DENVER – Australian Kurt Shephard has been a rider who has put a lot of time into the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour, so he understands the value of a big opportunity.
Shephard will get another one of those opportunities this weekend when he heads to Chicago for the Built Ford Tough Series Chicago Invitational as an alternate.
The 22-year-old completed a solid three days of riding at Velocity Tour event at the National Western Stock show in Denver where he finished in third place.
Shephard picked up 30 points toward the world standings for his 2-for-3 performance, which he capped with an 88.5-point ride on Church Bells to finish second in the championship round.
More importantly, it was a boost of confidence for a man who has been working to stick on the illustrious Built Ford Tough Series.
“It feels pretty good,” Shephard said. “I’m a little disappointed I came in second. I want to stay on everything. I didn’t quite do that, but all in all I’m happy I went 2-for-3.”
It was an especially tough night for the riders in Wednesday’s championship round, only Shephard and Kaique Pacheco were able to make qualified rides out of the 15 riders that got on.
Pacheco’s 91-point ride on Jack Shot sealed the event victory for the Brazilian, but Shephard was still happy with being able to put up a score on a tough pen of bulls.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” Shephard said. “Just got to keep the ball rolling, but I’m full of confidence for sure.”
Shephard went 40-for-136 at all levels of competition in 2016. He spent most of his time on the Velocity Tour, but did turn in a Top-5 finish on the BFTS when he came in fourth at the Billings, Montana, event.
It was a career-best finish for Shephard, and he’s been working on achieving that level of success once again.
He may not have won in Denver, but recent history has shown that good performances in the Mile High City has translated to bigger success later in the year.
“I think it shows what the rest of year will have in store,” Shephard said. “I want to win first every time, I haven’t in a while, but I feel like this is my year and I want it bad.”
He’s gone 6-for-17 so far in 2017, and returned to the United States to compete at the Oakland, California, RVT event before riding in Denver.
Most of his season, though, has been spent back home in Australia.
“I went home for a couple of months and just refreshed,” Shephard said. “I went away from bull riding for a month and just came back refreshed and thinking positive.”
The mental game means a lot to Shephard, who says that taking a step back and putting himself in the right mindset helps him the most when it comes to preparing for the season.
“I just try and stay calm and think positive,” Shephard said. “If you think negative, negative things will happen.”
It is very clear that the Atherton, Australia, bull rider is keeping his thoughts positive when asked what his big goal for the year is. He’s aiming high, and he feels confident he can back it up.
“I want to be Top 5 in the world,” Shephard said. “I think I set the bar high and to make that goal will be what I want.”
To do that, he knows he has to make the most of his opportunity in Chicago.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” Shephard said. “I’m ready. If you want to win, you have to show up and believe it.”
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