PUEBLO, Colo. – When Stone Sober was 2 years old, H.D. Page would continuously run his young bovine athlete through the bucking chutes on his Ardmore, Oklahoma, ranch.
Even then Page knew his bull was going to have a hair trigger like none other inside the confines of the Built Ford Tough Series bucking chute.
Page continued giving Stone Sober practice on the ranch for three years before finally surrendering defeat.
The longtime veteran stock contractor has tried everything he could think of to try and help his bovine athlete behave and find a way to channel all of his pent up energy that has been a hindrance for the bull, and many opposing riders since he debuted in 2012 on the BFTS.
Page has tried tactics such as petting Stone Sober inside the chutes to even feeding the bull in the chutes.
“He is not really broke as some of those guys would prefer him to be in the bucking chutes and all of that,” Page said. “He has been like that since day one. I think he will die that way. When you run him in the bucking chute it is a different deal. It is game on for him.”
Getting out cleanly on Stone Sober, who is bucking for the first time since a foot injury that caused him to withdraw from the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Decatur in May, will be a key for this weekend’s event winner of the Kasey Hayes/Stormy Wing BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
Stone Sober is a $10,000 bounty bull.
It will also be important for the rider that attempts Stone Sober on Aug. 21-22 during the final PBR Major of the season – the Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout, presented by Cooper Tires.
Stone Sober will be one of the featured bulls bucking in Nashville. He will be joined by fellow World Champion Bull contenders Mick E Mouse, SweetPro’s Long John, Jared Allen’s Air Time and many more of the rankest bulls in the PBR in a special Second Chance bracket in Nashville.
This year’s format for the Music City Knockout will be similar to last season’s Iron Cowboy format. Thirty-six riders will compete in a single-elimination bracket. The rider with the highest ride score or buckoff time in an individual matchup will advance to the next round.
Following the completion of the three regions, the top eight riders that were eliminated (based on ride scores/buckoff times) will get a second opportunity in the Second Chance region of the bracket, which will feature the rankest bulls in the PBR.
Even though Page’s bull will be competing alongside potential World Champion Bull contenders like Mick E Mouse and Long John, he knows there is no point in ranking the bulls in any order.
Similar to PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s opinion, Page knows very well that one slip up by a bull in the final eight BFTS regular-season events can hinder – if not end completely – a bull’s shot at the world title.
“The best bull going all year can stub his toe and not even get mentioned as part of the (World Champion Bull) race,” Page said. “There are a lot of good bulls out there and the favorite is going to be the one that bucks the best in Vegas and has his name on that list of eight or 10 (eligible bulls).
Stone Sober has bucked off five riders at the BFTS level this season for an average bull score of 45.05 points. However, he also fell two times in his final five outs before the summer break.
In fact, Stone Sober didn’t qualify for the World Champion Bull title last season partially because of a series of poor trips during the stretch run.
After posting a career-best 47-point bull score at last year’s Guymon, Oklahoma, Touring Pro Division event against Fabiano Vieira, Stone Sober posted a 40-point and 44-point bull score against Jason Malone and Ryan Roberts in his first two outs of the 2014 BFTS second half. He then followed his out against Roberts in Springfield, Missouri, with a foul againstEmilio Resende the next day.
It was a tough turn of events for Page, especially once Stone Sober posted back-to-back 46-point bull scores at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals that would have led to Stone Sober defeating three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker for the World Champion Bull title.
“Athletic ability is damn sure there,” Page said. “There is no doubt about it. For the most part, he has two, three or four trips where he wasn’t a superstar and every one of those I can give you a good reason why he wasn’t, but in all reality if I would have left him home most of the times last year and he had 22-23 outs instead of 25 or 26 he would have been a candidate for (World Champion Bull) and he would have been (World Champion Bull).
“But that was my screw up, I felt like I needed to keep him (going). I bucked him every time the band played just trying to keep him to where those guys wouldn’t have much trouble getting out on him. It is just learning and figuring out a way to get him to contain some of that energy before they open the gate.”
The energy is nearly always there and that at times has led to problems for Stone Sober, who, according to Page, has lost 150 pounds this summer.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray was left in awe of Stone Sober in Albuquerque when Stone Sober leaped and twisted to unbelievable heights before slipping under his own power against Renato Nunes this past March.
Reese Cates then lasted a little under 3 seconds in Colorado Springs in May before Stone Sober fell again.
“Even then he already had me a little bit out of shape,” Cates said. “You don’t know what is going to happen. You can ask every guy that got on him and you could probably get a little different story because he is so wild and has no set pattern. From the moment you are putting your rope on him until the time is all said and done it is going to be exciting. When you put your rope on him, he is acting crazy. Whenever you are getting on him, unless you are really careful, he is going to act crazy. When the gate comes open, and nothing is in his way, there is no telling what he does.”
Hayes has never attempted Stone Sober before, but he is well aware of the reckless abandon that Stone Sober is willing to use to buck off his opponents.
Resende (88 points at the 2013 BFTS event in Oklahoma City) is the only rider to ever make the 8-second mark on Page’s athletic bovine in 29 outs.
“Man, he gets himself so high in the air and he does buck so hard,” Hayes said. “You really don’t know what he is going to do. Most bulls have tendencies, he usually goes left, but his tendencies don’t seem to strike as often as others. When you get on him, you better nod and ride jump for jump and that is what you are supposed to do on any bull anyways.”
Cates, one of 18 Top 35 riders expected to compete in Guymon, said he would be open to getting another shot at Stone Sober on Saturday night.
“One of us is going to get on him for a lot of money in Guymon, and I am looking forward to it,” he said. “When Stone Sober bucks, everybody is going to gather around to see what is going to happen. You now when you are getting on him there are a lot of eyes on you and a lot of eyes on him. The odds are against you, but if you can ride one like that, you send a message that you aren’t here to play either and that is why you ride.”
Page said he is debating taking Stone Sober to some summer rodeos to try and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo before the BFTS resumes in August, but he doesn’t want to burn out his bull.
He has every intention of getting the 6-year-old bovine qualified as an official World Champion Bull contender by the time the World Finals arrive on Oct. 21 in Las Vegas.
“It would be nerve-racking, but it would be good,” Page said. “He is that caliber. He is going to have a day every once in a while when things don’t go right in the chute— I don’t know. He has a screw loose for sure. He’s got those days where he is not great, but 95 to 99 percent of the time he is as good as one there is going.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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