Since the new season started, the new points system put in place has sparked a lot of discussion. It’s not a complicated system. In each Built Ford Tough Series long round, there are 280 points up for grabs, and they are paid to the five highest scores. There are 1,085 points in the average at each event, and they are paid to the 10 highest overall scores. Except for the fact that points are not money, this is pretty much how every contestant in every rodeo event in history has earned his pay. It is possible to make a qualified ride and not earn points. In the old days of rodeo, most qualified rides did not earn money. We’ve seen some guys this year make the whistle several times and don’t have much to show for it.
But, bull riding today is a much more level playing field than it has ever been. The main reason for this is the strength of the bull pens top to bottom. In the days of old, it was possible for a rider to go nearly broke trying to get to enough rodeos where he could draw a bull he could win money on, because the majority of the bulls were too weak. In the first three events of this season, we’ve seen the weaker end of what we will typically see at BFTS- level events, and we’ve seen a higher-than-average number of qualified rides, but in week four that will all change. Oklahoma City is located in the heart of bucking bull country, and the pen of bulls will be the strongest we’ve seen all year. It’s a three-day event, with three long rounds and a short round, so riders who have not been drawing that well definitely will get an opportunity here. Where the bulls are the strongest, the best riders have an easier path to the top.
PBR livestock director Cody Lambert was in Denver last week prior to the event in New York, and he was looking at a lot of the bulls we’ll see in Oklahoma City. D&H Bucking Bulls will be on hand, and when they come, they can bring a truck load of great bulls.
“I think we’ll see an upgraded set of bulls here,” Lambert said. “The bulls were decent in New York, but this will be way better. The weather is fine here, it’s not too cold, and it won’t be hard on the bulls. Logistically, every event that’s in the Texas or Oklahoma area is easier to get bulls to. Every year the same events usually have the best bulls. Here, Tulsa, Arlington, Albuquerque, and even St. Louis – because they are close to where so many good bulls live, those events benefit from that, and the riders benefit from it too. If a guy steps up and rides all four this week, he’ll get his points.”
Round 1 in Oklahoma City will be an ABBI Classic round consisting of up-and-coming 3- and 4-year-old bulls. These rounds have been buffed over the years. Last season, the riders didn’t do very well against the Classic bulls at the events that hosted an ABBI Classic. We saw some of these bulls occasionally last year, and one stands out. H.D. Page’s Bruiser, who was just 3 years old in 2014, was all over the highlight reel last season, and he’s back competing in the Classics again this year.
“This time of year, I don’t know a lot of the younger bulls,” Lambert said. “I’ll see more of them as the year goes on. Bruiser is the one that stands out obviously. He has to be considered the front runner in these Classics until we see what else comes along.”
The Pages are also bringing the high-marked bull from the PBR Finals —Long John. He’s considered a legitimate contender for World Champion bull this year.
“I don’t have any question about him,” Lambert said. “He’s going to be really good this year. I did get to see him in Denver last week. Nathan Schaper had him, and really tried him. He rode him 5 or 6 seconds, and you could see Long John has still got it. “
Marlene Henry’s Mick E. Mouse will be in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Oklahoma City, and he’s coming in to this season on a 33-out unridden streak, 28 of those at the BFTS level.
“Mick E. Mouse has never been ridden,” Lambert said. “I’m sure that will change if he stays around long enough. It’s hard for a bull to stay unridden, especially when they have one of the best riders in the world on them every time. I expect him to be fresh and ready to go, and he can be a handful.”
Another bull who had never been ridden, was ridden last week. The Pages’ Margy Time was 29-0 until he ran into Cody Nance in Denver, who broke the ice on him. He’ll be moving up to the championship round in Oklahoma City, after competing at the ABBI Classics last season.
“Cody Nance made a heck of a ride on him,” Lambert said. “At one point, the bull hit him in the face mask, and his hat went flying. One of the judges stopped the clock for a foul, but then reversed the call. He didn’t touch the bull with anything but his face, which won’t disqualify you. He was only 87 points, and he didn’t get a high enough score in my opinion.”
We’ll also get a chance to see veteran bulls David’s Dream and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey for the first time this season, along with Honey Hush and Palm Springs — all bulls that have been regulars on tour.
Follow Slade Long on Twitter @Probullstats
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