By: Justin Felisko
ST. LOUIS – Taylor Toves was stone-cold focused on Saturday night during Round 1 of the U.S. Border Patrol Invitational.
For about 15 minutes before he rode, Toves stood by himself off to the side of rider walk-off, staring at the jumbotron inside the Enterprise Center.
Toves understood when he arrived in St. Louis that time is ticking for him to turn around his season if he wants to avoid being cut from the Unleash The Beast.
However, Saturday night was a reminder to him that he can’t be too focused, otherwise things can continue to spiral south, as he was bucked off by Joker in 2.84 seconds.
“I am not a guy that gets real super fired up about anything,” Toves said. “I don’t have to be in my own little zone, anyway. I like to joke around and stay relaxed. When I get too hyped, I get in my head too much. If I get into the zone too much, I get to thinking too much. It is easier for me to act like I am not at a bull riding and have fun and cut loose.”
Toves took his own advice on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis. He let out a deep breath and indeed cut loose.
The Stephenville, Texas, native rode both of his bulls to finish the weekend a season-best 2-for-3 and eighth overall.
Toves picked up 14.5 world points to move from No. 35 to No. 29 in the world standings.
“I knew I was in this position,” Toves, who had bucked off 10 consecutive bulls until Sunday, said. “I put myself here, so if I can just keep my hand shut and keep trying, it’ll work eventually.”
Next weekend’s Caterpillar Classic is the next cut for riders on the Unleash the Beast that finished in last year’s Top 30 and have competed in all seven UTB events so far this season.
There are four riders currently outside of the Top 35 ahead of next weekend’s event in Kansas City that are down to their final exemption – No. 46 Cody Teel (-15.91), No. 64 Stetson Lawrence (-29.66), No. 67 Alisson de Souza (-31.66) and No. 94 Luciano de Castro (-42.16 points).
Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves is outside of the Top 35, but the No. 55 rider in the world still has World Champion exemptions at his disposal.
Toves began the day with 83 points on Ram It before riding Mr. Majestic for 87 points in the championship round.
“That bull is really hard to get by,” Toves said of Mr. Majestic. “I’ve been on him twice, and I’ve rode him a little farther every time I’ve been on him. But he really steps ahead and works on that front end. He’s going to get you out of position. You’ve just got to keep your hand shut and keep trying. It barely worked today, but it did. I’m happy.”
Toves’s ride was upheld after a video review as his free hand was ever so close to touching Mr. Majestic just before the 8-second mark.
Mr. Majestic is Toves’s first qualified ride in a championship round since riding Talking Smack for 89 points last April in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Toves is 4-for-17 on the Unleash The Beast this season.
“I just have to do my damn job,” he said. “I haven’t been staying on. I have been getting good bulls, but just not making it count. I have not been staying on. It has been simple as that.’
Toves will take an 11.34-point lead on No. 36 Brock Radford into Kansas City next weekend. The Texan knows he has work to do to stay inside the Top 30, but he also is going to remind himself to not get worked up about where he stands in rankings.
“I just have to quit trying so hard and forget about the situation,” Toves said. “Remember to go do my job and stay on. If I stay on, I wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.”
Toves is hopeful that ending St. Louis on such a good note will help him have plenty of momentum for Kansas City.
“Exactly, that’s the whole deal,” Toves concluded. “I mean, at least I can leave this weekend with the confidence in myself to know that I rode two, and that always helps.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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