PUEBLO, Colo. – Chad Berger stared off down a back hallway deep inside the bowels of the SAP Center last weekend in San Jose, California.
Without defending World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser competing in San Jose, Berger and his bovine superstar Pearl Harbor had cashed in on their first major victory together.
Pearl Harbor won this year’s regular-season bull title, and its accompanying $25,000 prize, after concluding the regular season with a World Champion Bull average of 46.38 points.
The 6-year-old squeezed out the award by .04 points ahead of Bruiser (46.34 points).
“It was a battle,” Berger said. “I will tell you. I am so proud of that bull. Bruiser is tough competition. He shows up every time and hats off to them guys. I am just glad we got the job done for the yearend deal. It is a big accomplishment. Both of those bulls didn’t hide out. They went everywhere they possibly could go.”
Despite the achievement, Berger’s mind and thoughts were focusing on much more than just a regular-season championship.
Berger wasn’t really looking to talk about the past or present.
He was focused on the future.
For Pearl Harbor’s season to truly be special, the black and white bull needs to take care of business next week at the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals and bring home the ultimate hardware – a PBR World Championship.
“To come out on top is a big honor, but we have a bigger fish to fry here in about a week,” Berger said. “There would be nothing greater. There would not be a bigger accomplishment for our program. All we can do is bring him there and hope he does his best.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert admitted it is basically a toss-up between Pearl Harbor and Bruiser.
“He earned it and Bruiser made him work for it,” Lambert said. “That is as good as I can put it. They are so close and it is splitting hairs over which one is the best. They are very close going into the Finals, but Pearl Harbor came through when he needed to. Bruiser came through when he needed to. Pearl Harbor got a little higher scores.”
The 2017 PBR World Champion Bull is determined based on the Top 8 outs during the Built Ford Tough Series regular season plus two outs at the World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the World Champion and earn the $100,000 bonus.
Bulls drop their lowest bull scores if they have more than eight outs on their record.
Pearl Harbor and Bruiser will first buck at the World Finals during Round 2.
Lambert said Pearl Harbor and Bruiser should have had higher World Champion Bull averages heading into the Finals.
“Both of them on their average score got screwed a little bit,” he added. “The judges become conservative when they get to 25 points for a bull. It is hard for them to go higher than they do. Both Pearl Harbor and Bruiser deserve more.”
Overall, Pearl Harbor is 11-1 this season with a career-best 46.02 average bull score. Pearl Harbor has been marked 46.25 points or higher in half of his outs.
The tipping point in Pearl Harbor edging past Bruiser for the World Championship was Pearl Harbor’s season-high 47.5-point bull score from when he demolished Matt Triplett in only 1.98 seconds in Billings, Montana.
Pearl Harbor used a massive jump out of the bucking chute and turned back forcefully to dislodge Triplett in a blink of an eye.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray’s first words during the CBS broadcast was “treacherous.”
Triplett called Pearl Harbor “an outstanding bull.”
He added, “He is going to fire every time.”
To this day, Berger believes it is the rankest trip for any bull he has ever flanked.
“He just turned back so hard and fast,” Triplett said. “His front feet were 3-feet off the ground and kicking over his head. That just stands out to me as the rankest trip I ever flanked a bull. Period. And I have had a lot of good bulls.
“That was just an outstanding trip and hopefully we get a couple of them at the Finals.”
Berger believes the key for Pearl Harbor in Las Vegas is getting a rider drawn that can push Pearl Harbor to at least 4 seconds.
“The longer they can ride him and get past 4 or 5 seconds, right in that area, where he really builds up that strength is what we need,” Berger said. “He has wiped so many guys out early that it has actually hurt him. All we can do is we hope we draw a couple of tough guys that will give it their all.”
If Pearl Harbor can come through with two more dominant outs, he would become Berger’s first World Champion Bull since Code Blue (2009).
“I am going to leave it in Pearl Harbor’s hands, and God’s hands, and see what happens,” Berger said.
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