ALLENTOWN, Pa. – It may not be too noticeable, and it certainly hasn’t been that visible in the arena, but Little Red Jacket’s right horn is four inches shorter than it was earlier this season.
The week before the Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout last month, stock contractor Gene Owen had taken Little Red Jacket to a local veterinarian in Oklahoma after withdrawing the World Champion Bull contender from the BFTS event in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Something just didn’t appear quite right with Little Red Jacket, so Owen decided to hold him out of Tulsa.
It was eventually learned that Little Red Jacket had a small infection in his horn, leading to the procedure to remove a portion of the horn.
The procedure didn’t affect him negatively though, and Little Red Jacket responded with a 45.5-point outing against Cody Nance (2.64 seconds) during the Second Chance Bracket in Nashville.
“He didn’t beat (I’m A) Gangster (Too), but he beat Smooth Operator and Air Time, and he wasn’t 100 percent,” Owen said. “I think he is now.”
Little Red Jacket will get another opportunity to showcase his World Champion Bull potential on national television during this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle on CBS. The Battle takes place Friday night following Round 1 at the PPL Center, but it can be seen Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
He also will get a rematch with Nance.
“Well, he is doing really good,” Owen said Thursday during his drive to Allentown. “He has Cody here and he had Cody a few weeks ago and had no trouble with Cody.”
Nance doesn’t remember exactly what got him so out of shape so fast in Nashville, but he remembers part of the problem.
“He backed up and I went forward, which caused my hand to roll out of my rope or the rope to roll out of my hand,” said the No. 14 ranked bull rider in the world.
This weekend will be one final tune-up for Little Red Jacket before next month’s Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.
Owen had originally planned on resting his star bovine following the BFTS event in Springfield, Missouri, two weeks ago, but he decided to bring his bull when PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert asked if he would be willing to buck him in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Little Red Jacket is highlighting this week’s pen alongside fellow World Champion Bull contender Smooth Operator, who will face Shane Proctor.
“The more I thought about it. He would have been sitting at the house for six weeks, if we didn’t go,” Owen said. “It don’t hurt him to. It is good to try and keep him in that routine of going, plus the people see him and the judges see him. If they don’t see him in two months, they can kind of forget him.”
Owen would especially hope to forget Little Red Jacket’s last out in Springfield.
Little Red Jacket was only marked 43.5 points for a 2.62-second buckoff of Gage Gay. The score put an end to Little Red Jacket’s run of three consecutive 45-point or higher outs.
Owen reviewed the footage of Little Red Jacket’s out when he got home from Springfield.
“I was disappointed first of all with the score,” Owen said. “Except for the very first jump of getting clear of the chute, he had done the same thing he does.”
Upon further review of the out, Owen noticed that Little Red Jacket failed to get out of the chute cleanly with his left horn. Owen said it wasn’t anyone’s fault, “those things happen,” and that he thinks Little Red Jacket may have performed a little better if not for his initial start.
The World Champion Bull race is so tight this year that those little hiccups could prove costly in Las Vegas.
Therefore, Owen hopes Nance can give his bull a good chance in Allentown and let the judge’s get one last look at Little Red Jacket before the Finals.
“Gage, this is another deal, but (it is) nobody’s fault, hurt him by the way he got bucked off. He just falls off in there instead of riding him jump for jump and getting bucked off.”
Gay said, “He’s just really smart. When I got on him in Springfield, I beat him out of the bucking chute a little bit so when he started spinning into my hand he hesitated real bad to drop me off in the well.”
Little Red Jacket has bucked off seven consecutive BFTS riders in less than 5 seconds. In 11 BFTS outs, Little Red Jacket is averaging 44.32 points per out this year.
“Little Red Jacket has lots of speed and lots of kick,” Lambert said earlier this month. “He spins to the right most of the time. He doesn’t have the drop that Long John has, but he has the most kick out of any of these top bulls and is the fastest one.”
Owen credited Little Red Jacket for fighting through an early stretch this season that saw him ridden in four consecutive outs where he was marked in the 43-point range each time.
In fact, six of his outs this year came against riders currently ranked in the Top 10 of the world standings.
Little Red Jacket has seemingly been going to battle against the PBR’s best since he first started bucking. His first professional out came against three-time World Champion Silvano Alves (86 points) at a Hico, Texas, Touring Pro Division event, and his BFTS debut came against Valdiron de Oliveira (85.5 points) at the 2013 Fayetteville, North Carolina, BFTS event.
“He had a tough little childhood, I guess,” Owen said. “They took him to a few (Touring Pros) as a 3-year- old and he had Silvano and Valdiron. He didn’t have a good chance.”
Those chances have since transformed into better odds for Little Red Jacket.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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