SEATTLE – Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger began naming some of his top bulls he has ever hauled to PBR events on Saturday night.
He mentioned the likes of Copperhead Slinger, Big Tex, Smackdown and 2009 World Champion Code Blue.
None of them have made Berger feel the way he has felt about Smooth Operator this year, especially after his current top bucking bovine dominated J.W. Harris in two straight outs in less than 24 hours at KeyArena.
“I have had a lot of great bulls over the years and I don’t think any of them makes me quiver like this one,” Berger said. “I have owned as many great bulls as anybody in the last 10 years. I don’t believe I have ever owned a bull as rank as Smooth Operator.”
Smooth Operator made a statement on Friday night when he made easy work of Harris in 3.33 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle for a 46-point bull score.
He then followed that up with an even more impressive demonstration of athleticism when he tossed Harris in 2.44 seconds on Saturday in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round to earn a career-high 46.5-point score.
“I keep preaching the same tune,” Berger said. “I don’t think I ever had a better chance at a Bull of the Year than I got right now. He has proved it again today. He has made a statement all year, but people saw (what he did) to J.W. Harris.”
Berger’s bovine athlete was able to use his “corkscrew” bucking style to rip Harris’ bull rope out of his hand Friday night and fling the four-time PRCA champion to the dirt. He exited the bucking chute looking left before quickly shifting toward the right and getting Harris reared back.
“He is very deceiving,” Harris said. “He looks like he is really hopping and skipping real bad and I was focused on really setting my hips, so I had weight on my feet and that was the bad thing to do on him. I did the exact wrong thing on him. Whenever he turned back, he went right and kind of had me stuck over here to the left a bit and kind of on my butt. Then he just yanked the rope out of my hand and shot out of there.”
It was the second week in a row that Harris attempted to go toe-to-toe against one of the leading World Champion Bull contenders. Last week, Harris challenged Mick E Mouse in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the Ty Murray Invitational to no avail.
Harris cracked a smile at Smooth Operator on Friday night following his buckoff and the Top-5 bull rider in the world standings said he hoped to get on him once again.
“Dang, I really think he would ride pretty good, if you don’t worry about shoving your hips because the hopping and skipping looks deceiving,” Harris said. “It doesn’t look as bad as what you think it would be. Whenever you are on him and he is bucking it feels like a dream.”
Harris got another chance Saturday night when he used the 12th pick in the championship round draft to take his second dance with Smooth Operator.
The matchup was closer to a nightmare though.
Smooth Operator went right again and Harris tried to counter by getting farther out over the bull than Friday night. However, it did not matter as Smooth Operator stepped up his spin a tad bit faster this time around and was able to snap Harris off quicker the second time.
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride was left impressed.
“Smooth Operator is no joke,” he said. “He is the real thing. If there was any question coming into the night if this bull deserves in the conversation with the likes of Mick E Mouse and this and that, I think he answered any question, ‘Yes he does.’
“We’ve seen him go up against a guy that wasn’t afraid of him and he handled him.”
Berger used the word “manhandle” when describing Smooth Operator’s performances. Harris was by the far the toughest challenge his bull has yet to have to conquer this season after bucking off his previous seven challengers.
Harris is the first champion bull rider to challenge Smooth Operator since 2004 World Champion Mike Lee was bucked off by Smooth Operator in 2.61 seconds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last year.
“J.W. Harris went at him both days with everything he had,” Berger said. “It wasn’t like he went through the motions. J.W. rides into his hand really good and J.W. threw his hips at him and tried his heart out. I like J.W. a lot, but that bull impressed me with what he did to J.W. Harris.
“They have to get a reputation and I think Smooth Operator started one.”
All 16 of Smooth Operator’s buckoffs have come in less than 5 seconds. Jordan Hupp (4.21 seconds) is the only rider to have made it beyond 4 seconds.
“He is like double jointed in his back or something,” Berger explained. “He can really twist and whip that body around. It is going to take a man to ride him. Somebody is going to ride him. It is just a matter of time. I really don’t know who yet.”
Harris has been on three of PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s top bulls this season: Mick E Mouse, Smooth Operator and Long John.
The 28-year-old puts Smooth Operator right up there in the mix for the World Champion Bull title with Mick E Mouse.
“For sure,” Harris said. “Him and Mick E Mouse have been the most consistent. Long John has been good, but he has had some of them days where he doesn’t turn back. He just jumps and kicks, but he still bucks hard. I think them two right now (are up there) for sure.”
Berger plans on bringing Smooth Operator to the next four Built Ford Tough Series events, and also hopes to add another 50-100 pounds onto him during the summer break. According to Berger, Smooth Operator is roughly 1,450 pounds.
He isn’t concerned about his bull’s first full season on the BFTS – he bucked seven times on the BFTS last year. Instead, Berger made an admittedly “bold statement” in Seattle.
“He is the bull to beat now,” Berger said. “I bet he is going to be like that all year. At the end of the day, I think he is the bull to beat.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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