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In the Bull Pen: World Finals

The World Finals is the PBR’s premier event, and the pen of bulls selected for it is the best group bulls assembled anywhere each year. Going back to the early days of the PBR, livestock director Cody Lambert has always worked to bring the best bulls possible to the Finals. The biggest difference between this year’s event and the first ten years of the World Finals is that the long round bulls are much closer to the short round level talent than they were in the early days. This week, we will see a lot of outstanding animal athletes in every round.

There are around 145 bulls set to go for the Finals. Forty of those are the ABBI Classic finalists, and the rest are bulls that Lambert selected to be here. They are divided up into groups.

“We’ll see the ABBI Classic bulls first on Wednesday night,” Lambert said. “Thursday will be the best 40 bulls here, and Friday will be the 40 next best bulls here. Saturday night will be the short round for the ABBI bulls. We don’t know exactly how many there will be, but it will roughly be the best 20 bulls from Round 1 along with a mix of bulls that haven’t gone yet. There could be anywhere from 12 to 20 ABBI bulls coming back, depending on whether they are good enough to place in the round on.

“Sunday we’ll have the fifth round and the short round,” Lambert continued. “That will be made up of the best bulls that have already gone once. The best 18 bulls here will go into the short round, three of them as rerides. The long round on Sunday will really be the best bulls of the finals that didn’t make the short round cut.”

It’s a big honor for a bull to be selected to appear at the World Finals, but for those bulls that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason, it’s not that much of an insult.

“There are a lot of bulls that are real close in ability,” Lambert said. “For every bull that’s here, there’s another bull out there that could be, but isn’t for one reason or another. I have to decide between a lot of bulls that are practically the same level. Sometimes it comes down to how long they’ve been ridden. If I’m looking at two bulls that are practically identical, and one of them hasn’t been ridden past 2 seconds, I’ll usually choose the one that has been ridden longer a few times because I feel he’s more proven. Some bulls get left home because they’re always bad in the chute, and we have live TV at the finals. We’re really lucky to have so many good bulls to choose from. It hasn’t always been this way.”

In the World Champion Bull race, we’ve got a unique situation this year. Bruiser is in the race, and he won’t be bucking in the same performances as the rest of the field. Most of the World Champion contenders will go on Thursday and Sunday. Bruiser will go on Wednesday and Saturday because he’s also gunning for the ABBI Classic championship.

“We haven’t had this happen before,” Lambert said. “This will be the first time a bull that’s still in the ABBI competition is also in the World Champion Bull race. For Bruiser, there’s a good and bad side to it. The World Champion Bull is determined by the judge’s markings at the Finals. Bruiser may stand out to the judges a little more than he would if he were in the pen with those other bulls, but he may not draw the best rider to show his stuff. All of the other contenders are likely to be in the short round and will have at least one shot with one of the best riders here. The race is pretty wide open this year compared to the last few years when it’s been basically two bulls with a shot. All of them have a chance this week”

Because this is “In the Bull Pen” The actual bull pens are worth mentioning. At the World Finals, it’s really a bull housing facility, and it is the best of its kind.

“The bulls have to stay here longer than they do at a normal event,” Lambert said. “It’s good for some of the bulls. Some of them may get a little lazy, but the way things are set up here, we have great accommodations for the bulls. They have exercise pens, plenty of shade and plenty of room, and we let their owners manage them. The stock contractors stay at the South Point, and the bulls are housed right outside the back door of the hotel. We require so much of our contractors through the year, that I think they deserve to manage their own bulls at the Finals. The stock for the National Finals Rodeo is handled by staff, and once a contractor drops them off, they have no further contact. The NFR staff is great, but they don’t know those animals like the people that live with them do.”

Follow Slade Long on Twitter @Probullstats

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