OKLAHOMA CITY ― Oklahoma City will play host to the world's best bull riders this weekend, but the riders may be upstaged by arguably the biggest star in the sport - a star that happens to walk around on four legs instead of two. Julio Moreno's 2011 World Champion Bull Bushwacker will make his 2013 debut on Sunday.
Bushwacker kept a light schedule last season, making only nine appearances, partly because of an early-season injury that kept him sidelined until March. His average bull score was 46.5 points last season, and it's extremely rare for any bull to average 46 points or more in a season. He ultimately lost out to Asteroid in his bid for a second straight title, but it wasn't because of any weakness in his performance. Bushwacker represents near perfection in a bucking bull. He's as good as one can possibly get, and will be remembered as long as people discuss the greatest bulls of all time.
PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert expects Bushwacker to be really rank in his first event of the season, but he noted that the long layoff since the World Finals could result in someone finally earning a score on him. Bushwacker currently has one of the longest buckoff streaks in PBR history.
"We saw Asteroid last week, and as rank as he was in bucking Guilherme Marchi off, it wasn't his best day," Lambert said. "He was a little full-looking, maybe a little heavier than he was when he had his best trips last year. Bushwacker could be the same way, or he could be fired up and ready to go. Last year, after his long layoff, he was nearly ridden by J.B. Mauney in Arlington, Texas. There's no question he was a rank bull, but it wasn't as rank as I've seen him."
Bushwacker also wasn't the highest-marked bull at the event in his debut trip in Arlington last March. That honor went to Craig Wentz's Buckey.
Chad Berger will bring two of his best bulls, Smackdown and Flint. Both finished among the Top 5 bulls in Chicago. Smackdown has been ridden in three of his last six outs, which is uncharacteristic of him. In a career that will reach 75 outs this weekend, he's been ridden by a right-handed rider only once, and that happened on a rare occasion when he decided to spin to the right.
"You'd expect him to slow down sometime," Lambert said of Smackdown. "He didn't look like he'd lost anything with Billy Robinson. It was his first out of the year, but he wasn't sluggish or anything. Billy was 92.5 points, and that's around the average score that he's produced over the years when he's been ridden. Smackdown may not win a World Championship, but he will be remembered as one of the greatest PBR bulls of all time, and in that, he's like Blueberry Wine, another great bull that didn't win it."
Flint is a new addition to the Berger herd, who made his debut last May.
"I was really high on Flint toward the end of last year," Lambert said. "Chad told me last summer that he thought the bull was better than Smackdown, based on his Touring Pro outs. I thought that was quite a statement, but his scores reflected that. He was ridden twice toward the end of last season, and he wasn't quite as good the second time, but in Chicago, I had him as my highest-marked bull."
Oklahoma City will also mark the 2013 Built Ford Tough Series debut for D&H Cattle Company's Shepherd Hills Tested - last season's ABBI Classic World Champion Bull. Tested appeared at Touring Pro events in Denver and Pueblo, Colo., two weeks ago, and at both those events, he bucked out of the right-hand delivery chutes, which are on the right side if you are facing the chutes. Tested has always been bucked from the left-hand delivery side, and switching sides can make a difference in a bull's performance.
"H.D. Page said he wanted to try him out of a right-hand delivery at Denver," Lambert explained. "He thought he would be really good, and he was. He won over $300,000 last season as a 4-year-old bucking out of a left hand delivery, so he's good either way."
Shepherd Hills Tested will be featured as the bonus bull on Friday night, and will return in the championship round on Sunday.
Follow Slade Long on Twitter @ProBullStats.
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