By: Justin Felisko
June 23, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – There is a pretty general consensus that the 2017 World Champion Bull race is a two-headed race between Pearl Harbor and defending World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser as of the Built Ford Tough Series summer break.
However, PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said last month that TLW’s Big Cat deserved to be a little closer to the two front runners than Big Cat’s bull scores have reflected this year.
“The surprise to me is that Big Cat really isn’t in the conversation,” Lambert said during Last Cowboy Standing. “He is bucking as hard as you could ask one to buck. He has bucked everyone off. He looks like he should be right there. In my records, he is in third place right now, but judges scores are way down there.”
Big Cat concluded the first half of the season with a 44-point bull score for bucking off Kaique Pacheco in 4.81 seconds during the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 15/15 Bucking Battle.
The buckoff kept him undefeated this season at 6-0, and he is currently third in the World Champion Bull race with an average bull score of 44.83 points per out.
While being ranked third is a fine accomplishment, Big Cat is still off the pace compared to Pearl Harbor (46.25 points) and Bruiser (46 points) in the World Championship race.
A slip up during the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 1-5 could cost any frontrunner the world title, of course, and open up the door for other contenders.
The World Champion Bull will be determined based on a bull’s Top 8 outs during the Built Ford Tough Series regular-season plus two outs at the World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the World Champion and earn the $100,000 World Champion bonus.
Unlike Pearl Harbor and Bruiser, Big Cat has yet to be ridden this season and the white bull has only surrendered one qualified ride – Luis Blanco’s 85.5-point ride at last year’s World Finals – in 26 Built Ford Tough Series outs after debuting in 2015.
Big Cat has been marked above 45 points twice this season, compared to nine times for Pearl and Bruiser.
Pearl Harbor and Bruiser have also been to three more events than Big Cat.
Big Cat, though, showed he is no bovine kitten in St. Louis when he used brute strength to whip Matt Triplett down to the ground in 1.71 seconds.
The 6-year-old bull received a career-high 45.75 points.
“Honestly, I stubbed my toe and made myself look stupid,” Triplett said. “That is a bull you should ride, and he doesn’t get rode very often. I would like another shot at him. I could ride. He is an outstanding bull. Don’t get me wrong. He kind of hop, skips and comes around the right. He is powerful and strong. If you ride him right, you can ride every one of them (bulls).”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride and CBS Sports Network commentator explained on air, “This bull is so strong. If you get behind him, Triplett is wanting to get out of there with him, but he gets ahead of him. SO then when he comes out he catches all of the momentum. That is a really strong bull.”
Big Cat followed that trip up with a 3.09-second buckoff of world No. 7 Stormy Wing and 2.96 seconds of work against two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney.
He was marked 45.5 points for his Mauney buckoff in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Big Cat, who’s bloodlines go back to 95 Spit Shine and 30 Muddy Water, has only been marked above 45 points three times in his three-year career, but so far Blanco is the only rider to reach the 8 seconds.
Even more impressive is that five of Big Cat’s six buckoffs have been against riders ranked inside the Top 10 of the world standings – Pacheco, Mauney, Wing, Triplett and Chase Outlaw.
Triplett admitted it is baffling in ways that Big Cat’s mysterious strength has caught so many of the riders unexpectedly.
“He has so much power and wants to get you back on the end of your arm,” Triplett said. “He gets a lot of people strung out when you need to stay more up on your rope and stay more square and not let him manhandle you.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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