By: Justin Felisko May 22, 2014@ 04:45:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. ― Prior to being known as the owner of two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker, Julio Moreno was used to the pressure that came with qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo 11 times as a team roper.
For the most part, he knew what to expect when he stepped into the arena after competing for so many years at rodeos all over the United States.
Nowadays, Moreno is learning about a different kind of pressure that comes with having a lack of control in a high-pressure situation.
He has to sit back and let Bushwacker take control.
Such will be the case on June 13 when J.W. Harris will attempt to earn $50,000 by riding Bushwacker for 8 seconds in the Cooper Tires Match of World Champions at the DCB PBR Bull Riding Challenge in Bismarck, North Dakota.
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“Well, I get nervous, especially right before it happens, just like the $1 million deal in Dallas,” Moreno said. “I had a little pressure on me. I’m used to pressure after competing and qualifying in team roping so many times at the National Finals.
“I thought that was hard. This is harder.”
Moreno is completely helpless once his champion bovine slides into the bucking chutes and a rider climbs onto his back. The stock contractor readily admits he is no kind of “bull whisperer,” or able to give Bushwacker a scouting report before the gate opens.
He simply pats his bovine athlete on the back and says, “Alright Bushwacker, go on.”
So far Bushwacker has eased his owner’s worries and butterflies by rising to the occasion this season with a perfect 8-for-8 record since Moreno announced that 2014 will be Bushwacker’s last before retiring.
Bushwacker has shown no signs of age this year and once again is thriving under the spotlight. He easily tossed Joao Ricardo Vieira to the ground in 2.4 seconds during the Bad Boy Mowers Million Dollar Ride at the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy .
“He was awesome,” Moreno said. “That was nerve-racking to see the riders that were there and the other stock contractors, the ground crew, just wait for that moment. I could see it in everybody’s eyes, ‘Whoa here it comes.’”
That kind of spectacle and one-of-a-kind sports moment is why Chad Berger reached out to Moreno to get Bushwacker to buck at his 14th annual Touring Pro Division event. With it being Bushwacker’s final season, Berger loved the idea of bringing the PBR’s most popular athlete to Bismarck.
“There is only one thing wrong with Bushwacker and that’s that I don’t own him,” Berger laughed. “That is the only fault I can find in Bushwacker.”
Matching Bushwacker against Harris just adds to the excitement.
“Well, I just figured he is a hot topic right now and is a four-time world champion in the PRCA and I thought, with his style of riding, if anybody had a chance to ride him, he would be as good as any.”
Harris quickly accepted the challenge in Des Moines, Iowa, and Berger has since risen the bounty to $50,000. His intensions are to try and double that amount if possible.
It will not be the first meeting between Harris and Bushwacker, but it has been a while since Bushwacker took care of Harris in 6.2 seconds at a 2010 TPD event in Waco, Texas.
“Oh shoot, that was four years ago when I got on Bushwacker,” Harris said. “I guess the biggest thing is keep my feet up. He got to working and just kind of got my feet right there at the whistle.
“As a bull rider, that’s what you live for. It’s going to be cool just getting on him I am sure.”
Berger admits he will probably be much more nervous than Harris come the bonus round on the first night of the two-day event.
“I think it is putting more pressure on me than J.W.,” Berger said. “He isn’t going to lose anything if he bucks off.”
This isn’t the first time Berger has put on a marquee matchup at his TPD event in North Dakota. In the early 2000s, he matched up Chris Shivers against Little Yellow Jacket and Adriano Moraes against Promise Land.
The Shivers-Little Yellow Jacket showdown brought in close to 6,500 fans, and Berger would love to get that many and more to fill the Bismarck Civic Center in June.
“That time Chris Shivers was the hottest guy in town,” Berger said. “Everybody loved him. He was a fan favorite; he was just really something special. Little Yellow Jacket was really something special and I think J.W. Harris and Bushwacker are really something special.”
Along with Harris and Bushwacker, Flint Rasmussen, Frank Newsom, Clint Adkins and a variety of other Built Ford Tough Series personalities and riders are scheduled to be at Chad Berger’s event. Some of the top bulls expected to buck include Smackdown, Fire & Smoke, Cowtown Slinger, Modified Clyde and Apollo Stripes.
In his last out before the summer break, Bushwacker bucked off Guilherme Marchi in 3.88 seconds with a $25,000 bounty placed on him at the last minute at Last Cowboy Standing.
Moreno feels a little more confident about his bull’s matchup against Harris after finally having a rider last longer than 3.5 seconds on Bushwacker this year. He once deemed Harris one of a select group of riders that could potentially ride the bovine – the others being J.B. Mauney, Douglas Duncan and a healthy Kody Lostroh.
Bushwacker was also smaller when he and Harris first met.
“He was a little bit smaller and he is a lot bigger now,” Moreno said. “Boy, he is big.”
Harris does have a chance though, believes Moreno.
“He has a chance,” Moreno added. “Especially, there is that corner (Bushwacker) has. If you can weather that, I think you can do it and that is what J.B. did. You have to be 110 on your game and Bushwacker has to be a regular out.”
Berger believes Harris has a 15 percent chance of riding Bushwacker.
“Well, Bushwacker’s record and his style of bucking – he never bucks the same twice,” Berger explained. “I figure, if you do all the numbers, he has about a 15 percent chance of riding him. I am pretty confident in Bushwacker.”
And if Harris does make 8 seconds?
“I guess if I said I am going to give that kind of money away, I would like it to be in my hometown at my event, because they would talk about that for years and it would probably be an outdoor arena after that, because it would blow the roof right off that damn building.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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