ST. LOUIS ― It took a minute for Luke Snyder to gather his composure, but the veteran wasted little time in proclaiming Bushwacker "is the man. He's the No. 1 dog."
Bushwacker bucked off Snyder in 1.98 seconds. It was the fourth time the two have matched up and Snyder was emphatic when he said, "that's the hardest he's felt to date." Kent Cox, who handles and hauls the 2011 World Champion Bull for Julio Moreno, said he's beginning to think Bushwacker is looking better this year than he did two years ago when he won the bull title.
"He's the real deal. He's one of the best bulls we've seen in history."
The judges didn't see him long Sunday in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, but they certainly saw enough to mark him 47 points, which is a season-high score, seven Built Ford Tough Series events into the 2013 season.
As soon as Bushwacker made his first move out of the chute, Kent said he immediately thought, "Oh yeah, that's a bucking S.O.B."
"He was all there and he earned (those) 47 points," said Snyder, who plans to select him again. "He's the real deal. He's one of the best bulls we've seen in history.
"I'm not done with him. This is what we all live for. It's the name of the game because when they do ride him it's going to mess with the record books. That's what I'm gunning for."
Snyder said whoever covers Bushwacker will likely change the record books.
But, according to Snyder, it'll take more than skill and confidence. Whomever manages to make the whistle ― J.B. Mauney is 0-for-8 in his attempts ― will have to honestly "believe" he can make the whistle.
That was the 37th consecutive buckoff - an all-time PBR record - for Bushwacker, who hasn't been ridden since the 2009 World Finals. Bushwacker's 47 points in St. Louis became the 13th time in his career he's been marked 47 points or higher and the third time in the past six outs.
After his first two outs of 2013 ― he was marked 46 points in Oklahoma City when he bucked off Shane Proctor in 2.48 seconds ― Bushwacker is on pace to reclaim his title.
"That's the plan," Cox said. "That's what we're shooting for."
Bushwacker will highlight the bull pen the next two weeks in Kansas City, Mo., and again in Arlington, Texas, where he'll co-headline the final round of the Iron Cowboy IV with reigning World Champion Bull Asteroid.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD: For the second week in a row, Shane Proctor is the No. 1 professional bull rider in the world, but not by much.
In fact, after covering only 1-of-3 bulls this weekend in St. Louis, Silvano Alves had every opportunity on Sunday to take the lead. The defending two-time World Champion took Stanley FatMax - a bull that had bucked him off three previous times - in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with every intention that this was going to be the day he made the whistle.
He lasted only 4.73 seconds and, more importantly, came 53.96 points short of reclaiming the lead he held atop the world standings for the first five weeks of the season.
Speaking on behalf of Alves, his close friend Guilherme Marchi said, "That guy is so strong. He's here to win again, you know, and that's what I think. … He doesn't like to buck off his bulls and he got a tough bull in the short go today.
"He wants to be a Champion again."
Although the order didn't change between the Top 2 riders ― Proctor, 1, and Alves, 2 ― the rest of the Top 5 was completely shaken up from the past month. Marco Eguchi, Ty Pozzobon and Aaron Roy round-out the Top 5 riders in the world standings.
It's the highest those three have been ranked in their careers.
In fact, Pozzobon, who led the event average after the first two of four rounds, was trying to become the first Canadian to win a BFTS event in the past 10 years. The last time a Canadian won was when Rob Bell won the 2003 event in Raleigh, N.C.
It's the first time two Canadians have been ranked in the Top 5.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: After missing four BFTS events with a fractured right ankle, Fabiano Vieira returned to competition a week earlier than originally planned only to win the St. Louis event as the only rider to cover 3-of-4 bulls.
With the help of Marchi translating for him, Vieira said, "He thanks God that he's back on the tour again and thanks to his friends for helping him and pushing him."
Vieira, who like Valdiron de Oliveira returned from injury, was surrounded by his fellow Brazilian riders for all four attempts. He credited the support and the well-wishes with providing him the confidence he needed to win the fifth BFTS event of his career.
He's won twice in each of the past two seasons.
The 30-year-old - he turns 31 in July - scored 83.25 points in the opening round and was well off the lead pace of the 89 points earned by Pozzobon. In Round 2, he declined a re-ride option and kept 65.5 points. At that point, he had the lowest point total of the eight riders who were 2-for-2.
In Round 3, he became the only rider with three scores when he won the round with 89 points on Prince Albert.
All 10 riders were bucked off in the championship round, giving Vieira the win. He moved from outside the Top 35 into the Top 20 of the world standings. He's now No. 18 in the world despite only competing at 3-of-7 events, but has been in the Top 10 in all three.
"He said he's feel good right now," Marchi said. "He has heart. He wants to be in the Top 10 all the time. This big win makes his confidence back."
The win now puts the injury behind him.
Vieira was initially advised to have surgery, but elected to rehab instead. He said he knows he's fortunate to be here and, according to Marchi, "the win makes him feel better too." It could prove to be a major turning point after the wave of motions felt when he broke his ankle.
He was frustrated after starting the season so well, which immediately made him mad considering he missed more than a month last season because of visa issues. The missed time may have caused him a legitimate chance of winning the title and he doesn't want the same experience this season.
Marchi said, "He wants to keep strong."
INJURY UPDATES: On Sunday, Edevaldo Ferreira was ruled out with a probable right rib fracture sustained in the second round. According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, he is doubtful for Kansas City, Mo.
After Round 3, Freeman reported, "Silvano Alves lacerated his right thumb (riding hand) when he was thrown from his third round bull in St. Louis. It was sutured in the training room and will compete in the championship round."
On Saturday, in Round 2, Agnaldo Cardozo sustained a strained neck injury. On Friday, Eduardo Aparecido sustained a left shoulder sprain (free arm, labral tear) in Round 1. Both riders completed the event.
Of the riders who missed this week's event because of injury, three seated riders ― Mauney (left leg), 7; Robson Palermo (both shoulders), 17; and Kody Lostroh (left thumb), 20 ― are questionable for next week's event in Kansas City, Mo. Cody Johnson (right elbow), who earned one injury exemption, is also listed as probable and is awaiting a customized brace.
They have until Tuesday morning to indicate their intention.
THE ENFORCERS: Friday morning, former NHL star turned stock contractor Curtis Leschyshyn sent a Tweet that read, "@Chasenpuck39 is the original Porcupine Puncher but the bull named after him makes an appearance @PBR #PBRSTL. #astoughastheycome."
Leschyshyn was, of course, referring to fellow hockey player turned broadcaster Kelly Chase, who was a three-year teammate of his with the Saskatoon Blades when they first turned pro and again during part of the 1996-97 season with the Hartford Whalers (a year after Leschyshyn won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche).
Chase, a native of Porcupine Plain, Canada, was a physical presence on the ice and had a well-earned reputation as an enforcer. He still holds the single-season record for penalty minutes with the Blades. Chase played for the Blues during two different stints, including when he retired in 2000 as a member of the Blues. The 45-year-old St. Louis fan-favorite can now be seen on the NHL Network as well as heard locally during St. Louis Blues radio broadcasts.
Like his namesake, Porcupine Puncher, who Leschyshyn co-owns along with Kent Cox, is perhaps Leschyshyn's rankest bull in the BFTS pen. Friday night, Chase tweeted, "Get him out there and hold on boys. #thekid"
This weekend he was used as the Bonus Bull on Saturday night following Round 2 and was matched up with last week's event winner Shane Proctor. He bucked off the No. 1 rider in 5.93 seconds to remain unridden.
He's a perfect 12-0 in BFTS outings and 18-0 overall, including having bucked off former World Champions Guilherme Marchi and Renato Nunes. Proctor was one of only four of 18 riders to stay on more than 5 seconds.
PBR fans can follow Leschyshyn on Twitter at @cleschyshyn.
STOUT MAKES DEBUT: She's would have been a senior in high school had she not graduated in three years, but Paige Stout isn't making plans for the prom. The 18-year-old from Weatherford, Texas, hauled five bulls - Tramp Stamp, Black Tie Affair, Slingin Six, Spider Jacket and Jack Wagon - to her first BFTS event.
"I was pretty nervous," she admitted midway through the opening round, "but I'm confident in my bulls and I've been raising bulls since I was 10 years old, so it was pretty exciting to be able to come here to St. Louis."
Stout grew up around rodeo and bull riding. Her father Wesley was a regional bullfighter in West Texas before focusing on raising bucking bulls, which is where Paige got her interest in the sport.
Much to the chagrin of her friends, she chose to fast-track her high school course load to afford her a chance to get out on the road traveling with her bulls. "It's a family thing," she added, "and I always bring my parents along with me wherever I go."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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