By: Justin Felisko
May 24, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Stock contractor Gene Owen knew he had to do something unique if the first Touring Pro Division event in Vinita, Oklahoma, in nine years was going to be anything special.
He needed a strong enough hook that would generate excitement like never before in the three previous TPD events held in Vinita.
So what did he do?
Well, he decided six months in advance to go out and offer two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney a chance at winning $25,000.
Owen and his business partner Jimmy Roth approached Mauney during the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden in New York this past January with a $25,000 challenge for the June 4 Vinita, Oklahoma, TPD event against one of their bulls.
Mauney graciously accepted with a handshake agreement, only knowing that Owen would keep his word and give him an honest opponent.
Owen did just that and Mauney will get a rematch against Wicked – the same bull he already won $7,500 on with an 89-point ride at the Kansas City, Missouri, 15/15 Bucking Battle this past February.
“Well I couldn’t turn that down,” Mauney said. “$25,000 on a bull I rode before? I’m in.”
Wicked is 52-8 at all levels of competition, including a 26-7 record on the Built Ford Tough Series, but Mauney showed in Kansas City he could handle whatever Wicked throws at him.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy was able to stay atop Wicked despite Owen’s bovine athlete stumbling out of the gate away from Mauney’s hand and then whipping toward the right side of the arena.
“I think at any given day Wicked can possibly win and most given days J.B. is going to win,” Owen said. “I am an old bull rider. I love to see a great bull ride. If Jimmy is going to have to give him $25,000, I want to see a good bull ride. Believe me, the flank will be right. I will make sure he bucks as hard as he can. I wouldn’t cheat the deal at all to let him ride. I want him to buck and for him to have his best trip he has ever had and for J.B. to stick it on him for 90-plus.”
Mauney is currently second in the world standings and is only 72.83 points behind current world leader Kaique Pacheco.
The 29-year-old remembers how wild Wicked was in Kansas City, but he believes that as long as he does his job it should all work out again.
“He bucks,” Mauney added. “There is no telling what he is going to do. He can go either way. He is going to be electric and moving the whole time, but I guess if you stay in the right place he rides pretty good.”
Even Owen knows Wicked will need a career-out if there is any chance of Mauney bucking off in two weeks.
“He has to have his very best day,” Owen said. “J.B. is just that good. Our advantage is the bull goes to the right most of the time. There really isn’t an advantage with J.B. Nothing is an advantage. He has rode him to the right, but he did go to the left the other day. He has to ride him jump for jump. He may make a few rounds one way and go the other way. He is a little unpredictable. Seven out of 10 times he is going right and J.B. has rode him that way. All we can do is the best we can do and hope for a good outcome for one or the other.”
Owen and Roth didn’t want to invite Mauney to Vinita just to see him get bucked off. They understand the Oklahoma faithful want to see Mauney reach the 8-second mark.
“That is what everybody is coming to see, a good bull ride,” Roth said. “No one is coming to see him buck off. It is going to be good.”
Owen and Roth are thankful Mauney kept his word to come to Vinita despite the agreement being made so early in the season.
“J.B. is a man of integrity,” Owen said. “He made a commitment and it would really have hurt our event (if he would have backed out).”
Mauney added, “Some other guys called me about that same weekend wanting me to come to their events and I said, ‘No I shook hands on it so that is where I am going. That is kind of the way it is. If I tell you I am coming and I am getting on that bull, then I am coming.”
Vinita is in northeastern Oklahoma, roughly an hour from Tulsa, and has a population of less than 6,000. Oddly enough, it is home to one of the more unique McDonalds in the United States – the Glasshouse McDonalds. The fast-food restaurant/service plaza stretches over Interstate 44.
The Oklahoma community hasn’t hosted a PBR event since Gerardo Venegas won the 2007 TPD event. Hulbert, Oklahoma, native Ryan Dirteater is the only BFTS rider on tour that competed in the 2007 event. The only other current Top-35 rider to have competed in Vinita is Robson Palermo (2006).
“Mauney brings a lot of credibility to the event,” Roth said. “It is a small town and ever since we have announced it everyone in town is excited. Gene lives there and I have a place there. It is good for the community.”
Owen hadn’t put much thought into hosting another TPD event in Vinita until BlueDEF Tour secretary Cindy O’Neall reached out about bringing back the event.
Now the stock contractor can’t wait for June 4 to arrive.
“It’s been a long time,” Owen said. “I had done two of them 10 years ago. J.B. will help make the deal work and hopefully we will get some other guys too. He is going to be why people are there. Same reason why they (came to Vegas).”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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