BILOXI, Miss. – J.W. Harris sat against the wall in the PBR sports medicine room at Mississippi Coast Coliseum with a bag of ice on his ribs.
Harris had just been been stepped on by Little Red Jacket during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round and nearly had his head slammed into the Priefert bucking chute pole.
Little Red Jacket was the latest World Champion Bull contender to test Harris, and Gene Owen’s bull walked away with a 45.25-point bull score.
Harris was caught out of position from the get-go despite Little Red Jacket leaving the gate and turning into his hand.
“He bucked,” Harris said. “He hopped and skipped. He kept getting my feet the whole time and I never could get him back down.”
Harris has been bucked off by other World Champion Bull contenders Mick E Mouse (Anaheim, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico), Smooth Operator (two times in Seattle), Bruiser (Oklahoma City) and Percolator (Colorado Springs, Colorado) this season.
Percolator, who J.B. Mauney rode for 92 points to win the Battle at the Beau, tied with Little Red Jacket for the high-marked bull title.
Harris believes Little Red Jacket may be on his way up the ladder of contenders after getting his first taste of the animal athlete, especially when factoring in Little Red Jacket’s 46.5-point outing or his 4-second buckoff of Mauney at Last Cowboy Standing.
“I think he is getting close,” Harris said. “With what he did at the Last Cowboy Standing in Vegas and tonight, he is starting to figure out what he wants to do and he sure is bucking hard.”
Little Red Jacket will likely need to score higher at the Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas on Oct. 21-25 to have a chance at claiming the 2015 world title, but in a year where the field is wide open, especially with Mick E Mouse’s setback in his recovery, you never know what can happen.
Owen expects Little Red Jacket to be a strong contender at World Finals and thinks his bull can compete alongside the likes of Mick E Mouse, SweetPro’s Long John and Smooth Operator.
“I don’t think he is dark horse at all,” Owen said. “I think he is making a run for it. I am just so thankful. I have had a few thousand bulls in my life and he is obviously the best one.”
It was Little Red Jacket’s first out since bucking off Mauney in Las Vegas and Owen rested his bull during the BFTS summer break.
Little Red Jacket has bucked off four consecutive riders and is averaging 44.28 points per out. Overall, he is 5-4 this season.
“He was a little rider friendly early in the year and he has it figured out,” Owen said. “He is not a day off no more.”
CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart said needs to see more from Little Red Jacket to put him in the top echelon of World Champion Bull contenders.
“I thought Percolator was Percolator and I thought Little Red Jacket was a little hopskotchy,” he said. “He was kind of hesitating and kicking. It is what it is. I don’t think he is Top 5 bull, I think he is Top 10.”
Almost a year ago, Owen decided to end Little Red Jacket’s season after Gage Gay rode the bull for 84.5 points in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Little Red Jacket was marked a career-low 41.5 points.
“We laid him off for three or four months and he has just been on and got better every time since,” Owen said.
Percolator has been a workhorse on the BFTS and he is one of the most popular bulls in the locker room.
The last three riders to ride Percolator have been rewarded with a round victory.
Joao Ricardo Vieria rode him for 90.75 points at Last Cowboy Standing and Mike Lee won the 15/15 Bucking Battle in St. Louis with a 92-point ride.
“Man, I tell you what. I am really proud,” stock contractor Jeff Robinson said. “He came and people just thought he was nothing. It takes a lot and only the top guys in the world ride him, and when they do they win the bull riding.”
Percolator has been marked 45 points or higher in seven of his last eight BFTS outs and he has shown a steady consistency among the World Champion Bull contenders.
“He shouldn’t win it, but if any of those others make a mistake he will be right there,” Robinson said.
Percolator has been ridden for 90 or more points in six of the 13 times in he has been ridden in 35 career BFTS outs.
Mauney said whenever he is coming back first in the championship round he is looking for Percolator.
“Anytime he is in there I am going to pick him,” Mauney said. “I like the way he bucks. He is a bigger bull. He is not small. He is big and leaps way up in the air and has a lot of timing to him. If you do your job and you ride him you are going to be in the 90s on him every time. I wish they had bulls like that every time. It would make my job a lot easier.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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