PUEBLO, Colo. – With six days remaining until the beginning of Last Cowboy Standing, the feature event of Cowboy Spring Break, PBR.com takes a look back at the past five outdoor Built Ford Tough Series events.
The rise of Triplett (Huntington Beach, California, 2014)
It is very easy to think of Matt Triplett’s evolution from young bull rider to World Championship contender beginning to take form at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals when the then 21-year-old rode Walk Off for 92 points to win Round 2.
It would be Triplett’s second of three qualified rides as the Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider went on to finish third in the final world standings.
However, four days earlier, Triplett put together a confidence-building performance during the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach 15/15 Bucking Battle in Huntington Beach, California.
Triplett won his first 15/15 Bucking Battle by riding Oklahoma Bell for 87 points just a few feet away from the Pacific Ocean in one of the most picturesque settings the PBR has ever held a BFTS or 15/15 Bucking Battle at.
At the time, it was the sixth-ranked bull rider’s fifth consecutive qualified ride.
“Coming to a 15/15 Bucking Battle where they have the best bulls in the world competing and being able to stand on one and ride with confidence and land on my feet is a big boost,” Triplett said.
Triplett is currently the No. 2 bull rider in the world and trails world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 170 points heading into Last Cowboy Standing.
A gassed Lee is left panting on the pavement (Laughlin, Nevada, 2014)
There was no bull rider better than Mike Lee when it came to outdoor BFTS events last season.
In Laughlin, Nevada, the 2004 World Champion was plastered to the pavement just beyond the out gate following his 87.25-point ride on Meat Hook in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Despite sweat rolling down his face and a lack of oxygen from his lap around the sandpit arena, Lee felt perfectly at ease under the nighttime Nevada skyline that brought no relief from the 90-degree heat wave.
He had ridden Flint for 86.5 points to win Round 1.
Lee, who was the fifth-ranked bull rider in the world standings at the time, finished 3-for-3 at the Laughlin Events Center to get within 357.19 points of the world lead. It was also his second win of the season, giving him two or more victories for the first time since 2008.
Yet, none of that mattered much to the Decatur, Texas, cowboy.
He simply just enjoyed riding outdoors in a setting that made him easily forget about all of the CBS Sports Network cameras and the pressure of trying to chase after a second world title.
Lee will head to Last Cowboy Standing ranked 14th in the world standings. He has ridden 8-of-14 (57.14 percent) in the last five outdoor BFTS events.
The master of the outdoors (Thackerville, Oklahoma, 2014)
Even before Lee won the Desert Showdown in Laughlin, the 31-year-old bull rider had cemented himself as a master of the outdoors last season.
Lee won four Touring Pro Division summer events before taking home his first of two BFTS victories in 2014 by going 3-for-3 at the WinStar World Casino and Resort outdoor arena in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
“I love the outdoors,” Lee added. “The bulls are a little longer outdoors. They seem to cover a little bit more ground.”
One of the loudest moments of the event came while Lee was making his celebratory lap following an 86-point ride on Red Dingo in the second round.
Lee, who lives a little over an hour from Thackerville, saluted the crowd by pounding on his helmet with his two fists and throwing his hands high into the air.
The fan favorite rode the previously unridden Jet Airliner for 85.25 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round for the eventual victory.
“It really just depends what’s in your mind and what is on your spirit,” he said. “You can be real rattled if you let it be. I was just trying to think of breathing right and breathing when I was riding.”
One step along Mauney’s historic run (Thackerville, Oklahoma, 2013)
During his historic comeback for the 2013 world title, J.B. Mauney won five of the final nine regular-season BFTS events.
Mauney won the WinStar World Casino Invitational for his second of those five victories by riding Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack for 91.5 points during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy was the only rider to go 3-for-3 in the event.
“What I’m trying to focus on now is being more consistent ― riding every bull I get on and doing what I show up to do, and that’s win,” Mauney told PBR.com.”
It was one of four second-half events in which he was perfect in the arena.
“I’ve always showed up with the mindset that there’s not bull here that can throw me off.”
Mauney made a similar comment this season and added that when he loses that mentality, “You will never see me again.”
As of late, Mauney hasn’t lost his confidence and the 28-year-old has ridden five of his last eight to rise to fourth in the world standings.
He will head into Last Cowboy Standing 682.5 points behind Vieira, and a victory at the second PBR Major of the season could possibly make him the No. 1 bull rider heading into the summer break.
Stewart’s first BFTS victory (Thackerville, Oklahoma, 2012)
Harve Stewart still views his 90.5-point ride on Meat Hook in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in 2012 as his most memorable moment of his BFTS career.
The ride capped off Stewart’s 4-for-4 performance that helped the Stephenville, Texas, bull rider earn his first career win.
“It was my first BFTS event win. I had gotten close quite a bit, finishing second and stuff like that, but I’d never won one,” Stewart said. “It came down to the last two guys (Caleb Sanderson), and I stayed on mine. It was kind of a cool pressure situation – and to come out on top is something I will always remember.”
The win helped Stewart also move into the Top 10 of the world standings for the first time in his career.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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