By: Justin Felisko August 18, 2014@ 03:30:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – It would have cost him $500 if he lost, but the final payout was well worth the investment risk for rookie Gage Gay.
The 20-year-old is now $38,175 richer thanks to his successful challenge in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night after having his original buckoff on Pound the Alarm overturned for an 8-second ride.
More importantly, the 87.75 points aboard Pound the Alarm propelled Gay into the lead in the Express Employment Professionals Classic, presented by Jack Daniel’s, and eventually his first career Built Ford Tough Series victory.
“It feels great to finally win one,” Gay said. “I had come close a couple times before, but never really sealed the deal; but tonight it’s just a dream come true for me. I have always dreamed of being at the top level winning and I am finally doing it.”
Gay was sitting fourth in the event average when he left the chutes with Pound the Alarm, the 2013 PBR Canada Bull of the Finals, spinning into his right hand. However, in the final second Gay began to lose his control and composure on the bull and appeared to have been bucked off at the 7.79 second mark.
It looked as if Gay was on his way to once again stumbling in the championship round after previously going 0-for-6 this season.
Without thinking too hard about it, Gay went and hit the challenge button.
“I knew the tail of my rope was in my hand all the way to the ground and I didn’t slap him,” Gay said. I was willing to spend $500 to find out.”
The Staley, North Carolina, native admitted it was a relief to get that monkey off his back and finally get his first BFTS win after blowing two opportunities during the first half of the season.
Gay entered the championship round in Tacoma, Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri, leading both events only to falter by bucking off Buck Wild (2.16 seconds) and Rock River Red (4.73 seconds) and finish in fifth and fourth place respectively.
Ironically enough, Rock River Red was the bull Eduardo Aparecido had covered earlier in the Tulsa championship round for 89 points to jump into the lead before Gay’s successful ride.
“It gets real frustrating coming into a short round winning the event and having the pick of the litter and getting thrown off,” Gay said. “It starts getting to you and you get your confidence down because it is the only round you get to pick your bull and you get thrown off, but you have to realize you are getting on the best bulls in the world and you have to pick up the ball and play again another day.”
After concluding the first half in a 1-for-9 skid, Gay said he and his father, Troy, had plenty of heart-to-hearts about his bull riding career and what he needed to do to improve. Troy advised his son to work on his stamina and go back to trying to ride for 10 seconds instead of eight.
By mentally preparing to ride for 10 seconds, he would be less inclined to bail on a ride too soon before the 8-second buzzer went off. It is actually a similar technique that Rick Ruhland had used with PBR China bull rider Hairihen.
“I was getting thrown off right at the whistle instead of riding them the extra couple jumps and jumping off on my own,” Gay said. “They would throw me off right at the whistle. He said it had come from a lack of stamina and stuff like that. I have been working on that and it seems to be helping.”
This past weekend his stamina appeared in improved as he was able to hang on just in time with Pound the Alarm. He had originally thought of selecting Wicked before L.J. Jenkins convinced him to avoid the unpredictable bull.
Gay had ridden Crazy Horse for 88 points in Round 1 and followed that up with an 84.5-point effort on Little Red Jacket in Round 2.
Kody Lostroh would next buckoff Fire & Smoke and Douglas Duncan lasted only 4.32 seconds on Mr. Bull to seal Gay’s victory.
While no rider likes seeing another get hurt, Gay understood that on Saturday night he had an opportunity to put some distance between him and fellow rookie Tanner Byrne, who missed the second round due to a right wrist injury for the Rookie of the Year Race.
“I knew in the back of my head I could gain some ground on him and I needed to capitalize because when he gets healthy he rides just as good as anybody else, so I have to capitalize on opportunities I get.”
Not only did he increase his lead in that race to 1,267.46 points, he also picked up 750.25 points on world leader Guilherme Marchi in the overall world standings and moved into seventh place.
That was awesome to see Gage do that,” said Matt Triplett. “He had a good bull that came from Canada and he just tried his butt off. He already got it, but it’s going to put that much confidence to that kid. You better be watching out for him because he is on fire right now.”
While it will be near impossible for any rider to duplicate the success that J.B. Mauney had a year ago – rallying from a 3,056-point deficit in the standings – it still is a reminder that you never know what may happen by the time October rolls around, especially with No. 1 and No. 2 riders Guilherme Marchi and Fabiano Vieira dealing with threatening injuries.
“J.B. Mauney got hot this time last year and I think he was further down behind the leader than I am right now, so it really gives me a lot of hope knowing I can still win a world title coming in this weekend sitting 10th,” Gay said.
He then added all he can do is capitalize as much as possible in the final seven BFTS events before the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“I need to capitalize every weekend,” Gay said, “but I really need to when they have an off-weekend.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2014 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.