By: Justin Felisko
June 04, 2016
DECATUR, Texas – Standing directly across from Jared Allen’s Air Time on Friday night was 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John in his own separate pen.
The defending champion bovine had his rear end pointed at Air Time, while the white spotted bull responded by refusing to turn around and even recognize his recent rival.
Air Time stared off into the other direction, not worried one bit about Long John, and Long John didn’t seem too thrilled about playing second fiddle to Air Time for Saturday’s J.W. Hart’s PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event.
Both bulls will play major roles in the Young Guns Challenge at Wise County Fairgrounds. Air Time carries a $50,000 bounty for the winner of the five-man bonus round, and Long John is taking on Derek Kolbaba in the bonus round.
The event can be seen exclusively on PBR LIVE at 8:50 p.m. ET.
Air Time and Long John’s performance in Decatur this weekend won’t count toward their official bull scores in the race to earn one of the seven World Champion Bull qualifying spots, but it will be another showdown between the two.
In fact, Saturday will be only the second time this season the two bovine athletes will be competing in the same event.
Air Time and Long John own four of the Top-5 bull scores on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2016.
Stock contractor H.D. Page knows in the grand scheme of things this weekend will mean very little toward the World Championship. It will all come down to the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6 in Las Vegas.
“They are all great bulls and they all have a great shot at it,” Page said. “It all comes down to what they do in Vegas. Those two trips. Your rider draw has a lot to do with it, the judges, there is too many variables to say this is the best one now. I like them all.”
Long John already has his matchup set unlike Air Time, who will have to wait and see which young gun – Cooper Davis, Derek Kolbaba, Jess Lockwood, Jorge Valdiviezo or Kurt Shephard – will win the bonus round.
Kolbaba went out and challenged the reigning World Champion Bull for a showdown in Texas. Page loves the confidence, but he knows Kolbaba will have his hands full.
Long John has only been ridden nine times in 58 outs at all levels of competition. Only five riders have covered Long John on the Built Ford Tough Series, and Long John is a masterful 27-7 on the BFTS.
The D&H Cattle Company stalwart is averaging a career-high 45.5 points this season and is 5-1. He has bucked off five riders in a row since two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney rode him for 90.25 points in Oklahoma City.
Unlike the majority of bulls that can eventually settle into a spin, Long John does the bulk of his damage with more of a north-south bucking style, says Page.
“(Kolbaba) is left-handed which is to his advantage,” Page said. “He just has to ride him like he is going straight. That is where a lot of guys make a mistake. They get on a lot of bulls that turn, and when they turn they level out and kind of start riding the spin (rather) than riding the jump and kick. On him, you have to ride the jump and kick first. You have to stand up and make the rear and get behind his kick.
“If you do that, you are going to have a chance on him.”
Another factor potentially in Kolbaba’s favor is that Long John will not be competing in prime shape. D&H Cattle Company has had Long John and SweetPro’s Bruiser breeding with cows in recent weeks and the two bulls have lost some weight during the process.
Bruiser is slated to face Lockwood in the Young Guns Challenge.
“They are both a little thin,” Page said. “They have been on some cows and I just got them off this week.”
Air Time holds the top two bull scores on the BFTS this year, but Long John and SweetPro’s Bruiser then own the next four scores.
Page added, “(Long John) needs about three weeks of R&R before he goes somewhere, and I wasn’t planning on bringing him here. J.W. called the other day and I said, ‘OK I would bring him.’ I don’t think he is in prime shape by any means, but things don’t have to be perfect for them good ones to perform at a high level. Them great bulls are kind of idiot proof. As much as we try and get in their way, they still buck hard.”
The former bull rider turned stock contractor is a fan of the mentality that Kolbaba and Lockwood brought to the Young Guns Challenge. Page loves that the 20-year-old and 18-year-old wanted a chance at two of the top 2016 World Champion Bull contenders.
“I can remember being where those boys are as far as wanting to get on the best ones,” Page said. “I used to crave to get on the best ones. That was always the American way when I grew up. You wanted to get on the best ones there was. It didn’t matter if it was a $1,000 rodeo or if you had a shot to get on the bucking bull of the year in the practice pen. You would do it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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