By: Justin Felisko
March 26, 2017
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Ak-Chin Invitational Saturday night at Gila River Arena.
Harris continuing push toward full-time BFTS spot (3-26-17)
Don’t blink or else you may miss J.W. Harris coming back to form.
The four-time PRCA champion continued his push toward the Top 30 of the world standings by finishing second in Round 1 with an 87.25-point ride on Mortimer.
Harris made a smooth adjustment as Mortimer faked right before turning left away from the 30-year-old’s riding hand.
“It worked out good,” Harris said. “He looked right, but I just moved over like I am supposed to.”
Harris picked up an important 60 points toward the world standings to move from 34th in the rankings to 30th.
“We have to get away from that cut line,” Harris said. “It just comes down to me doing my job and riding them. Riding more than one.”
The ride is tied for Harris’ best of the season. He previously rode Thunderstruck for 87.25 points before being cut from the BFTS.
“It is pretty bad when 87.25 is the highest you have had all year,” Harris said.
2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel didn’t earn any points toward the world standings, but the No. 38 ranked bull rider did cover Booger Red for 83 points.
“I just had to not get in my own way,” Teel said. “I had to get back to the basics and focus on making the first jump perfect and not make it harder than it is. That bull took him a second to find a spot. He is a smaller bull, but had a lot of snap to him. It is something, like you said, to get my hips going. It is bull riding. You can’t just sit there and be along for the ride. You have to take it to him.”
Teel is sitting 12th in the event and is 55 points outside the Top 35.
There were a total of 13 rides in Round 1.
Teel has drawn Whiskey Trip (4-0, BFTS) for Round 2.
“I have to get rolling here and ride two more,” he said.
Harris, who winked at Teel while walking back to the locker room following his ride, is thinking the same thing.
Harris began the Ty Murray Invitational with an 86.25-point ride on Chute Boss before bucking off his last two bulls of the event and injuring his left groin.
The Texas bull rider hopes to buck that trend on Championship Sunday.
Harris has drawn Godfrey’s Red Bull (10-1, BFTS) for Round 2.
“I need to ride two more,” Harris said. “The last few times I had seen him he was just kind of hop, skip and went right. He is kind of like the bull I got on tonight.”
Outlaw looking to put away championship-round woes
Chase Outlaw picked up his fifth BFTS round win of the season to tie world leader Eduardo Aparecido for the PBR lead by riding Captain Jack for 88.5 points.
Outlaw was able to handle Captain Jack into his hand before finishing the ride as the bull turned back toward the end of the ride.
“That is the same track that he had when I rode him for 88.5 in Santa Barbara,” Outlaw said. “There is confidence there knowing you rode him, but then again you have to try a little bit harder because you don’t want to think you have one in the bag.”
Outlaw earned 100 points toward the world standings to move up to No. 4 in the world standings.
He also gained ground on Aparecido, who was bucked off by Muscles & Shovels in 4.02 seconds.
However, Outlaw has yet to win a BFTS event this season and has struggled to seal the deal in recent weeks during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Outlaw had a chance for the victory in Little Rock, Arkansas, before bucking off Cut the Cord in 1.77 seconds and in St. Louis before being tossed by Bad Beagle in 5.04 seconds.
Last week in Albuquerque, Outlaw was in contention for the event victory before being bucked off by Catfish John, a championship-round caliber bull in Round 3 and then Red Bandana in the championship round.
Outlaw is 2-for-7 in the championship round and 15/15 Bucking Battles.
“I just need to ride,” Outlaw said. “It is no different. I am just getting bucked off by those little tougher bulls. I need to keep my powder dry and hammer cocked and get it done. I do overthink it on the picks, but we are just going to get better with them picks in the short go.”
Despite his championship-round struggles, Outlaw has been one of the stronger riders the last two months (11-for-20) and is tied with Kaique Pacheco for the second-most rides (16) in the PBR.
Outlaw takes on Red Moon (8-6, BFTS) in Round 2.
Lowe returns from injury with 86.75-point ride
Mason Lowe was banged up and beaten down the last time fans saw him compete in Little Rock, Arkansas, two weeks ago.
Lowe’s entire body, especially his right hip, was in pain and he knew he needed time off to let his body recover despite his climb inside the Top 10 of the world standings.
Therefore, Lowe missed the opportunity to defend his event title at the Ty Murray Invitational and decided to take a week off.
The decision appeared to have paid off as the No. 7 bull rider in the world standings returned to competition this week with an 86.75-point ride on Grandpa Joe.
“My whole body was sore, but my hip was the main deal,” Lowe admitted. “I shouldn’t have even went to Little Rock. I should have taken the time off. My knee is a little sore from him bucking in (the chutes) tonight. That bull is pretty good. He has a little backup to him and just coming out of there was a little hairy, but you just have to keep your mind on the middle.”
Lowe earned 45 points toward the world standings for splitting third place with J.B. Mauney.
Mauney moved up to 11th in the world standings by riding Shelley’s Gangster.
The two-time World Champion has only ridden one bull at the past two events and had entered Glendale having ridden two of his last six.
“You have to make it count whenever you can,” Mauney said. “I have been having a little bit of a rough spell lately. I am just thinking more than I am supposed to. When you get into a little slump, the best thing to do is to forget about it and move on to the next one. I have been letting it carry over and it was showing up in my riding.
“Today, I didn’t think about anything and I made the whistle.”
Mauney faces Wicked Stick (14-3, BFTS) on Sunday afternoon, while Lowe challenges Johnny B (2-2, BFTS).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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