BILLINGS, Mont. – Nathan Schaper sheepishly laughed when asked if he would like the opportunity to give buddy J.W. Harris a hard time if he were able to become the first rider to conquer Mick E Mouse on Saturday night during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Schaper knows he has a tall task following Round 2 of the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, when he gets aboard Marlene Henry’s bovine athlete. The 24-year-old has been on him twice with no success, and he has seen his traveling partner Harris get dominated on two different occasions this year.
“I was going to tell J.W. earlier, ‘I will give it to him when I ride him,’ but maybe I will wait until after I do it to talk any smack,” Schaper said.
It will certainly be a major accomplishment if Schaper can find a way to solve Mick E Mouse. The undefeated bovine has a streak of 34 consecutive buckoffs on the Built Ford Tough Series and 40 overall.
The 15/15 Bucking Battle can be seen Sunday at 1 ET on CBS network television.
It will be the third time Schaper has faced Mick E Mouse. Schaper first attempted Mick E Mouse during the third round of the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals. He lasted just 2.96 seconds.
The Grassy Butte, North Dakota, bull rider then faced him again last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he was called for a slap at 2.96 seconds. However, Tulsa was Schaper’s first BFTS event back since three-time World Champion Bushwacker had broken the young bull rider’s leg in Anaheim, California.
Schaper was out for a little more than five months and had only been riding for less than a month when he tried to conquer Mick E Mouse.
He is now the No. 10 bull rider in the world standings, healthy and riding at a 44.44-percent clip. He has also ridden World Champion Bull contender Sweet Pro’s Long John for 89 points in Kansas City, Missouri, in February.
Yes, Schaper is a stronger bull rider, but Mick E Mouse appears to have also improved since Tulsa.
“He is a lot better this year I think than when I got on him in Tulsa,” Schaper said. “He is a little bigger bull and he gained a little bit. That makes him a little stronger.”
Mick E Mouse has bucked off all six of his opponents this season in less than 3 seconds, which includes a 47-point outing against Harris (2.65 seconds) in Anaheim, California. Mick E Mouse is averaging 45.38 points per out.
Schaper believes he has a “huge advantage” against Mick E Mouse compared to other riders because of his size. The 6-foot-1-inch bull rider has a little more reach to try and offset Mick E Mouse’s ability to jerk him down, which has gotten the best of him before.
“I have longer arms and a lot of arm to give him,” Schaper said. “Yeah, I think we will get along fine. If we don’t, I will have to make it work.
“When it all comes down to it, it is just 8 seconds. You climb in there and give him hell.”
Fellow World Champion Bull contender Smooth Operator brings a streak of 17 consecutive buckoffs into the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Smooth Operator has been paired up against one of the physically, strongest bull riders in the locker room – Guilherme Marchi.
The 2008 World Champion laughed when asked if he was excited for an opportunity to face the unridden Smooth Operator, who bucked off Schaper in 3.42 seconds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“I need to be,” Marchi replied. “He is a very strong bull. He bucks all the time. I don’t know what I need to do on him. I have never been on him. I have followed him since Finals last year and nobody covered him yet. I am going to try my best to ride him.”
Marchi is the No. 5 bull rider in the world and saw his streak of five consecutive rides come to an end in Round 1 when he was bucked off by Bucking Nightmare in 7.63 seconds. However, he is currently riding as good as he has since winning the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden in New York in January.
Meanwhile, Smooth Operator, who has also slammed Harris two times, has gone 10-0 this season and is averaging 45.05 points per out.
Riders inside the locker room have noticed Smooth Operator’s quick rise.
“Yes sir,” Marchi said. “Everybody gets on him and puts the rope in the middle all the time, but he jerked those guys to the front. I saw a couple guys get on him and sometime he come to the left and sometime he come to the right. Those strong bulls that are fast and can kick and spin give you no chance. You need to try something different to try and cover him.”
The 32-year-old is going to try and use a tactic that he attempted to no avail on Bushwacker last year.
“I am going to put my rope to the side a little bit,” Marchi explained. “If he comes to the left, it will be hard for me, but if he come to the right, I can pull more and break before he tries to jerk me to the front.
“I am ready to be strong. He’s given us no chance and I need to ride strong and give him no chance.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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