By: Justin Felisko
January 31, 2016
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Five-time Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger kept tossing and turning inside his hotel room last weekend in Oklahoma City when he finally decided to roll out of bed at 4:30 a.m.
Berger couldn’t contain his excitement much longer and he just had to go see for himself the largest acquisition he ever has pulled off in the bucking bull business.
Yes, the wheeling and dealing stock contractor has purchased hundreds of bulls before, and thousands of pounds of beef cattle, but what he had just pulled off this month is a purchase that will forever live in PBR history and one he thought was never possible.
It was one thing to receive a phone call from Jeff Talley while at a cattle auction in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, three weeks ago saying the deal he had spent a year trying to bring to fruition was back on the table, and it was another thing to tell Rex Meier to make sure he and the Dakota Rodeo bull trailer would be at the Circle T Ranch & Rodeo doorstep in Keatchie, Louisiana, by daylight three days before the Oklahoma City event with less than 24 hours’ notice.
It was safe to say Berger had much on his mind by the time his flight from Bismarck, North Dakota, had landed in Oklahoma City last weekend.
The Mandan, North Dakota, stock contractor had to go see it – or rather him – with his own pair of brown eyes.
Therefore, Berger got in his truck and began driving through the pitch-black morning darkness to his ranch 15 miles east of Henrietta, Oklahoma.
The drive felt much longer than the 2 hours it took to get there, but Berger was speechless when he pulled up to his ranch and saw what was there waiting for him.
In the midst of the rising morning sun was 2012 World Champion Bull Asteroid standing proudly in his pen at a strong and lean 1,400 pounds.
“He is finally mine,” Berger thought as he stood face-to-face with the latest addition to his bullpen.
Berger officially bought Asteroid, as well as Jack Daniel’s After Party and Shepherd Hills Trapper, from Jeff Talley and Circle T Ranch Rodeo for an undisclosed amount of money two weeks ago.
The stock contractor announced in Anaheim that Asteroid will make his season debut in two weeks at the St. Louis Invitational.
“I was just tickled to death when I knew he was in my pen,” Berger said. “Who knows what is going to happen. I am excited. Right when they said before Arlington (last year) that they weren’t going to buck him anymore. That is when I started pursuing. I knew he had something left in the tank.
“I want to thank Jeff for giving me the opportunity.”
Asteroid was retired following last year’s Iron Cowboy in Arlington, Texas, when he concluded his career by demolishing 2004 World Champion Mike Lee in 1.61 seconds.
The soon-to-be 9-year-old bovine athlete was marked 46 points – the 29th time in his four-plus year career that he had been marked 46 points or higher.
The out made many, especially PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert, believe Asteroid could still contend for second World Champion Bull title.
Lambert said on Saturday that Berger’s acquisition is unlike anything before in the PBR’s history.
“Since the PBR has been around, nothing like this has happened,” Lambert said. “He is one of the best bulls we have ever seen in the PBR. In 23 years, he is one of the all-time greats. He only won the championship one time so far. He beat Bushwacker in his prime when he won it. He pushed Bushwacker to the limit two out of the three years Bushwacker won the championship.
“There is no way we will ever get Bushwacker back, but you can argue that Asteroid is the second best bull that has ever been bucked in the PBR.”
And that bull is now Chad Berger’s.
Asteroid has gone 49-4 on the BFTS, including a streak of 30 consecutive buckoffs, with an average bull score of 45.74 points.
“There are so many moments,” Berger said. “I was going through all of his outs and seeing all the 46- and 47-point scores. That is pretty exciting to have an athlete like that.”
The only four riders to ever record a qualified ride on Asteroid are Elton Cide (76 points), Fabiano Vieira (87 points), J.B. Mauney (93.5 points) and Silvano Alves (87.25 points).
“I have a picture of it at the house and it is probably one of the coolest pictures I ever had,” Mauney said last year. “He’s kicking square over his head and his back is almost flat against my back and I have both of my knees pulled up onto his neck.”
Alves rode Asteroid to win his third World Championship and first World Finals event title two years ago.
“Yeah it is one of my favorite rides,” Alves said at the time. “He bucked me off four times and I rode him one time. I am very happy for the one ride because the ride made me the World Champion and the champion of the World Finals.”
Berger said he was caught off guard when Talley called him earlier this month.
The two had not spoken in about six months and he figured acquiring Asteroid was a lost cause after so many previously failed attempts.
The first thing he did was call his partner Clay Struve.
“I honestly had given up,” Berger said. “It had been a long time.”
Berger said making the deal for Asteroid was the hardest of his career and by far the best.
“This ranks at the top to get this deal done,” he said. “It just really means a lot to have a bull like that on your truck and to have in your breeding program. I am a risk taker. That is what I have done all my life. I have gambled on cattle. I am gambling that he is going to be alright. I have talked to a couple of guys that had seen him. He looks good. He is in nice shape. He is a little soft. That is why we are waiting until now. We will buck him in St. Louis.”
Being able to breed Asteroid with a variety of cows from his other bucking bulls’ bloodlines is really what has Berger gleaming with joy from cheek to cheek.
He knows he has added another World Champion Bull contender to his team, but what will happen when he begins to breed Asteroid with cows from the likes of Little Yellow Jacket, Smackdown, Copperhead Slinger and Bring It?
Berger has wanted to begin breeding his own 3- and 4-year-old bulls despite being the master acquirer of bull talent in recent years. He knows long-term success in the business comes with successful breeding.
He now thinks he has added a perfect specimen to build around.
“I want to get that athletic ability with the size,” Berger said. “We are building a great breeding program and we have a lot of my dad’s lineage. I am just excited to try him on all kinds. Even after he is long gone, if I find the perfect cross we can hang our hat on him for another 20 years.
“This is a big investment for our company and where I want to be for my kids. It is going to be their stuff, not mine. I am 54 years old. In 20 years, I want to be able to come fly in and watch them buck once in a while.”
Don’t get him wrong though. Berger also knows that Asteroid gives him potentially his best opportunity at winning his first World Champion Bull title since Code Blue (2009).
If anything, Berger has had to pinch himself and remember to take a step back.
“I don’t know where he is going to be, but I think he still has it in him and we are going to give it a whirl,” Berger said. “It would be really cool that he is in top form and has a chance to win another world title. It would be a lot more than me winning it. I was real good friends with Howard (Talley) and it would be pretty cool to win another one.”
Lambert believes Asteroid, who Berger may buck for another two seasons, can certainly go punch for punch with defending World Champion SweetPro’s Long John and other contenders such as SweetPro’s Bruiser and Jared Allen’s Air Time.
In fact, Lambert compared Asteroid coming out of retirement to that of two-time PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year 105. According to Lambert, Dell Hall’s bull sustained an injury after winning the 1981 championship before returning to win the 1984 title.
The difference is Asteroid wasn’t hurt. He has just been not competing.
“8 and 9 years old is late for most bulls in their career,” Lambert said. “On some bulls it is a long time. Asteroid has had a really strong career, but he doesn’t have thousands and thousands of miles on him.”
Asteroid has 65 total career outs at all levels of competition, which is only 11 more than Long John (54).
It will now be up to Berger to get Asteroid in prime bucking shape to try to get him qualified for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals as a World Champion Bull contender.
Berger may even experiment with bucking Asteroid out of the right-hand delivery at some point.
“I have watched that bull for years and he has never been bucked out of the right-hand delivery,” Berger said. “It is a shot that I will call later, but I think you may see him out of the other side. I think he will be just as rank, if not ranker over there. He has a real trigger in the chute where he can hip himself and I think out of the other side he maybe won’t. I won’t be scared to try anything with him.”
Berger may be fearless, but he also is admittedly nervous of what the season may have in store for him and Asteroid.
“I don’t want to jinx the bull, so who knows,” he concluded. “He hasn’t bucked in a year. I think he has got it, but I can tell you after we buck him once or twice if he is. I promise you there won’t be a bull rider as nervous as I will be in St. Louis when I buck that bull.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.