By: Justin Felisko
January 22, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Here are three things we learned from the Express Employment Professionals Invitational this weekend at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Bull power reigns supreme in Oklahoma City (1-22-17)
The 2017 World Champion Bull race is “officially” underway now that the PBR’s rankest bulls finally made their debut in the heart of bull country.
In Oklahoma City, last year’s Top 3 World Champion finishers – 2016 World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser, Pearl Harbor and SweetPro’s Long John all made it a point to prove they are not going to back down from any challenger in 2017.
Pearl Harbor took home top bull honors this weekend with a 46.25-point wrecking of Rubens Barbosa (3.65 seconds) in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, while Long John – the 2015 World Champion Bull – continues to prove he still has something left in the tank and finished runner-up with a 45.75-point bull score for 1.8 seconds of work against Mason Lowe.
Bruiser was marked 45.5 points for helping Derek Kolbaba cap off his event victory with a sensational 92-point bull ride.
Pearl Harbor’s 46.25-point bull score was a career-high.
“If he has a year like you have seen tonight, he will be tough to beat,” reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said. “He had so much power, strength and speed tonight.”
CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart didn’t want to take anything away from Pearl Harbor, but the stock contractor believed Long John was the better of the two bulls Sunday.
“I thought Long John was the best bull out. I really did,” Hart said. “He had the snap, intensity, the kick, the power and the turn into the gate. Pearl Harbor was great. Don’t get me wrong in no way. It is going to be a race. They are both putting their names out there and making a bid.”
H.D. Page of D&H Cattle Company nearly retired the 6-year-old bull after the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals because of Long John’s on-going foot issues.
“He bucked hard,” Page said. “He really did. “I think he is getting better. As that foot grows out, there is some healing going on in there. He is moving a lot better. I would like to have seen him get around there and see what he would have done after a couple of rounds. I don’t know what he is going to do when he goes to really planting and pushing off.”
Long John didn’t need much time to dismantle Lowe, who was ripped over Long John’s front end on the World Champion’s first jump out of the chute.
“He was long,” Lowe said with a chuckle. “I screwed him myself. I held onto the gate to long and I got beat out. It is my own fault. Other than that, he bucked his ass off and I can’t say anything against him.”
Overall, the PBR’s top cowboys struggled against the rankest bullpen PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert has assembled so far this season. There were 15 qualified rides during the two-day event, which included an ABBI Classic Round on Saturday night.
Inferno won the ABBI Classic Competition with an 89.25-point ABBI Bull score. Inferno bucked off Keyshawn Whitehorse in 2.97 seconds in Round 1.
Kolbaba records career-high 92-point ride on SweetPro’s Bruiser
Derek Kolbaba didn’t have much time to celebrate his event victory on Sunday night seeing as he had a 6 p.m. flight home to Walla Walla, Washington, but the 20-year-old is going to cherish his second career victory for quite some time.
Kolbaba rode the reigning World Champion Bull for a career-high 92 points to cap off a perfect 3-for-3 weekend.
“Oh man, it doesn’t get much better than that,” Kolbaba said. “If you get a chance at Bruiser, you get a chance for a high score, and I knew if I gritted it out it would work out. I knew he felt great. Today it got a little wild, but it worked out.”
Kolbaba is now the No. 3 bull rider in the world standings after earning 565 world points in Oklahoma City. He earned 400 points for winning the event average, 100 points for winning the championship round, 50 points for placing third in Round 1 (85.5-point ride on JJ) and 15 points for finishing Round 2 in sixth-place with his 80.75-point ride on Red Moon.
The second-year pro will head into next weekend’s Sacramento Clash trailing his good friend and traveling partner Jess Lockwood by 275 points for the world No. 1 ranking.
“That was freaking dirty and rank as it gets,” Lockwood said.
Barbosa loses out on victory, but earns big time points
2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa could not earn his first career victory in Oklahoma City after Gangster’s Wildside ripped Barbosa’s bull rope out of his hand in 5.33 seconds.
However, Barbosa may have done just enough to earn himself a full-time spot on the BFTS this year.
Barbosa (2-for-3) earned 300 points toward the world standings and his second-place finish has him all the way up to 11th in the world standings.
“I am not feeling 100 percent,” Barbosa said with the help of Alex Cardozo translating. “But this is very important for me because my dream is to stay here. When I started riding bulls, my dream was to ride on the Built Ford Tough Series. Now it is really important for me to get the points.”
Similar to Brady Sims last week in Chicago, Barbosa becomes the latest alternate to make a big move in the world standings. Barbosa arrived in Oklahoma City as the eighth alternate in the draw and will head to Sacramento tied with Matt Triplett as the top alternate.
Barbosa rode American Sniper for 80.75 points in Round 1 and VJV Nailed for 85.5 points in Round 2.
The 22-year-old earned 240 points for finishing second in the event average and 60 points for placing third in Round 2.
“I knew I had a great bull because I had seen a lot of videos of that bull,” Barbosa said after Round 2. “I never saw a left-handed rider ride him, but God blessed me.”
Rounding out the Top 5 was Lowe (1-for-3, 280 world points), Stormy Wing (1-for-3, 165 world points) and Nevada Newman (1-for-3, 165 world points).
Newman won Round 2 with an 86-point ride on Gangster Can Do. It is his first qualified ride of 2017.
The 24-year-old is up to 14th in the world standings.
“He was really up and down and heavy, but I focused a lot on taking the power away from him,” Newman said. “I have been taking a lot of advice here from Stormy Wing and Cooper Davis. Cooper rides with a lot of knee, so I have been watching film on how Cooper rides. I am watching the guys that win. We ride with the best guys in the world. You can learn from all of them.”
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, J.W. Harris did not compete Sunday after injuring his ribs on his right side when he was bucked off by Smooth Over in 2.5 seconds on Saturday.
Harris believes he may have broken some ribs and is planning on getting X-rays Monday. Freeman said Harris is questionable for Sacramento.
Kurt Shephard is being hospitalized overnight at OU Medical Presbyterian Hospital with a lacerated spleen after being bucked off by Cut the Cord in 4.18 seconds during Round 2. He is expected to be out of competition for 12 weeks.
Brant Atwood is questionable for Sacramento after tearing the long head biceps tendon of his right shoulder (riding arm) when he was hung up to Red Dawn (4.08 seconds) in Round 2.
Brady Sims did not compete in the championship round because of a torn ligament in his left thumb (riding hand). He too is questionable for Sacramento.
Cody Nance sustained a concussion and lacerated chin when his head collided with Jared Allen’s Air Time’s during the championship round. Air Time bucked off Nance in 6.8 seconds for his 25th consecutive buckoff.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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