seven riders competing with an injury in Round 1: Paulo Lima (rib sprain), Justin Paton (sprained right riding hand and sprained left sternoclavicular joint), Kasey Hayes (right shoulder/free arm separation), Robson Palermo (sore lower back/sprained left ankle), Stormy Wing (aggravation of an old sternal fracture), Derek Kolbaba (sprained riding hand) and Mason Lowe (torn cartilage in his left wrist/riding hand).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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