By: Keith Ryan Cartwright June 11, 2014@ 01:15:00 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas ― J.W. Harris never imagined any of the opportunities afforded him by the PBR.
The first was a call offering him a three-event exemption to compete on the Built Ford Tough Series. Then J.W. Hart matched the four-time PRCA champion with Shepherd Hills Tested against reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney and Asteroid in a $25,000 winner-take-all-challenge. Before Harris and Mauney even had a chance to meet up in Decatur, Texas, two weeks ago, Chad Berger had offered him a chance to earn $50,000 in a matchup with two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker.
Last week, Berger doubled the Cooper Tires Challenge of Champions to $100,000 for the Friday night matchup following the first of a two-day Touring Pro Division event in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think any of the opportunities I had presented to me would come,” said Harris. “Shoot, I’m dang sure excited about the (opportunity) that I’ve got in front of me and it’s going to be fun.”
For those unable to travel to this weekend’s event, all the action, including the $100,000 matchup between Harris and Bushwacker, will be streamed in its entirety on PBR LIVE. Fans can sign up here.
“You don’t get the chance to get on great bulls like that every day, so you (have) to take advantage of it when you can,” Harris said. “I’ve been on him one time, but that was four years ago.”
According to Bushwacker’s owner Julio Moreno, his prized possession is 200 to 250 pounds heavier than when the two previously met at a TPD event in Waco, Texas.
Back then, Harris made it just over six seconds, but the Texas native noted, “It was right before he was Bushwacker. He was still a great bull.”
Harris added that obviously Bushwacker bucks hard and will go in either direction once he clears the chute.
Moreno pointed out, “He is smarter and he knows a little more tricks I would say. He knows the weight of the rider or them trying something to make a move, he feels all of that probably a lot more than when J.W. first got on him.”
During a teleconference with several members of the media, Moreno indicated that he felt like Bushwacker was “lazy” in recent outs.
No one has even come close to the six seconds Harris lasted since Mauney rode him last August in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for 95.25 points. In fact, Mauney’s mark was the first qualified ride on Bushwacker since October 2009 and snapped a PBR record of 42 consecutive buckoffs at BFTS events.
As a matter of fact, to Moreno’s point, no one has made it four seconds in the past six outs, and four of those outings have been less than three seconds.
“It’s not that he is big, fat lazy,” Moreno explained, “it’s just nobody is really, they are trying him, but he is getting them right there right away. I got him to where I chase him on a horse a lot here lately, the last two weeks. I probably took 20 pounds off him maybe. I am guessing, I haven’t actually weighed him, but 20 pounds off since Vegas and I think he really looks good.”
There’s been a lot of talk lately that Bushwacker intimidates a lot of the riders before they ever nod their head.
No. He’s not mean.
However, he’s widely considered the greatest bucking bull of all time and certainly riders feel a disadvantage in going up against a bull that’s been ridden once in his last 72 outs, including BFTS and TPD events, over the past four seasons.
It’s precisely why Harris is likely convincing himself that he’s “just another bull.”
“I don’t really think he is just another bull,” Moreno said. “He has so much power. He is not the same every time, but he has been lately kind of lazy acting in his outs, but I think he will really fire this time with the way I have been trying to get him ready for.”
Harris will be ready as well.
He just never imagined this would be the opportunity he would have.
Instead, the 27-year-old thought his only chance would be a rare Bushwacker appearance in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at an upcoming BFTS event during the stretch run of the 2014 season, which will be his last.
Ever since announcing Bushwacker’s pending retirement, he’s largely appeared in the 15/15 Bucking Battles broadcast on CBS network television.
As for his decision to double the bonus – should Harris make the whistle and, yes, the mathematical odds are against him – Berger concluded, “I wanted it to be big.
“This is the one chance, once in a lifetime, we are going to see Bushwacker in North Dakota,” Berger continued. “We have a ton of PBR fans. Just because of Berger Bucking Bulls and the long history we have here, we have a lot of bull fans, bucking bull fans, and I thought it would be just a great treat to have Bushwacker here and make it as a big as we possibly could.
“You can count on your couple of hands how many times anybody has had a chance to ride one bull for $100,000. To have it happen here at my own event is something I worked hard at getting and we got it done.”
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