Behind the Chutes: Oklahoma City, Day 3

OKLAHOMA CITY – Here are three things we learned from the Express Employment Professionals Invitational on Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Long John lives up to early-season hype

It was only his first out of the 2015 Built Ford Tough Series, but Long John showed during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Sunday that the early-season talk about the bovine’s potential for a World Championship Bull title is serious.

Long John reared out of the bucking chute and sent Guilherme Marchi crashing toward the ground in only 2.08 seconds in a display of pure, brute strength to be marked an event-high 46 points, which is also the highest a bull has been marked this season on the BFTS.

Marchi had previously ridden Long John for 86 points last year in Oklahoma City, but this time around H.D. Page’s bull was that much more difficult and stronger said the 2008 World Champion.

“He is a really good bull, one of the best ones we have in the PBR right now,” Marchi said. “He is a contender for the Bull of the Year. He has a lot of power, a lot of kick and a lot of explosion in the air. He got me. He put me into my hand and made a quick move to the left. He beat me today.”

CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart reiterated that it is only one out, but it was an impressive start to the season.

“He really bucked,” Hart said. “We have only seen him once, but it looked really good. It looked like he was going to turn and sometimes last year he went straight and that is what hurt him. But, yeah, he looked special.”

Marchi qualified for the championship round after Joao Ricardo Vieira withdrew from the round because of a right knee injury.

Earlier in the day, Marchi rode No Regrets for 87.5 points to win Round 3.

“I drew a really good bull and when you have a chance to get a good spinner like that you need to go hard and give it everything we know,” Marchi said. “I made 100 points to help me in the standings. I made a little money too. It makes me forget the bad things and just think about what I need to do. I think this year I have the potential to be a champion again.”

Marchi finished the event in sixth place with his round win and will head to next weekend’s BFTS event in Sacramento, California, fifth in the world with 630 points.

Triplett cherishes win, wishes he could have ridden Brown Sugar

There was something bothering Matt Triplett after he walked off the shark cage inside Chesapeake Energy Arena with his first event-winning belt buckle in his hands.

“I am pretty upset about that last bull, but we got next weekend,” Triplett said. “It is in the past already so I have to work really hard and prepare for Sacramento.”

Triplett was referring to his championship round matchup with Cooper Tires Brown Sugar. The 23-year-old was determined to receive his fourth score of the weekend before Chad Berger’s bull slid him off his back at the 7.88-second mark.

The buckoff didn’t affect the end result seeing as Triplett had already clinched the victory after a replay overturned what would have been Nathan Schaper’s fourth ride of the weekend minutes before Triplett nodded his head.

It originally appeared that Schaper had barely held on to Honey Hush for a potential event-winning ride, but a replay showed that Schaper’s free arm touched the bovine athlete’s lower right side at the 7.83-second mark.

Triplett understands the heartbreak that comes with coming oh-so-close to a potential event win. Last year, Triplett nearly won his first BFTS event in Laughlin, Nevada, before a replay showed he lost his bull rope at the 7.99-second mark against Compact in the championship round.

“Nathan is the nicest guy on tour,” Triplett said. He is one of my good buddies. That is the sport of bull riding. You are not going to win all of them, but if you keep trying and putting the effort out you know it is going to work your way more than most times.”

Triplett rode Hou’s Back for 87 points earlier in Round 3 in a matchup that he called his toughest of the weekend.

“That bull moves ahead a lot,” Triplett said. “I work my butt off just to stay on that one and it is just the way it goes.”

He won Round 2 on Saturday night with 90 points aboard American Sniper and split Round 1 with J.B. Mauney on Friday night with his 89-point ride on Spin Machine.

Back on the arena floor following the event, Triplett began to finally relax as the victory confetti began to swirl all around him.

“Even though I didn’t finish my last bull, it feels great,” Triplett said. “I have been dreaming about this since I was a little kid and words can’t describe how good this is right now.”

The victory pushes Triplett, who is tied with J.B. Mauney for the BFTS lead in round wins (3), to within 35 points of Silvano Alves for the world lead.

“It is such a long year you just have to keep taking it one bull at a time and I am going to step up my workout programs even more and I have to keep on getting better.”

Mauney was the only rider to make 8 seconds during the championship round and he earned 100 points toward the world standings with his 86.25-point ride on Savage.

Mauney finished second in the event with 280 event points. Rounding out the Top 5 was Schaper (180), Chase Outlaw (150) and Fabiano Vieira (105).

Schaper earns valuable points toward the world standings

Even though he fell short of the event victory, Nathan Schaper earned 180 points toward the world standings via his third-place finish in the event average (249.75 points) to jump to 14th in the world standings after beginning the weekend 41st in the world with only 60 points.

The points are so important for Schaper because he concluded last season 31st in the world standings. Therefore, he is only guaranteed one more BFTS event before being subject to possibly being cut from the tour.

“It was very important,” Schaper said. “I came in here very determined and probably more focused and serious than I have taken the last few weekends, I guess. We try to take it serious every weekend, but when you are backed into a corner it makes it a little different. Some guys handle it good and some guys don’t I guess. I like it.”

Schaper first rode Slash for 83.5 points in Round 1 on Friday night before riding Good Cop for 84.25 points in Round 2 on Saturday. He kicked things off Sunday with an 82-point ride on Deep Water in the third round.

It his first three-ride weekend since he rode all four bulls in Oklahoma City last year for his first career BFTS win.

Schaper is hoping this year’s performance can propel him to more success next weekend.

“I don’t mind the pressure,” he said. “I don’t mind it at all. It makes you bear down and keep your hand shut, that’s for sure.”

Injury updates

A slew of injuries on Sunday afternoon led to some confusion over which two final riders would be competing in the championship round.

Marchi was not on the dirt for the bull draft, but eventually selected Long John after he was informed that Joao Ricardo Vieira had opted out of the round because of his knee injury.

However, the greatest confusion came toward identifying which rider would be tasked with facing Mick E Mouse after it was learned that Eduardo Aparecido would be unable to compete due to a left groin strain.

The next man in line was Reese Cates, who could not be found by officials and had already changed out of his riding gear. Then, Silvano Alves had already been ruled out by Dr. Tandy Freeman because of a right shoulder injury making Ryan Dirteater eligible to face Mick E Mouse. Dirteater had also already taken off his gear and chose not to face Mick E Mouse.

Therefore, Bonner Bolton, who still had his spurs on, accepted the tall task of facing Mick E Mouse.

Marlene Henry’s bull made the end result very simple though, bucking off this weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour invite in 2.38 seconds. Mick E Mouse was marked 44.75 points.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Vieira, Aparecido and Alves are probable for next weekend’s event in Sacramento, California.

Sean Willingham was bucked off by Half Shaved in 2.46 seconds during the championship round after competing with a potentially fractured tibula. Willingham sustained the injury after twisting his right leg dismounting Recovery Time following his 87-point ride.

Mauney competed this weekend with a bruised left groin and pelvis sustained when he was hit by the horn of Crack The Whip in New York.

Robson Palermo (concussion) and Marco Eguchi (right elbow) both missed Sunday’s action due to injuries in Round 2 on Saturday night.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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