By: Justin Felisko
January 28, 2017
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger can’t put their fingers on what exactly it is, but so far Marchi has been the only rider in four years to make the 8-second mark on Smooth Operator.
Smooth Operator has been dominant against everyone else other than Marchi. The 7-year-old is 32-2 on the Built Ford Tough Series and 48-2 overall.
Riders not named Guilherme Marchi last an average of 2.9 seconds against Smooth Operator.
“Well, I can’t really put a finger on that,” reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said. “Guilherme had him on a soft day and rode him. I don’t know. You are asking the wrong guy. My tongue is tied because I just can’t figure it out. Smooth Operator is still getting them on the ground. He has a little shoulder roll in there and kind of gets them guys off.”
Marchi is 2-1 in three matchups against Smooth Operator and the two are set to meet again Saturday night during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
“Maybe I am lucky when I get on him and ride him,” Marchi said. “The two times I rode him. I remember the first time I rode him, he was a little trashy. The second time, at the PBR Finals, he had a very, very good trip. He was clean and right there to the right. He was getting better and better and strong.”
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle exclusively on CBS national television Sunday at noon ET.
Smooth Operator has been able to dismantle all of his other challengers, including many of the PBR’s top riders.
2004 World Champion Mike Lee has been bucked off twice by Smooth Operator, while 22-year-old sensation Kaique Pacheco has failed to make the 8-second mark in three matchups.
“I am proud of myself because he is a tough bull and no one has rode him,” Marchi said. “He is one of the contenders to be a bull of the year and he is strong. He moves forward. I am very proud of myself. I get on him three times and I cover two times. I hope to do the same tonight.”
2017 is Smooth Operator’s first full season since he missed the first half of 2016 because of a lower back/pelvis injury.
Smooth Operator is 2-0 this year with buckoffs of Mason Lowe (1.24 seconds) and Luis Blanco (2.02 seconds).
“I saw a couple trips of him and he is not the same every time,” Marchi said. “He bucks different. He rolls his back and can go either way. Like with Luis Blanco last week, he rolled and went to the right. I know I have my hands full today. I wish I can cover him.”
Berger’s former World Champion Bull contender was not 100 percent when Marchi first rode Smooth Operator for 83.5 points at the 2015 BFTS event in Billings, Montana.
Smooth Operator then bucked off Marchi in 4.04 seconds at the 2015 World Finals.
Last year, however, Marchi’s best ride at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals was an 89.5-point effort against a healthy Smooth Operator.
“After that, people can say nothing,” Marchi said. “The bull had a good trip too and they marked me high. I hope everything goes clean today and he does the same with me that he did at the Finals. One jump and to the right. It is good because he is so strong. I will try my best to get my job done. I am happy because I rode that bull.”
Slade Long of ProBullstats.com wrote this morning, “The key factor with this bull is how he starts out. He has a big move where he fakes to the left and comes back to the right in about three jumps, covering 20 feet per jump. He didn’t pull this on Marchi either time Marchi rode him, and this match basically boils down to whether Smooth Operator does it this time. He’s almost unrideable when he does, but if he just goes to the right straightaway, Marchi has proven he can handle that.”
Berger understands Smooth Operator isn’t the same bull that he once was, but he is still proud of what his bull has accomplished since returning to competition last summer.
Smooth Operator is 9-1 at the BFTS level since last year.
“From when I first got him, he is not the same bull,” Berger said. “He hurt himself real bad. He is a pretty smart bull. He won’t extend himself like he did then so he won’t hurt himself. He is about a point off from where he was. When he first came around with J.W. Harris and those two trips, there was no ranker bull around. He was the man. He is off his game from there.
“I believe he is still a championship-round caliber bull. He has figured out how to win without straining himself. I am still glad I have him.”
Smooth Operator has a career average BFTS bull score of 43.96 points per out.
“Guilherme can ride any bull,” Berger said. “If Smooth Operator has his day, he can be victorious. Either way I will be happy.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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