ARLINGTON, Texas ― PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert spends nearly as much time selecting bulls for the Iron Cowboy as he does for the World Finals each year.
The Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V is a unique event. With its head-to-head pairings, each match is essentially a pen of just two bulls and it is crucial that the bulls in each pairing be as even in performance and difficulty as possible. The smaller a set of bulls, the more important it becomes for the bulls in that set to be of an even quality. For this event, Lambert is tasked with creating 23 evenly matched sets of bulls.
“We’ve got 47 outs in the event,” Lambert said. “I start by selecting 65 or 70 bulls, and then I start matching them by degree of difficulty, how many points the rider would be if they ride them, and they have to be out of the same delivery. Because of the arena setup, we’ve got to jump from one set of chutes to the next for each two or four bulls, so if I’ve got a great right-hand delivery bull I’ve got to pair him with another great right-hand delivery bull. That eliminates a lot of the original 70 or so bulls. The ones that can’t be matched for one reason or another don’t go, or they will go as re-rides.”
Even the most critical analysis would be hard pressed to find any rider vs. rider matchup in the bracket where one rider has a draw advantage over another. In the middle of the bracket, Asteroid and Mick E Mouse are as evenly matched as two bulls can be and that parity extends out to the opening-round pairings as well.
“I feel like we’ve got it set up pretty well,” said Lambert. “There are other bulls that could have made it and didn’t, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with the ones we have. After Kansas City I changed one bull. I hadWhiskey’s Rebel in with Fat Max, and Whiskey’s Rebel had a poor trip in Kansas City. He was one of the rankest bulls at the Iron Cowboy last year, but from what we saw in Kansas City he wasn’t going to match-up well with Fat Max. I replaced him with Panda Trax, who had a less than perfect trip in St. Louis, but they bucked him the other day at a Touring Pro event in San Antonio, and he was better than ever. So I think he’s a better fit in that bracket.
At the end of the night, the Iron Cowboy winner – after facing a gauntlet of world-class bulls – will get a chance at riding Bushwacker with $1 million on the line.
“If a guy is fresh, his odds of riding Bushwacker are pretty slim,” said Lambert. I think the odds of J.B. Mauney riding him are probably 13-1 against, but for every other rider the odds are longer. So, it will not be easy. Bushwacker had a nice trip here two years ago, and J.B. nearly rode him. One bull… one rider… one night… anything can happen.”
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