SALINAS, Calif. – Reese Cates didn’t need too much of a rest to regain his mid-season form during this summer break.
The No. 9-ranked bull rider in the world standings took a 10-day break following a rough stretch of Touring Pro Division events at the end of June and beginning of July and returned to competition on Wednesday night with an 86-point ride on Problem Child to win the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event at the sold-out Salinas Sports Complex.
“It is always good to get a win,” Cates said. “This is one bull riding that always kind of eluded me. I kind of never done any good at this place and it is a big one – the points, the money, the confidence that you get.”
Cates had already clinched the victory after the previous nine riders in the championship round had all bucked off when he began his pre-chute procedure atop World Champion Bull contender Roy.
The 26-year-old had high aspirations when he found out he had drawn Julio Moreno’s bull following his 86-point long-round ride.
However, Cates was left only praising Roy after the bovine athlete bucked him off in a few seconds for a 46-point bull score.
“I tip my hat to Roy tonight,” Cates said. “He is a hell of a bull and there is a reason he is in contention for bucking bull of the year. I have been on some buckers this year with Stone Sober and Boot Jack. This bull is every bit as hard to ride as they are. He is honest and he has no tricks about him. You know he is going to spin right into the gate to the left, and he says if you keep up we can be in the 90s and if you can’t, well better luck next time.”
As always, Roy once again made quick work of an opposing rider with his hurricane-like spinning ability.
Roy has bucked off all six of his foes this season. Wednesday was his first BlueDEF Velocity Tour event and his second consecutive out with a 46-point or higher bull score.
“That was an awesome trip,” Moreno said. “He was as good as he could be right there. He stayed and hooked and tried and kicked and did everything he is supposed to do. I was tickled to death with him because he hasn’t been bucked since Las Vegas.”
Cates added, “Whenever the gate comes open and he is going that fast, all advice goes out the window. He kind of got me a little bit out of shape and I tried not to panic and whenever I did he put a little pressure on my hand and my hand came out of my rope. No excuse. He is a hell of a bull.”
The El Dorado, Arkansas, bull rider earned 80 points toward the world standings with the victory and moves from 10th to ninth in the world.
Cates admitted he didn’t know too much about Problem Child heading into the long round.
“It turns out he was really good,” Cates said. “I had a good little bull.”
Rounding out the Top 5 were a group of riders who spent portions of this season on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Newcomer Michael Lane earned an important 50 points toward the world standings with his 85.5-point ride on Internal Interrogation, which place him second overall.
“It is very important that I get any points at this point of year,” he said. “All year long I have gradually stabbed at them. I haven’t won a big amount of points to put myself inside the Top 35, but I have just consistently stayed on and get little points here and there. Getting these little points means a lot to me because that has gotten me to where I am today.”
Lane moves ahead of Douglas Duncan for the No. 33 ranking in the world.
The 25-year-old from North Tazewell, Virginia, credited travel partner Gage Gay for reminding him to be prepared for Internal Interrogation’s tendency to want to push back mid-ride.
Still, after bucking off The Gardener in the championship round, Lane knows he needs to come through against the ranker bulls if he wants to stay in the Top 35 for the BFTS second half.
“He was right around the left and a good bull, but anybody can ride them in the long round,” Lane said. “I want to stay on them in the short round – that is where it counts at.”
Tyler Harr rode Furious George for 84 points to finish third and earn 30 points toward the standings. Harr moves up one spot in the world standings to 39th.
World No. 5 Nathan Schaper (83 points on War Bonnet) and Luis Blanco (83 points on Low Rider) split fourth and fifth place for 17.5 world points apiece.
Like Cates, Schaper, who was bucked off by Broken Spoke in the championship round, was happy to get his groove back after taking some time off this summer.
“I hadn’t been on one in a while,” Schaper said. “I honestly felt good on both of them. I bucked off in the short round, but I felt better than I did at all of the other (events) I have been at during the summer break. I don’t know why, but I did feel good. It sucks to not stay on one, I would have won it, but you definitely have to take the positive away from everything.”
Wednesday night was also a special win for Cates with a few family members in attendance. Cates’ aunt, Layna Kight, is running barrels during the California Rodeo Salinas this week.
“It is always good to do well in front of people who have supported you your whole career,” Cates said. “To get a win here in Salinas means a lot to not only me, but to the people who have helped me get where I am.”
Cates left Salinas late Wednesday night for San Francisco, where he will fly out of on Thursday morning to head to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, for this weekend’s Touring Pro Division event.
Cates understands before he knows it he will be making his way to Biloxi, Mississippi, for the beginning of the BFTS stretch run to World Finals.
“I feel good about the second half,” Cates concluded. “I had two weeks there where I kind of struggled a little bit. But I got to go home for 10 days and regroup and get my mind back to where it needed to be and get my body back to where I needed to be. I was pretty sore and I was gone quite a bit. I didn’t have an opportunity to work out.
“Now after 10 days at home you feel like a new man. You have time to forget about what you did and focus on what you want to do and I am looking forward to the second half.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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