By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – When the PBR’s first half concluded in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on May 17, it appeared the 2020 YETI World Championship race had its frontrunner.
There was a growing consensus that rising bovine star Air Support was going to be the beast to defeat when the second half revamped in the late summer. Sadly, Air Support passed away unexpectedly on June 15, and that has once again left many of us wondering which bull will step up to claim the 2020 World Championship.
“Air Support was not a veteran like Pearl Harbor, but he was that kind of bull that made you pretty sure he was going to win it this year,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said last week. “Now it is wide open. My favorite bull right now is I’m Legit Too. He is my favorite to win it, but there is a lot of them that could. Smooth Operator and (SweetPro’s) Bruiser are still there, and I think they are still great.”
Defending World Champion Bull Smooth Operator made a case for the throne this past weekend in Bismarck, North Dakota, by bucking off Marco Eguchi in 5.87 seconds for a season-high-tying 46.75-point bull score at the 20th annual Dakota Community Bank & Trust Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
“He is a great bull,” Eguchi said. “He is very strong on the spin. He kicks hard and deserved to win the event, and I hope to have him again.”
Smooth Operator is 10-0 this season after also bucking Eguchi off in 3.93 seconds during the Championship Game of the Monster Energy Team Challenge in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last month.
Eguchi said Smooth Operator felt just as strong in Bismarck that he did in Sioux Falls, where he was marked 45.75 points.
Bismarck featured only Chad Berger bucking bulls at his home state event, but the 2020 World Championship Bull race ante will be raised this weekend back at the Lazy E Arena with the Unleash The Beast PBR Bullnanza event on Friday and Saturday.
While Smooth Operator will have the weekend off, fellow 2020 contenders such as Chiseled, Hocus Pocus, I’m Legit Too, Smooth Over and SweetPro’s Bruiser will be beginning their second halves at the Lazy E Arena.
Here is a look at some of the top contenders in the 2020 YETI World Championship Bull race as the PBR continues to celebrate its bovine athletes this week during Bull Week.
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 10 (0)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 45.40
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): 45.75
Best 2020 Out: 46.75 points vs. Marco Eguchi (5.87 seconds in Bismarck, North Dakota) / 46.75 points vs. Ezekiel Mitchell (2 seconds in Chicago)
Analysis: Smooth Operator’s 2019 World Championship season’s World Championship average was 46 points following the 2019 PBR World Finals. However, Smooth Operator finished the season with a 45.1-point average score in 17 outs on the premier series.
Smooth Operator may be averaging slightly lower bull scores so far in 2020, but the 10-year-old has still done enough to put himself in the driver’s seat – for now – and he can now start to drop any low scores from his World Championship average.
The six-time PBR World Finals qualifier has bucked off 17 consecutive riders over the course of the last two seasons, he leads all 2020 World Champion contenders with 10 buckoffs this season.
Smooth Operator already has eight outs, so he needs a bull score of 45.25 points or higher in his next out to increase his World Championship average.
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 7 (1)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 45.68
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): N/A (Needs one more out to qualify)
Best 2020 Out: 47 points vs. Boudreaux Campbell (5.6 seconds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Analysis: Chiseled – the 2019 ABBI Classic Champion – has a very strong chance at becoming the first ABBI Classic Champion to win a PBR World Championship since three-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser won his first championship in 2016.
Three ABBI Classic Champions since 2004 have gone on to win PBR World Championships – 2015 ABBI Classic Champion Bruiser, 2014 ABBI Classic Champion SweetPro’s Long John and 2010 ABBI Classic Champion Bushwacker.
Chiseled gained PBR notoriety last year at the PBR World Finals when Rubens Barbosa rode him for 95.75 points, and H.D. Page has had high expectations for his rising star in 2020.
The 5-year-old is going to be the new franchise bull of D&H Cattle Company in due time, and like his travel mate Bruiser, Chiseled is a bull that can help deliver a rider to a major payday.
This season, though, Chiseled has made things tough on his opponents – going 6-1 in PBR competition – during his first full season on the premier series.
Lucas Divino is the only rider to successfully reach the 8-second mark on Chiseled in 2020, riding him for 90.75 points in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Chiseled needs one more out to qualify for the 2020 World Championship, and a 46.25-point bull score would put him in a tie with Smooth Operator depending on what Smooth Operator scores in his next out.
Chiseled also bucked off Denton Fugate for a 46.5-point bull score last week on Aug. 5 at the Lawton Rangers Rodeo in Lawton, Oklahoma.
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 8 (0)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 45.16
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): 45.16
Best 2020 Out: 46.25 points vs. Lachlan Richardson (3.95 seconds at Global Cup)
Analysis: Hocus Pocus is in a tier below top contenders such as Smooth Operator and Chiseled even though he is third among active bulls in the standings.
However, Hocus Pocus remains in the mix thanks to two scores of 46 or more points to help make up for half of his eight outs being scored 44.75 points.
Hocus Pocus was marked 45 points in Sioux Falls for his 3.92-second buckoff of Lucas Divino, but he has not been scored more than 45 points since his season-best, 46.25-point effort against Lachlan Richardson at the 2020 Global Cup USA in February.
The 5-year-old continues to amaze after overcoming a broken leg/torn tendon as a 2-year-old to become one of the more difficult bulls to ride in the PBR. Hocus Pocus has bucked off 11 consecutive riders dating back to last season, and he is 13-1 in his three-year career.
The 2018 ABBI Classic Champion could also become the first Classic Champ to win a PBR world title since SweetPro’s Bruiser depending on what he does come the second half.
I’m Legit Too
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 9 (3)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 44.75
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): 44.94
Best 2020 Out: 46.25 points vs. Mauricio Moreira (2.75 seconds in Guthrie, Oklahoma)
Analysis: There is a lot of anticipation for I’m Legit Too in the second half after the 5-year-old posted two 46-plus scores in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in the spring.
J.W. Hart and his partners have since acquired I’m Legit Too in July, and the bovine athlete was marked 45 points in his first out with Hart when he made quick work of reigning six-time PRCA champion Sage Kimzey in 2.53 seconds in Sioux Falls. I’m Legit Too looked extremely strong inside the Denny Sanford Premier Center, and it appeared he was just getting warmed up by the time Kimzey hit the dirt.
I’m Legit Too is fourth in the race to begin the second half, but he very much has the skillset and explosiveness to push Smooth Operator and Chiseled for the 2020 World Championship.
The rising star also only needs a 44-point score in his next out to drop his lowest score. With four of I’m Legit Too’s outs below 45 points, I’m Legit Too could make a strong move up the standings if he bucks like he did in his last two trips.
I’m Legit Too has also helped produce three 90-point rides in 2020 – Jose Vitor Leme (90 points in Guthrie), Jess Lockwood (91.5 points in Kansas City, Missouri) and Daylon Swearingen (91.75 points in St. Louis). Lockwood’s ride came with a consequence, though, as the two-time World Champion caught his spur in his bull rope and wound up tearing his left hamstring in a freak deal.
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 7 (2)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 44.82
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): N/A (Needs one more out)
Best 2020 Out: 47.5 points vs. Andrew Alvidrez (4.34 seconds in Guthrie, Oklahoma)
Analysis: Smooth Over owns the highest-bull score of the season following an astounding 47.5-point effort at the Lazy E Arena on May 17. Smooth Over is the first bull to be marked 47.5 points or higher since Pearl Harbor earned the same score when he disposed of Fernando Henrique Novais in 5.89 seconds in Tacoma, Washington, on April 15, 2018.
The 7-year-old is having the best season of his 5-year career, a resurgence in ways, with an average bull score of 44.82 (his previous season-high was 43.28 points on eight outs in 2018).
Smooth Over will be worth keeping an eye on in the second half considering he has been scored 45 or more points in his last three outs. The four-time PBR World Finals qualifier bucked off Eguchi in 1.53 seconds for 45.5 points in Sioux Falls.
2020 WCBB Stats
UTB/METC/GC Outs (Ridden): 4 (1)
UTB/METC/GC Average Score: 44.56
World Champion Bull Average (Best 8 Outs): N/A (Needs four more outs)
Best 2020 Out: 45 points vs. Lucas Divino (6.71 seconds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Analysis: Can three-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser make a late push for a record-setting fourth world title? That remains to be seen, but it is not time to count out the three-time champ just yet.
Bruiser may have even won the World Championship last season if not for a serious and life-threatening intestinal infection in late August that led to him missing the final two months of the regular season.
D&H Cattle Company brought Bruiser back this season in February, and the 7-year-old superstar is coming off a season-high 45 points in Sioux Falls last month.
H.D. Page did not haul Bruiser to any summer rodeos like he has done in the past, and instead let Bruiser out on a few cows.
Bruiser should be ready to roll for the second half and this weekend at the Lazy E Arena.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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