In the Bull Pen: Iron Cowboy

Iron Cowboy has featured the strongest pen of bulls from top to bottom each year ever since the Iron Cowboy was first held in AT&T Stadium in 2010. In terms of overall bull quality at a single event, this has been the place to see it. For the most part, that’s because the old Iron Cowboy competition format required fewer than 50 bulls to go and the top end bulls have always been available for it.

This year will be somewhat different, in that the format has changed to a progressive-round type event like the Last Cowboy Standing. PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert says it’s been a more successful format and it’s what the fans and the riders prefer.

“That was the biggest complaint we had about the Iron Cowboy,” said Lambert. “Guys could advance or win it without making the whistle, while someone in another bracket rode their bull and didn’t advance because they got beat by half a point. As interesting as the bracket format was, the fans and even the riders didn’t like it as well. The progressive format has been good so far; every time we’ve had it, it’s been a good event. There’s a chance everyone could buck off in Round 2, and we’d have to load another whole round. We’re prepared for that every time we do this format, and I’ve got to bring enough bulls so that we’ll be able to handle it however it plays out. It takes over 80 bulls to put it on – just one night.”

An event like this could go on for a while if the bulls are relatively easy, but that won’t be the case here. The guys who make it to the second round will have to deal with the rankest bulls the PBR can dish up, including Asteroid in his final appearance on tour. Round 1 will feature quite a few bulls we normally see in short rounds, but Round 2 is made up entirely of bulls that are usually among the best in a short round.

“The bull pens are set to really cut the field of riders who can move on past the second round,” Lambert said. “The first round should cut the field in half. If the guys are really riding well, they could ride close to half of the bulls there. After Round 2, I expect two to four guys to still be in it. The bull list for Round 2 starts with Asteroid and Mick E Mouse, and it doesn’t get much weaker than that. Round 2 is the rankest bulls in the PBR.”

“Asteroid is going out on top,” Lambert continued. “They’ve been pretty conservative with him over the past year, and I think he’s been underused a little. He’s a lot like Bones, they were both really athletic bulls, and they kept pretty light schedules with their owners erring on the side of caution. Both bulls have similar styles, they both beat Bushwacker once and they’re both going into retirement while they are really good.”

Long John will join the other elite bulls at this event. He was ridden last week, but isn’t showing any sign of weakness.

“He was strong in Kansas City, and he was smooth compared to some of the other trips we’ve seen him have,” said Lambert. “Nathan Schaper had him earlier this year in Denver, and he almost rode him there on about the same trip. He was the last guy in the short round here, but I’m sure he was pretty happy with the bull he was left with. That’s one thing riders and fans need to remember – you can get the last pick in the draft and still win first. Long John had two really violent trips at the Finals, and I don’t think we’ve seen his best day yet this year.”

Bruiser was the second highest-marked bull in Kansas City, and he’s showing all the signs of greatness at a very young age. We’ll see him in the second round in Arlington as well.

“He bucks so hard, and he has some drop, but he does have a perfect rhythm about him,” said Lambert. “At his age, you can easily compare him to some of the greatest bulls we’ve seen. Little Yellow Jacket, Mossy Oak Mudslinger, they were that good when they were 3 or 4 years old. Most bulls aren’t.”

The rest of the second round set of bulls in Arlington, include Air TimeStone Sober, Shepherd Hills Trapper, and Mississippi Hippy. The opening round will feature PBR veterans Jack Daniel’s After Party, Shepherd Hills Stockman, King Buck, Modified Clyde and a lot of other solid bull talent.

Round 3 and beyond will feature bulls in between the first-round level and second-round level.

Follow Slade Long on Twitter @Probullstats

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