Behind the Chutes: Sacramento, Round 2

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from this weekend’s Sacramento Invitational at Sleep Train Arena.

Triplett continues to win rounds and takes over world lead

Matt Triplett picked up his Built Ford Tough Series-leading fourth round win of the season on Saturday night when he covered Slinger Back for 87.75 points to win Round 3 and earn 100 points toward the world standings.

“That’s a really good bull of D&H’s (Cattle Company), and a new bull, and he threw a lot of stuff at me switching up both ways and he bucked really hard,” Triplett said. “It was a lot of fun.”

The round win pushed him past defending World Champion Silvano Alves, who finished the weekend 0-for-2, and into the No. 1 ranking in the world for the first time in his career with 1,405 points. He leads Alves by 165 points.

“It is nice, but it is going to be a long year,” Triplett said. “I am just going to keep going at it like I have been all year and take it one bull at a time.”

However, Triplett once again left the arena discouraged after he bucked off Walk Off in 2.29 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, which he entered fourth in the event average.

The 23-year-old has been bucked off in every championship round this season.

“I have to get that short round down,” Triplett, who finished fourth overall, added. “That is what is killing me right now. You can’t dwell on it. My stuff is already packed up and let’s move on to Anaheim.

Smooth Operator makes his case that he can contend with the top bulls

Chad Berger couldn’t help but be a little giddy following the championship round. His bull Smooth Operator took home the high-marked bull title with a 45.5-point score following his 1.64-second trucking against Jordan Hupp.

Hupp had previously faced Smooth Operator during the 2014 BFTS event in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and lasted 4.21 seconds. He believes this time around, the bovine athlete was certainly much stronger beyond just the 1.5-point increase in his bull score.

“Yeah, he was a really good bull,” Hupp said. “I got on him last year at Thackerville and he was a good bull then. He has just gotten better. I don’t know what Chad is feeding him, but he is all there. He has put a little bit of size to him and is hard as a rock. Man, you know you are tied to something rank when you are getting on him.”

Smooth Operator bucked off Cody Nance last week in 2.54 seconds and was scored 44 points in Oklahoma City.

“He had a real comparable out in Oklahoma City and they put him in the long round because it was the first time we bucked him,” Berger said. “Cody Lambert told me he was a great bull and he would be in the short round, and he was today.”

Berger said that he has added some weight to Smooth Operator since buying him following the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Berger has high aspirations for Smooth Operator this season and believes Saturday night may be evidence that his bull can potentially put his nose into the World Champion Bull race later this season after going toe-to-toe with some of the early-season favorites.

“What really makes me proud about that bull is this is about as stiff of a competition as it gets right here,” the reigning Stock Contractor of the Year said. “You’ve got the Pages with their very best, Jeff Robinson out here with his very best, Julio Moreno with his two great bulls (Roy and Mr. Bull) and Marlene Henry and Mick E Mouse. For him to beat all of them is quite an honor.

“I am real proud of that bull,” Berger said. “He might never do it again, but he looks like he is the real deal, and I think you are looking at a contender.”

Roy finished second in the event with a 45.25-point bull marking after his 5.83-second buckoff against Fabiano Vieira.

Mick E Mouse posted the third-highest bull score with 44.75-points and extended his BFTS buckoff streak to 30 by making quick work of Bryan Titman (1.62 seconds). It was actually a rematch between the two after they met at a non-PBR event when Mick E Mouse was 3 years old.

“He has my number, but I am going to get back on him,” Titman said. “He just left real hard. When I got on him the first time he wasn’t as big. There is something to him. He kind of balls up and lunges forward. If I get another shot at him I will kind of relax and leave square ahead of him, instead of behind him, because all he is going to do is sit you on your butt.”

The rookie says one of his new goals this season is to get another crack at the still unridden bull.

“I want to get on him right now again,” Titman concluded. “I am glad to be here and get on him. If I can get on him again, I want to be the first one to ride him and that is my goal.”

The championship round was pure dominance by all of the bulls, who went a perfect 15-0.

Cates is the first to win two events

Reese Cates has left no doubt through the first month of the 2015 season that he is fully recovered from 2014 shoulder surgery and that he deserves a spot full time on the BFTS.

The 26-year-old notched his second win of the season by going 2-for-3 and earned 455 event points, which carry over to the world standings.

He earned 400 points by winning the event average with a combined ride score of 173.5 points, and his 87.5-point ride on Earl Sports in Round 2 on Saturday night helped him tie for second place with Valdiron de Oliveira, who rode Modified Clyde, and pick up 55 points.

Cates knew nothing about the bull heading into Round 2 and just before pre-event introductions on Saturday night Alves asked the El Dorado, Arkansas, native which bull he had.

“I pointed him out and told him he was the one acting crazy and running back and forth, getting all the other bulls stirred up,” Cates said. “He was just young and nervous. Silvano was the only other person other than Brady Sims who had ever seen that bull. Whenever Silvano tells you have a good bull, you better bear down and make it count. He is the highest money earner of all time. You have to respect what that man says.”

He previously rode Imagine That in Round 1 for 86 points, and he bucked off Percolator in 4.35 seconds in the championship round.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Tanner Byrne (270 points), Sims (225 points), Triplett (185 points) and Oliveira (140 points).

Cates won the BFTS season-opener in Baltimore and is up to third in the world standings. He trails Triplett by 325 points.

“It feels like everything is going in slow motion right now,” Cates said “I feel like I am in the zone.”

Injury updates

Titman nearly almost didn’t have a chance to select Mick E Mouse with the 14th pick of the championship-round bull draft on Saturday night.

The rookie’s 85.25-point ride on Cash Ya Out from Round 1 wasn’t enough to qualify for the championship round, but he slid into the round after Harve Stewart and Ben Jones opted out of the final round due to injury.

Stewart missed the round after hitting the ground hard when he was thrown from Bobby in 5.12 seconds in the second round. According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Stewart is probable for next weekend’s event in Anaheim, California.

Jones did not compete in the championship round due to a tender right groin. He is questionable for Anaheim.

Hupp received the last spot in the championship round thanks to his 85 points on Hotwired in the first round.

Cody Nance competed on Saturday night with a bruised forearm on his free hand after being kicked by Boot Jack in the first round on Friday night.

Jason Malone did not compete in the second round after spraining his riding arm elbow during attempting to ride Barstool Prophet in Round 1. He is questionable for Anaheim.

Billy Robinson missed Round 2 after aggravating his injured right knee. He is doubtful for Anaheim.

There was no official injury update provided on J.B. Mauney from Freeman on Saturday night after Mauney turned down his re-ride option in Round 2, but the 2013 World Champion said following the event that he was still dealing with a right groin injury, as well as a potential pelvis injury.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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