PUEBLO, Colo. – The PBR World Champion Bull race is far from over and much is still to be decided before the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas on Nov. 2-6.
So far through 16 Built Ford Tough Series events, Jared Allen’s Air Time and 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John appear poised for a rematch at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
It was last year in Las Vegas where Long John rallied past Air Time on the final day of competition to claim his first World Championship.
Today, PBR.com takes a look back at the Top-5 bull scores of the first half:
1. Air Time destroys Jess Lockwood in 2.66 seconds at Last Cowboy Standing (47.5 points)
Air Time saved his best performance for his last out of the first half by putting a halt to the fast, rise of rookie sensation Jess Lockwood in Las Vegas at Last Cowboy Standing.
Air Time slammed the 18-year-old rookie over the front end in 2.66 seconds and was marked 47.5 points, which tied his career-high from 2014 when he bucked off Kasey Hayes in 3 seconds in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“That is a good bull,” Lockwood said in Las Vegas. “He is the best bull in the world. He is really strong. He had my feet behind me right at first so I tried to really stick my chest out and lean back to get back in there. Everyone said he was kicking so hard his butt came and kicked me in the back. I felt him just throw me really far forward. After that, I looked up and I was on the ground and he was coming at me. It was all pretty quick.”
The out was Air Time’s second this season in which he was marked 47 points or higher, and he concluded the first half 6-0 with an average bull score of 45.83 points.
He is the only bull to have been scored 47 points or higher this year.
“That is him though,” stock contractor Matt Scharping said. “That is what I expect from him. I know everybody gets pumped up and I love the bull. I am his worst critic and that is what I expect him to do every time. Jess was perfect for him. Jess was awesome in the bucking chute. Everything just worked out good.”
Air Time’s average bull score would be the highest in the World Champion Bull race if he had reached the minimum threshold of eight outs. Air Time will get to eight outs during the second half.
2. Air Time continues trend of demolishing riders in under 3 seconds (47 points)
If we weren’t judging the Top-5 buckoffs by bull score in this blog post, it would be hard to not put Air Time’s buckoff against Joao Ricardo Vieira as No. 1.
Air Time made a mockery of the now No. 3 rider in the world standings by launching Vieira off his side and flipping him completely over in the air in 2.24 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Phoenix this past March.
“He definitely made a statement today to not forget about him,” Scharping said. “When we got here, I watched how he was handling himself in the back and I could tell his motor was running all day. He was just ready to go.”
Vieira was left laughing and dusting dirt off his rider vest following his decision to select Air Time with the seventh pick of the championship-round draft.
He quickly learned that was a bad idea.
“Air Time,” Vieira said before laughing at the question of which bull was the favorite for 2016 world title. “He was really good. He was good in the chute. Good at the start. He is the best.”
Air Time was bucking for only the third time in his career on consecutive BFTS weekends. He had been marked 45.5 points last weekend at Iron Cowboy for a 1.93-second buckoff of 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi.
All six of his buckoffs this season have come in 3.63 seconds or less.
3. Long John gets revenge against J.B. Mauney (46.75 points)
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney finished the first half without an event victory and he can blame Long John for at least one event not going his way.
Mauney had just made a big move with his right free arm aboard Long John in Albuequerque, New Mexico, as he tried to rip him to the outside after a multitude of emphatic jumps during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
The 29-year-old appeared to have countered Long John’s storm and seemed poised for his first win of the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series before the D&H Cattle Company bovine ripped him over the front end at the 7.56-second mark.
“He is the type of bull where if you don’t stay ahead of him, he will slam your ass and that is what happened,” Mauney said. “I like big bulls like that – that are real up and down. As long as you stay out over him where you like to ride bulls you will be OK. I got a little behind, and I paid for it.”
Long John was marked a season-high 46.75 points and was able to even the score (2-2) with his new nemesis. The Ty Murray Invitational was the fourth meeting between the 2015 World Champion Bull and 2015 World Champion rider.
“I thought he bucked like a son of a gun,” stock contractor Dillon Page said. “This is what I like about it. J.B. will get on and give it 100 percent. I just knew he was going to win the event. I was convinced. I thought there was no way he could throw J.B. off. That is his kind of bull, but today that bull showed out. He bucked today. It was one of the best trips he had probably since the Finals.”
The defending World Champion Bull concluded the first half just behind Air Time with a 45.5-point bull score in six outs. Mauney was the only rider to cover the bull for 8 seconds, doing so in Oklahoma City during the bovine athlete’s season debut for 90.25 points.
4. SweetPro’s Bruiser bucks off Eduardo Aparecido in 4.98 seconds (46.5 points)
SweetPro’s Bruiser may be getting tired of being in the shadows of his brother and 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John.
For the second consecutive week, Bruiser surpassed the 46-point threshold and the D&H & Cattle Company bovine athlete set a career-high with a 46.5-point outing when he bucked off Eduardo Aparecido in 4.98 seconds in Sacramento, California.
Bruiser burst out of the bucking chute with Aparecido on his back and turned back closer to the chutes then normal before elongating with a high kick to dislodge the 25-year-old bull rider.
Page was at first worried with how close Bruiser was to the bucking chutes, but he then realized Bruiser came to play.
“He turned so quick and the way he got off the ground, he was explosive,” Page said. “He stepped it up tonight. I don’t know. It is unbelievable. He had it on his mind tonight. When he left there, it was nothing but he wanted to buck. I was afraid it was to close when he first started, but he just pulled his head in and around he come.”
It was the second of three consecutive 46-point bull scores for Bruiser. The 2015 ABBI Classic Champion finished the first half 7-1 with a 45.28 average bull score. Mason Lowe was the only rider to successfully ride Bruiser this season when he picked up 91-points in Oklahoma City.
5. Long John highlights bull domination in Billings, Montana (46.5 points)
The Billings 15/15 Bucking Battle was all about the bulls as the toughest beasts in the PBR went undefeated (15-0) on national television in Billings.
Long John led the destruction with a 46.5-point bull score for a 4.35-second buckoff of Gage Gay.
“It didn’t go as I planned, that is for sure,” Gay said. “Hell, I don’t know. I just kind of got my inside foot right around there and by the time I got it back down I was way too high on him and my free arm was too high. There was no chance.”
Dillon Page believes Long John was finally getting into peak performance after losing 200 pounds since the beginning of the season and he had a huge grin on his face following the out.
The out was Long John’s last of the first half and his second consecutive 46-point bull score.
“I thought he was real, real good,” Page said. “He was strong, way in the air and he actually turned and looked like he was going to keep coming. (The loss of weight) is making him way more electric. We knew it all along, just getting him there was the hard part.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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