By: Paul Clark June 07, 2014@ 10:30:00 AM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – J.B. Mauney showed why he’s “bad to the bone” with his 90-point ride in the $15,000 four-man Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Champions Challenge at the Jeff Robinson Invitational on Friday night in Asheville.
Ranked 10th in the world, the defending PBR champion rode KISS Animalize in the bonus round for the $15,000-prize pack 90 minutes after the Mooresville, North Carolina, native’s first ride on California Kicker, an 86.5-point effort in the first round of the Touring Pro Division event that has Mauney beginning the second round of action Saturday in second place.
Finishing the night in first place was Luis Blanco, a Brazilian now living in Irving, Texas. Blanco, ranked 50th in the world with 850.93 points going into Friday night’s competition, rode Clutch for 87.5 points earlier in the evening.
“If you ride here, you ride with the best of the best,” Blanco said. “If you have something to prove, (you do it) here in the PBR.”
Blanco was especially pleased with his night’s $828 winnings because his son had eye surgery that morning. Blanco’s thoughts were with his son most of the day, but he managed to focus when his attention was needed.
“Tomorrow’s another day,” he said of tonight, when the same 45 riders will go at it again at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center for the right to compete in the 10-rider championship round and a share of the $20,700 purse.
Also in the running are Kasey Hayes, who tied Mauney Friday night with 86.5 points, L.J. Jenkins on Eat More Chicken (84.5 points), Chase Outlaw on Top Shot (84), Jake Anderson on Herbie (83.5), Jesse Van Nek on Slow Poke (82.5), Zane Cook on Red Slinger (80.5) and Ryan Miller on Red Head (80).
Putting a fine edge on the weekend’s competition is the $15,000 bonus that rider Mike Lee could win if he wins The Jeff Robinson Invitational, a bonus he’d receive for also winning J.W Hart’s Touring Pro Division event at Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur, Texas on May 31. Lee came close to scoring Friday night, riding Spade into the middle of the arena for nearly 8 seconds before being bucked off.
Jeff Robinson, reigning four-time Stock Contractor of the Year, couldn’t have been more pleased with the action Friday night.
“J.B. finishing it off with a 90-point ride in the challenge and him making two good bull rides, that’s going to give him a lot of confidence for him winning,” Robinson said. “L.J. (Jenkins) made a good bull ride. Kasey Hayes made a good ride. You had some good bull riders make some good rides. The bulls bucked good, so we were happy.’”
Robinson, who raises his bulls in nearby Mars Hill on land his great-grandfather owned, is bringing out pretty much the same set of bulls for Saturday’s long round, but the short round will see a stronger set of bovines.
“There are two or three bulls in there that are World-Champion contenders,” Robinson said.
He’s expecting to see Mauney, Hayes and Jenkins battle it out in the final round.
Mauney, who won the Asheville PBR event in 2011, was smiling and slapping hands in the corrals after his 90-point ride in the challenge round.
“That was a good bull,” he said of KISS Animalize, a 1,500-pounder averaging 42.81 points that took a while to settle in the bucking chute while “Bad to the Bone,” Mauney’s signature song, blared over the loudspeakers. He’s ridden him twice before, including his 88.75-point ride at the Built Ford Tough Series event in Sacramento, California, this past January.
“He’ll do anything,” Mauney said. “He’ll go either way, but he always bucks.”
If he had a plan for riding KISS Animalize Friday, it was to “act like I never seen him,” he said. “Just get on him and nod my head. Just keeping it simple. Any time you can come out and do good before people from your hometown and all the people of North Carolina, it always feels good.”
The Jeff Robinson Invitational attracted a corral full of BFTS riders. Even though the second half of the BFTS doesn’t begin until Aug. 15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, riders are still pursuing points and prize money in the months leading up.
“This has been my dream since I was a little kid,” Dexter Herndon said before nodding his head on Harlem Shake. Herndon, from Sneads, Florida, has been riding for almost 16 years.
“It means the world to me making a great ride,” he said. “It’s a rush.”
Bonner Bolton from Odessa, Texas, was returning from a groin injury and got bucked off in a butt-to-butt collision with Premium. He described going against the caliber bull as “super-fast and powerful.”
“It’s just a whirlwind. It’s crazy,” Bolton explained. “When you step off of a good one, you feel like you just slayed a dragon.”
As a bonus to BFTS fans, Robinson organized the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Champions Challenge. Invited were some of the best riders on the circuit – Mauney, the 2013 World Champion; Lee, the 2004 World Champion; Jenkins, the 2006 World Finals event winner; and defending Jeff Robinson Invitational champion Gage Gay.
Gay won the invitational last year with a rousing 91-point ride on Delco. Just 18 years old at the time, Gay brought a couple of thousand cheering spectators to their feet with that spectacular ride.
Gay didn’t fare so well in the Champions Challenge on Friday and was bucked off by Percolator just outside of the bucking chute.
Lee and Jenkins didn’t do much better, leaving it to Mauney, in the final ride of the night, to get the job done. After his spectacular ride, he threw his hat in the air and raised his fists to the cheering crowd before slapping the hands of the bullfighters.
Mauney will look to qualify for Saturday night’s championship round that is stocked with some of Robinson’s best: Rango, I’m a Gangster Too, Oklahoma Bell, Fire Rock, Walk Off, Percolator, Great White, Stanley FatMax and Wreck it Ralph.
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