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In the Bull Pen: Nampa

Two weeks ago in Seattle, the bull riders had a decent event. Overall they rode slightly fewer than the average number of bulls, but in the short go they came to life and rode eight of 15 — the most qualified rides in a short round this season. They rode eight in the short round in New York as well.

They will face a lot of the same bulls in Nampa, Idaho, but with some upgrades. PBR livestock director Cody Lambert was able to call in a few contractors we didn’t see two weeks ago.

“We’ve upgraded with the Pages, Gene Owen, and Kevin Loudamy,” Lambert said. “So it will be like Seattle, but quite a bit tougher. The short round in Nampa will look a lot like the short round in Seattle, but the 15/15 round in Nampa will be as tough as the short round at the Finals. With Mick E. Mouse, Smooth Operator, and Long John, I think we’ve got the top three bulls in the PBR right now.”

Chad Berger’s Smooth Operator was the top bull in Seattle, and according to Lambert, he may be the frontrunner for World Champion Bull, at least for the moment.

“I think Smooth Operator has taken the lead,” Lambert said. “He had J.W. Harris two days in a row in Seattle, and if Harris isn’t the best bull rider going right now, he’s as good as the guy who is. He’s not intimidated by bulls, and was wanting to get on him, did it two days in a row, and didn’t get too far. That really makes a statement. J.W. Harris isn’t afraid to step up, and he isn’t picking those ranker bulls just to get attention. He plans on riding them. He’s a tough test for any bull, and Smooth Operator passed the test. J.W.’s the last guy who’s been on Mick E. Mouse and Smooth Operator. Those are the two best bulls right now. They’re both unridden. I figure they’ll both get ridden before the year is out, but I was a lot surer about that before the last couple of events.”

It’s pretty common to see riders coming back off an injury, but this week we’ll see a bull coming back after nearly a year off with a foot issue. Chocolate Thunder has been on the highlight reel a number of times during the past five years, but he’s been sidelined since last summer.

“He had a real foot problem at the end of last year,” Lambert said. “We took him to the finals, but when he got there his foot was giving him trouble, so he didn’t get to buck. They feel like they’ve got him healthy now, and he’s ready to come back, so we’ve got him in the 15/15 round which is where he belongs. I don’t believe he’s bucked at all since the foot issue, so this will be his first trip.”

H.D. Page’s Stone Sober will go in the 15/15 round in Nampa. He has been one of the more spectacularly athletic bulls in the PBR for some time. He’s clearly a special talent, but he tends to misfire now and then, and he’s not one of Lambert’s favorites.

“Stone Sober has the ability to get way up in the air, and he’s really strong and athletic,” Lambert said. “They can stop the video on him and see something pretty special with him, the things he’s capable of. My opinion of him is that he’s phony and he’ll cheap shot you. He’s got all that blow and he’ll leap in the air, but he won’t break over and kick like he should. He’s a mean bull, and he’s pretty smart, but when they open the gate he just goes haywire a lot of times. I’d like to see him be a little more controlled in what he does.”

Along with Stone Sober, Mick E. Mouse and Smooth Operator, we’ll see Long John, Beaver Creek Beau, Boot Jack, Brown Sugar, and a host of other top bulls in the 15/15 round in Nampa.

Follow Slade Long on Twitter @Probullstats

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