PUEBLO, Colo. – Chad Berger will have a smile on his face on Thursday night during Round 1 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The 2014 PBR Stock Contractor of the Year will be able to sit back and look on as two of his Built Ford Tough Series Bulls, Cooper Tires Semper Fi and Rock River Red, will take to the dirt inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
They are two of the four Berger bulls – the others being 2014 World Champion Bull Contender Fire & Smoke and Cowtown Slinger – that were selected to compete at this year’s NFR.
Fire & Smoke, who is a re-ride bull for Round 1, went 13-3 this year during his first season on the BFTS and was marked an average of 44 points per out.
Fire & Smoke bucks off Cody Nance in 3.25 seconds, earning a bull score of 46.50 points in the championship round of the 2014 BFTS Des Moines Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.
He began the World Finals in the running for the World Champion Bull title and was scored 44.25 points when Ty Pozzobon rode him for 88 points in the second round. However, Fire & Smoke only received 35 points in Round 5 against Renato Nunes.
Berger said that it appeared to him that Fire & Smoke had lost his footing, leading to the poor out. The four-time PBR Stock Contractor of the Year expects a rebound performance in Las Vegas this time around.
“He looks good and is ready to go,” Berger said. “He is doing good and I think he will be alright. I am looking for him to come back real strong this week.”
Berger is excited to see how Semper Fi does against Josh Koschel on Thursday night. The 4-year-old bull received an average score of 43 points on the BFTS this past season and was ridden in three of his 12 outs (Billy Robinson, Douglas Duncan and Gage Gay).
Semper Fi also bucked off Claudio Crisostomo (5.53 seconds) and Kasey Hayes (1.34 seconds) at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“I think Semper Fi is going to be one of my best bulls next year,” Berger said. “He is a lot like his daddy (Little Yellow Jacket). He has that stutter step like his dad and he comes around hard. He is a young bull and is not even in his prime yet.”
Rock River Red was ridden twice (Eduardo Aparecido and Lachlan Richardson) in 19 outs and marked an average of 43.5 points on the 2014 BFTS.
Eduardo Aparecido score 89 points on Rock River Red in the championship round of the 2104 Express Employment Professionals Classic, presented by Jack Daniel’s, in Tulsa, Okla.
He will be challenged by Tim Bingham in Round 1.
“He is one of the best bulls I got right now,” Berger added. “He has a lot of drop and bucks real hard.”
Even though J.W. Harris will not be facing Rock River Red in Round 1, he still would love to get a shot at the bull at some point.
“I really wouldn’t mind getting on that Rock River Red, especially if he has that trip like he did with Renato (Nunes) at the PBR Finals,” Harris said. “I kind of like that trip.”
Cowtown Slinger, who was ridden by Joao Ricardo Vieira for 89.5 points on two different occasions in 2014, was selected for the NFR, but is not in the draw for Round 1.
Renato Nunes puts up 88.75 points Cowtown Slinger in the championship round of the Des Moines Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.
November was a busy month for Berger. He continued his 2014 trend of acquiring additional bulls for his herd and believes he has purchased at least another 13 bulls since the beginning of November.
“I think I got some new acquisitions,” Berger said. “I got some really good ones.”
One of the bulls that he has high hopes for is Stunting Like My Daddy, who earned a BFTS-career high 44.5 points during Round 1 of the World Finals by bucking off Chase Outlaw in 3.34 seconds. In eight career BFTS outs, Stunting Like My Daddy has averaged 43 points.
Berger, who also acquired Playboy Gunner and Clayton last month, said he has his eyes on a couple bulls that will be available for sale this week in Las Vegas.
“I got bulls out here, but the main reason I come out this early is for the bull sale on Saturday. There are two or three in here that I am interested in.”
Still, he said it is a privilege to be back at the NFR for the first time since 2010.
“It is a great honor and great experience,” Berger said. “They only take so many bulls and I am fortunate enough to have a few here. I feel very blessed.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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