LAS VEGAS - Despite first-round matchups with the rankest pen of bulls ever assembled in World Finals history, it was still stunning to see only six qualified rides on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
In his daily podcast, Ty Murray said the low number had to do with specific matchups and that had the order been shuffled any other way, the total number of riders to make the 8-second whistle could have gone up or down accordingly.
He said the credit for the bulls' success not only goes to PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert for identifying the rankest bulls, but also the entire bull industry.
"Last night showed how far the bull business has come and how deep it is," said Murray, in a special daily version of what is normally his weekly podcast. "I hope it's as plain to everyone how great these bulls are, as it is to me or somebody who has ridden a lot of bulls."
The success of the top bucking bulls is a combination of size,
speed, power, quickness, intelligence and the fact that, according
to Murray, many of them appear to have set ups, fakes and
However, two bulls - Bushwacker and Asteroid - stood out among their peers.
All seven World Champion Bull contenders were out in Round 1 and not a single one was ridden, but, as they have all season, the Top 2 contenders separated themselves from the other five contenders, which include David's Dream, Smackdown, Lightmaker.com's Rango, Buckey and Rock & Roll.
Bushwacker and Asteroid each scored 46.75 points.
They were three-quarter points better than any other contender, which means it they would both have to be outscored by a full point to be beaten for the World Champion Bull title that will be decided Sunday afternoon in the final round of competition.
"I don't think I've ever felt this way in my entire lifetime," Murray said, "but this would be one time that if those two bulls tied for the World Champion Bull, you wouldn't hear an argument from me. Unless something changes come Sunday."
Murray discussed each out in greater detail as well as discussing the other race for a world title, which is equally undetermined after Wednesday night.
After seeing Valdiron de Oliveira step up and make the whistle - the only rider among the Top 6 contenders - in many ways, it's now Oliveira's world title to lose, Murray said.
He rode Flint for 87 points to split third and fourth in the round and move to within 143 points of Silvano Alves.
"That was huge last night," said Murray, of Oliveira's score despite the herniated disc in his back.
Speaking of injuries, Austin Meier will try to grit his way through the rest of the World Finals, but in addition to a hip and groin injury he had an ankle stepped on.
J.B. Mauney and Guilherme Marchi had what Murray called "terrible efforts" in the opening round.
In fact, he went so far as to say Mauney looked as though he'd never been on a bull, and that Marchi looked like the 39th-ranked rider in the draw as opposed to world title contender.
L.J. Jenkins bucked off at 7.14 seconds; Murray said he needs to retrain his brain to think of the 10-second rule because "seven seconds isn't cutting it." He thought Jenkins must be sick to think he made it through the toughest part of the ride.
Oliveira has a one-bull lead over the field, but with only six total qualified rides all the contenders are virtually still in the hunt to place in the average.
"I don't think I've ever felt this way in my entire lifetime, but this would be one time that if those two bulls tied for the World Champion Bull, you wouldn't hear an argument from me," said Ty Murray.
Murray likened it to having a 10-yard head start in a 50-yard dash. Whoever steps up to win this year's title will have to find himself in the Championship Round on Sunday.
As many points are still available - 5,000 of 5,500 are still available - riders are quickly running out of opportunities. They only have four rounds to get themselves into Sunday's final round of competition.
"To me, the urgency has been there for months now, and I've been saying that all along," said Murray, who used the example of a long-distance runner at the point in the race when they have to pick up the pace and sprint to the finish line to illustrate where the contenders are in what has been a 10-month long battle to win the world title.
"It's to the point where literally they've got to go now and the thing of it is, the guy who's in the lead hasn't gone yet either."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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