TULSA, Okla. – Many things were not in SweetPro’s Long John’s favor Saturday night.
Not only was Long John competing at a lesser weight than stock contractor H.D. Page would prefer, but the ground conditions inside the BOK Center were less-than-ideal, and he was matched up against three-time World Champion Silvano Alves.
In the long run, none of it mattered.
Long John was able to leave the bucking chute during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with his stereotypically powerful bucking motion and spun to the left to dispatch Alves in 3.2 seconds.
The World Champion Bull contender was marked an event-best 45.5 points.
“He was really good,” Page said. “I was a little concerned about the dirt being loose. He likes to really push off and I was afraid it was going to break his game up with the dirt giving out from under him like it was, but he got along OK.
“Even with the loose ground, he still broke loose up and down strong. I have seen him be ranker, but I thought he was good.”
PBR Director of Livestock agreed that the dirt was an issue Saturday night, but he said it didn’t prevent Long John or the other World Champion Bull contenders Smooth Operator (45 points with a 3.42-second buckoff of Emilio Resende) and Jared Allen’s Air Time (44.5 points for a 1.59-second buckoff of Luis Blanco) from putting together good outs.
“I thought they all came through,” Lambert said. “The ground is not the best here. It is a little soft. It is a little loose and a little sandy, but you don’t really notice it with bulls like that.”
Page noted that unlike other professional athletes that can inspect their playing surfaces before competing, bucking bulls don’t get that luxury.
They are unable to test their footing or have a clue of what is waiting for them on the other side of the gate.
“They are just in the dark coming out,” Page said. “You have to take your hats off to those bulls the way they can respond to the conditions like they do.”
Long John has posted a bull score of 45 points or better in six of his last seven BFTS outs. He is 9-1 on the BFTS this season.
Page was a little surprised that Long John bucked as well as he did because of his slow recovery from a summer cut on his back right foot.
Page had originally planned to hold out Long John from Tulsa before deciding at the last minute to bring him to the event.
Long John has spent time at the vet this summer and has been on antibiotics, which caused him to lose some weight.
He was marked only 43.5 points at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event for his 2.47-second buckoff against Kasey Hayes.
“Our biggest deal is our breeding program and I have been trying to recreate some little Long Johns,” Page said. “It was a freak deal. He had a bad cut on his leg and we took him to the vet. Between the antibiotics and the cut on his leg. He just got weak and lost a lot of weight up at the vet. One thing or another I just didn’t think he would be 100 percent.”
He was still able to buck off Alves, which is normally no easy task.
“Silvano picked him, but you could tell by the way he didn’t nod his head that he didn’t really want him,” Lambert said. “He gave it a decent effort, but he didn’t give it his best effort. It was just a pretty good day for Long John. It wasn’t a spectacular day, but it wasn’t a bad day either.”
Alves was put on the chute clock and didn’t nod his head until around the 10-second mark.
The 28-year-old admitted his confidence was not where it should have been Saturday night.
Alves has returned from his left hip surgery and had only gone 1-for-3, bucking off bulls he normally would cover.
Alves had also yet to face a bull of Long John’s caliber since the injury. Therefore, he lost his focus when the bovine athlete turned left and began to pressure his left hip.
“I like this bull. I think with another chance to pick him, I’ll pick him,” Alves said. “I had no confidence in my leg. In a long time I haven’t ridden the best bulls. There is a good chance he wins World Champion.”
Alves had previously said this weekend that he was confident in his hip.
When asked to further elaborate, Alves explained it was the caliber of the bull that made him a little hesitant.
“Yes, I have a little confidence, but I was still worried just a little bit,” he said.
Alves explained he isn’t intimidated by Long John and compared him to the bigger-style bulls he was accustomed to facing in Brazil.
“I like that bull because he is big like a Brazilian bull,” Alves said. “I just need to ride more bulls and keep adding to my confidence. Then I will be perfect.”
Alves had ridden Corpus Red in the second round for 84.5 points.
CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart said he thought judges got the bull scores right, but believed Smooth Operator looked the toughest to ride.
In terms of Alves, Hart said the defending World Champion looks to be slowly working his way back into form.
“He came back in the second round and looked good on his bull,” Hart said. “I thought he looked pretty good on Long John up until about the 3-second mark. Once it got past that, he kind of fell apart. I think he is starting to come around.”
Long John’s pursuit of qualifying as an official World Champion Bull contender will be on hold until Thackerville, Oklahoma, next month.
Page wants to give his bull a rest and let him gain some more weight for the final month of the regular season.
“I am going to take him home,” Page concluded. “He needs a little time. Hopefully by then we will have him on his game and he will be ready to go.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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