BIG SKY, Mont. – Matt Triplett stepped out from underneath the white tent that houses rider check-in at Sage Brush Field and opened up a large envelope.
Triplett pulled out the piece of paper inside and a warm, smile crept across his face.
The envelope contained a drawing from a young, fan of his – Harlee Ann Maddox.
Part of the message read, ‘Good luck in Big Sky. I hope you win!
The 26-year-old folded up the drawing and placed it in his pocket.
Triplett has known the 6-year-old Harlee for the past couple of years. Harlee’s grandmother, Robyn Fuhrman, is a partner with Triplett’s dad, Pat, on a few bulls.
“Harlee is just funny whenever she comes down to the arena,” Matt said. “She gets all red and gives me a big hug. It is so awesome to have such a sweetheart as a fan. Robyn is part owner in some of our bulls and they come to Anaheim, New York and quite a few events.”
Triplett is currently sitting tied for third-place at this weekend’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event following his 86.5-point ride on The Kraken Friday night.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, native is hoping he can win Harlee, who was unable to attend the event, a special belt buckle on Saturday night.
“It would be awesome to win this,” Triplett said. “This would be huge to win. It is kind of like a hometown event for me. I would give the buckle to her. She goes to a lot of events and deserves it. I would love to see her reaction.”
Big Sky is roughly six hours south of Columbia Falls.
Triplett has drawn Just Juan (8-5, BFTS) for Round 2. Just Juan bucked Triplett off in 6.8 seconds last year in Nampa, Idaho.
Fans can watch the Big Sky finale exclusively on Ultracast beginning at 9 p.m. ET tonight.
Available for iOS and Android devices, fans simply need to download the Ultracast app in the App store or by visiting www.ultracast.com/app to watch this weekend’s action in 360˚. The stream will not be available on desktop computers.
Every rider in Big Sky is sponsored by either a company, a fan or a group of fans. The sponsor then covers each rider’s $250 entry fee to the event and throws in another $250 worth of spending money.
It is a truly, special act and appreciated by all of the riders.
“It makes it nice to know you have people behind you no matter what your situation is,” Triplett said.
All of the riders then send back a handwritten note to their sponsor(s) as a sincere thank you.
“It is a big deal because it helps builds our sport,” Triplett said.
Not only would the victory be a sentimental one, but it would also help Triplett’s pursuit of the 2017 World Championship.
Triplett is currently seventh in the world standings and is 1,365 points behind world leader Eduardo Aparecido.
A Big Sky win would cut that lead to 1,285 points and there are still 10 regular-season events Built Ford Tough Series events remaining beginning on Aug. 12 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Every year it is wide open and it comes down to the guy that rides the most bulls,” Triplett said. “You have to take care of business and not worry about that.”
2017 has been a resurgence for Triplett after a 2016 nightmare season filled with injuries and multiple surgeries on his right, riding elbow and left shoulder (free arm). He was limited to only seven BFTS events that season.
Triplett is now back in the world title conversation like he was in 2014 and 2015. He finished third in the world standings in 2014 and fifth in 2015, and he is now on pace to return to the World Finals after failing to qualify last year.
Through 15 BFTS events, Triplett is riding at a career-best 44.44 percent clip. He is already 20-for-45 and has a good chance of surpassing his career-high of 33 qualified rides in a season that he set in 2014 and 2015.
“It feels good,” Triplett said. “I hate sitting out and last year killed me. I knew I could be a Top 5 (rider) and a world title contender. I am just excited.
“I drew good here in Big Sky and I am going to keep trucking away and riding everything I can.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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