By: Slade Long August 15, 2014@ 09:00:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. — The PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series 2014 campaign resumes Friday after a hiatus of a little more three months. Many of the riders and bulls have been busy over the summer with events in four different countries. The riders headed to Tulsa may or may not have been keeping their skill set sharp over the summer, but if they were planning on easing back into bull riding at the highest level, they are in for a rude awakening. The set of bulls that PBR livestock director Cody Lambert has put together for Tulsa may be the strongest set of bulls we will see all year at a regular BFTS event.
“It’s the time of year, and the location more than anything,” Lambert said. “Every contractor is itching to get their bulls out there right now, and Tulsa is centrally located to a lot of stock contractors. The first night is an ABBI Classic round. Those young bulls have been tough top to bottom, and there’s a handful in there that are short round quality. Round 2 on Saturday night is full of bulls we normally see in short rounds, and the short round in Tulsa is full of World Champion contenders.”
Several contractors are leaving PBR Finals caliber bulls at home because there is no room for them in Tulsa.
“There are 200-300 bulls in North America that are good enough to go to the PBR World Finals, and only about 55 slots at Tulsa besides the Classic bulls,” Lambert said. “So every bull going to Tulsa is really being considered for the Finals, and we’ve pretty much got the best of the best here. Thackerville and Nashville will be pretty strong too, but outside of those events you won’t see this strong a set of bulls until the Finals in October. It’s actually harder to get a bull to Tulsa than it is to get one to the Finals.”
Historically, Tulsa has been one of the toughest BFTS events for riders each year. BFTS level riders stay on 39 percent of their bulls on average, but in Tulsa, that number has been in the 20s for six straight years. In fact, 2008 was the last time riders covered more than 30 percent of the bulls in Tulsa, and that was an epic event featuring 11 90-point rides.
“The bulls are really better now top to bottom than they’ve ever been,” Lambert said. “So it’s a different situation than it was years ago. But, until the riders decide that it’s unacceptable, we’ll continue to see events where riding percentages are low. It’s on them. What’s so great about this sport is that as a rider, you control your own destiny. There aren’t many jobs like that around, even in other sports. When you make a successful ride, it’s all you. If you’ve had a support system, and lots of encouragement and grooming along the way, that’s great, but it all stops when the gate opens. It’s up to you to do the job from there. The flip side of that is that when you fail, it’s also you. It’s really up to the riders themselves to step up, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so.”
The short round in Tulsa will feature the best bulls going right now in the PBR with a couple of exceptions. Jeff Robinson’s Rango is on the set of a movie in North Carolina, and Shepherd Hills Tested is absent from the lineup. Every other bull you could think of that might have an outside shot at World Champion bull will be there. Asteroid, Mick E. Mouse, Air Time, Fire & Smoke and others will all share the spotlight with current World Champion Bull Bushwacker.
“Bushwacker had a few great trips over the summer break,” Lambert said. “The great thing about it was he went up against World Champions every time he was out. It was good for Bushwacker, because he needs to be challenged. He doesn’t normally have to be at his best to get guys on the ground, and he can get complacent at times. But when he faces guys who are really going at him, you can see him kick it up to the next level, and you see him do it time and time again. That’s what makes him the best.”
Mick E. Mouse will return to BFTS action for the first time since March. He suffered a minor hip injury at the Iron Cowboy, and just recently returned to action at a Touring Pro event in late July. Lambert expects him to be back to form, and to be a big challenge to any rider who draws him.
“He’s still unridden,” said Lambert. He’s been to the World Finals a couple of times now, he’s faced a lot of good riders, and still no one has ridden him. That’s saying a lot. He was injured once before, when he was young, and came back better than ever. I expect him to be just as good as he was early this season.”
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