By: Slade Long July 02, 2014@ 10:00:00 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. ― When the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in mid-August, the race for the World Champion Bull title will start in earnest. While every event matters for the riders, the first part of the season isn’t as important for bulls in comparison to the home stretch. This is because bulls typically have far shorter careers than riders; half a season represents a more significant amount of time for them. Bulls can step it up in the final run of events each year and greatly improve their chances.
Since the 2007 season, the PBR World Champion Bull has been selected from a group of contenders by the highest aggregate bull score at the World Finals. Starting with Chicken on a Chain in 2007, every bull that has won the award has been had the highest aggregate score of any bull at the finals. Ultimately, of the bulls that end up in contention for a World Championship, those that are the best at winning events have the greater chance to win the World Finals and the title.
This brings us to defending World Champion Bull Bushwacker. He’s in his final year before retirement and he has to be considered a favorite to win it all for the third time. Bushwacker has been described on numerous occasions as the best bull ever to compete in this sport, and few would argue with that. His numbers back that claim as well; he’s the top ranked PBR bull in history by a number of measurable stats. Most importantly, when it comes to winning rounds and events he is a dominant force. PBR World Champion Bulls since the turn of the century have averaged winning 37 percent of the rounds they competed in over their careers. Led by Dillinger at 57 percent and Asteroid at 42 percent, their numbers as a group are impressive – until you compare them to Bushwacker. Bushwacker has won 75 percent of the rounds he’s competed in throughout his career.
For Bushwacker to win a third World Championship, all he needs to do is win the World Finals event. That might seem easy for a bull that has been so dominant, but it’s not. Another bull could easily slip in and take it from him. In 2011, Bushwacker won his first title. He appeared in 13 events that season and won 10 of them, including the Finals by half a point over Asteroid. In 2012, he won 7-of-8 events, losing the Finals and the title by 1/8th of a point to Asteroid. In 2013, he won the title again, winning 12 of the 14 events he competed in.
This season, by contrast, Bushwacker has won five of eight events, which puts him below his average, but still above every other bull alive. He’s slipped up in his most recent events. He came in second in Nampa, Idaho, and Las Vegas and 10th in Billings, Montana. In Billings, he recorded his first sub-45 point Built Ford Tough Series bull score since 2010.
Bushwacker bucks off Guilherme Marchi in 3.88 seconds at The Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas.
Because he didn’t win his last three events, Bushwacker looks as if he may be ready to give up ground in the World Championship race, but that isn’t necessarily the whole story. Bushwacker can get shorted at times because of his bucking style. He needs someone to stay aboard him long enough for him to show what he’s got. His jumps are so high and hard that he throws a lot of guys before he makes any kind of turn. Some of the bulls he’ll be competing against can show a lot in just two seconds. Bushwacker is just getting warmed up in two seconds.
During the final stretch of the season, keep an eye on Circle T’s Asteroid, Jared Allen’s Air Time, Page’s Shepherd Hills Tested, and Marlene Henry’s Mick E Mouse. All of these bulls are likely to be in the mix for the World Championship race, and they are all capable of beating Bushwacker at one event. If one of them can do it in Vegas, he’ll take the title, but don’t look for Bushwacker to give up without a fight.
Follow Slade Long on Twitter @ProBullStats
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