By: Justin Felisko
March 23, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Nine-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Ty Murray quickly jumped off the small ledge where he was telecasting from inside WiesPies Arena, aka The Pit, and went looking for Reese Cates.
Murray eventually found the 2008 Rookie of the Year behind the bucking chutes and patted Cates on the back.
“Hey, good job,” Murray said.
Cates had just ridden Hammer It Again for 88.5 points in the third round of the Ty Murray Invitational.
“Ty told me good job,” Cates said. “I feel like Ty has a lot of big expectations for me. As he should, because I am way too talented to be getting cut. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I don’t see myself as a Top-35 bull rider. I see myself as a Top-5 bull rider.”
The ride held up as the best in the round, and Cates earned an important 100 points toward the world standings.
He earned 115 points in Albuquerque and in two weeks he picked up 195 world points to go from being unranked in the world standings to 35th.
“I knew this was the perfect opportunity,” Cates said. “I had a couple of weeks to try and get things right mentally and physically. Coming in here to Albuquerque for a three-day event was a blessing. It worked out for me.”
Murray said Cates’ ride was one of the top rides at the 20th anniversary of his namesake event this weekend.
“I thought we saw some good rides,” Murray said Sunday. “What stuck out for me is Reese Cates’ ride in the first round today.”
Cates was competing in Albuquerque as a BlueDEF Tour invite after he won the Bangor, Maine, BDT event two weeks ago.
The El Dorado, Arkansas, bull rider was forced to head to Maine after he was cut from the Built Ford Tough Series following the Choctaw Casino Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, on Feb. 27.
Cates spent nine days at 1970 PRCA bull riding champion Gary Leffew’s California home before heading to Bangor to try and figure out what was wrong with his riding.
He spent time with Leffew studying film of Murray, two-time World Champion Justin McBride and himself.
He also attempted two practice bulls per day.
“I managed to keep a good attitude through everything (this season),” Cates said. “That really wasn’t the biggest issue. It was I was fighting my head because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. He pointed out a couple of things that I was physically doing wrong on the back of bulls. Once I got that figured out, we started working on it and started being easy again. That sounds kind of funny. It is never really easy, but it is a heck of a lot easier than it had been.”
“I was confident before I got to Bangor,” Cates said. “That event was great. Getting the opportunity to step in there and get a win and ride some bulls.”
Cates put Leffew’s advice into action and went 5-for-5 in Bangor – Cates accepted two re-ride options at the East Coast event.
He isn’t the first BFTS rider to get cut and immediately win a BDT event to get back onto the BFTS. Gage Gay did the same thing last season in Hampton, Virginia, and Douglas Duncan used a late-season BDT win in Cleveland to help return to the BFTS and qualify for the 2015 World Finals.
Cates currently holds the No. 35 spot in the world standings and is heading into a crucial Touring Pro Division weekend with a slim lead on the potential final spot in the draw for next BFTS event – The First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard Invitational – on April 1-3 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
He is double-booked for the TPD event in Perkins, Oklahoma, on Friday and Saturday, as is No. 37 Kurt Shephard (25 points behind Cates), No. 41 Tyler Harr (-47.5) and No. 43 Josh Faircloth (-60).
No. 34 Jess Lockwood (.83 points ahead of Cates) is also competing in Perkins, Oklahoma, on Saturday after riding during the first night of the ABBI Spring Fling TPD event in Stephenville, Texas, on Friday.
Lockwood already has a guaranteed draw spot in Sioux Falls courtesy of his 3-for-3 victory at the Wheeling, West Virginia, BlueDEF Tour event.
Fellow bubble riders No. 32 Fraser Babbington (10 points ahead of Cates) and No. 36 Jorge Valdiviezo (-5) and No. 37 Lindomar Lino (-25) are also competing in Stephenville.
There will be over 200 bulls, ranging in age from 2 years old to 4, looking to make a name for themselves in Classic, Futurity and Derby events in Stephenville during one of the major ABBI events on the 2016 calendar.
Cates began 2016 with high expectations following two BFTS wins and a 17th-place finish in the world standings last year. However, he struggled to find his way this season and began the year 1-for-18 on the BFTS before going 1-for-4 in Albuquerque.
The 27-year-old isn’t calling this season a wash by any means. He knows there is plenty of time left to make up lost ground and looks to be righting his ship just in time.
“This is a game of confidence,” he concluded. “You can do anything if you are healthy and are confident. This really did a lot for my confidence.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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