By: Justin Felisko
September 10, 2016
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tanner Byrne will have quite the load on his hands Saturday night during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
More specifically, he will have a 1,900-pound Big Cat to try and handle.
“Luckily I am a Big Cat myself,” Byrne said laughing as he pumped his chest.
All joking aside. Byrne understands just how much of a challenge is awaiting him at JQH Arena.
Big Cat is 10-0 this season on the Built Ford Tough Series and 16-0 in his career. The 5-year-old is 22-0 at all levels of competition and has been simply dominant from the moment the bucking chute gate opens.
“I have seen him a bunch of times to know what he is all about,” Byrne said. “He is going to go either way or hop and skip and have a lot of buck to him. He is going to be strong.”
One question mark for Byrne is just how powerful Big Cat is beyond 3 seconds. Big Cat has bucked off all 10 riders before the 3-second mark and five riders at 2.01 seconds or less.
“That is the thing. I don’t know if he is going to even out after that or keep getting it,” Byrne said. “All I can do is just ride them jump for jump and ride bulls like I know how to ride them.”
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle Sunday on CBS national television at either 3 or 5 p.m. ET depending on the market.
Other World Champion Bull contenders such as SweetPro’s Long John, Pearl Harbor, SweetPro’s Bruiser, Crossfire and Seven Dust are scheduled to
Byrne and Big Cat are trying to help their respective cases in each World Championship race.
Big Cat has been heralded as a potential top World Champion Bull contender this season, but he is currently on the outside looking in at qualifying for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals. Big Cat is 10th in the BFTS with his top eight outs only averaging 44.13 points.
Six of Big Cat’s buckoffs this year have come against Top-15 bull riders. Big Cat has dumped two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney twice before the 2-second mark.
2010 World Champion Renato Nunes (5.54 seconds) has lasted the longest on Big Cat in the bull’s career.
“I like those bulls that nobody has rode or stayed on,” Byrne said. “I think I fit him being tall and long. I like getting on bulls that nobody has ever rode and being that guy getting that job done.”
In a way, Byrne can relate to Big Cat’s struggles in receiving a top score.
Byrne sometimes loses style points because of his height, while Big Cat hasn’t received as strong of a bull score partially because of how fast he is doing his damage.
Big Cat also didn’t help himself last week in Thackerville, Oklahoma, during his super quick buckoff of Mike Lee when he hipped himself.
“He is definitely in there,” Byrne said. “If I ride him he probably won’t be (scored high) because I will probably get a low score because I never really get good scores. He is a great bull. He has all of the tools. He is big and strong and is a bucking bull through and through. He is definitely in the world title race and I am glad I have a chance at him. Hopefully I can get him rode and get a big score.”
Byrne is 14th in the world standings and 2,050 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco. The 24-year-old was bucked off by Red Rocket in 1.79 seconds during Round 1 Friday night.
“The thing with the new points system is if you win a couple of events here at the end of the year and you are right back in the race,” Byrne said. “It is never over, especially with the amount of points at the Finals.”
Byrne has a favorable rematch in Round 2 before the 15/15 Bucking Battle when he takes on Tequila Sunrise. He previously rode Tequila Sunrise for 81.5 points in Anaheim, California, where he won his first career event.
The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, bull rider is 2-for-10 since injuring his riding hand during the 2016 Calgary Stampede. He said the swelling has gone down since he injured his knuckles and some tendons.
“I had a rough couple of weeks,” Byrne said. “It hasn’t come together for me. I have had some hand injuries and I have a new rope and pad here. I should be good to go.”
Jared Allen texted Byrne this week of him playing 8 to Glory – the new PBR mobile game available on iOS and Android mobile devices – and said it was up to Byrne to continue the hot streak in Springfield.
Allen had won three consecutive events in the game riding with Byrne.
“He said I better keep it rolling,” Byrne said with a laugh. He then added, “I feel good and feel like I am ready for a hot streak big time.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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