TAMPA, Fla. - For the guys chasing World Championship points, this round is big. Winning this round is equivalent to winning two rounds in any event. In addition to that, we won't see very many qualified rides due to the difficulty of the bulls in this round, so the riders who do get a score are more likely to move up in the points standings farther than they would be able to otherwise.
This may be the toughest pen of 15 bulls assembled this year in terms of sheer difficulty. These bulls are the best in the business at throwing riders off, and almost none of the matchups will look promising for the rider on paper. If anyone gets a score here, he will have earned it.
Ben Jones on 654 Mulligan Man:
Fifty-two career outs, two qualified rides and a 96.15% overall buckoff rate says it all for Mulligan Man. He hasn't been ridden since January of 2011, and in the time since he has recorded 11 buckoffs vs. today's Top 10 riders. Ben Jones had him in February of 2011 and came down in 4.63 seconds.
Stormy Wing on 718 Lightmaker.com's
This is a rematch from Pueblo earlier this season, where Wing nearly came out on top. He took Rango to 7.27 seconds before coming down. Rango may be in the top two or three most rider-friendly bulls in this round, even though he seldom allows a qualified ride. He's been ridden past 6 seconds is 4 of his last 6 outs at all levels of competition.
Luke Snyder on L704 David's Dream:
David's Dream is unridden, and while he hasn't been around but a couple of years, he is more than enough to put any of these riders down before the whistle. In his two outs since the break, he's scored more than 45 points each time, and Fabiano Vieira and Marco Eguchi didn't make eight seconds on him combined.
Robson Palermo on 691 Meathook:
Because riders turned in two 90+ scores on Meathook in August, he is the least-difficult bull in the round on paper. Off the paper, he is a rank bull, and won't tolerate the slightest rider mistake. At times he can be much more difficult than he was in his last couple of outs. Palermo has a good chance here, and he should get along with this bull.
Harve Stewart on 924B Jack Daniel's Tennessee
Because this is a bull that above all likes to spin, he should be one of the rider favorites compared to other bulls in this round. Honey has a ton of speed, though, and moves around in the spin enough to get most riders on the ground, even if he spins into their hand. He will likely spin to the left - away from Stewart's hand, and Silvano Alves is the only right-hander ever to have ridden this bull.
Ryan Dirteater on 704 Pawnbroker:
Pawnbroker has less experience than most of the bulls here. He's only been around since June of this year. J.B. Mauney got a score on him in Tulsa, Okla. - but not an easy score. Contractor Jeff Robinson thinks this bull has a bright future.
Renato Nunes on 656 Quiet Riot:
Quiet Riot has been ridden once early in his career, and has a streak of 19 straight buckoffs since then and nine straight buckoffs at Built Ford Tough Series events this season. Nunes hasn't been himself since the break. He's ridden only four of 16 bulls since Pueblo, and he's got his work cut out for him with this one.
Marco Eguchi on 1415 Palm Springs:
Palm Springs probably passes the eye test as the easiest to ride bull in this round, but his big secret is that he's not as easy to ride as he looks. I've said before that it looks like this bull spins faster than he bucks, and his timing may feel strange because of that, but it's hard to know what a bull feels like by just watching him. In any case, Palm Springs has been around since 2008, and he's only been ridden six times in 61 career outs. He's 12-0 on the Built Ford Tough Series this season and last.
Austin Meier on 156 Larry the Cable Guy's
This bull is 37-4 on his career, and 26-3 against Built Ford Tough Series riders. Meier tried him in Des Moines, Iowa, and had no luck.
Guilherme Marchi on 275 Ronnie Rooster:
This may be the least-well-known bull in this pen. He's been around a while and is 21-3 in his career. He has been ridden a couple of times at Touring Pro events this year, but the top riders are only 1 for 10 against him. Like Nunes, Marchi hasn't done well since the break - he is 5 for his last 15.
Fabiano Vieira on 70S HIGH Steaks:
I look for this to be one of the more exciting matchups to watch. HIGH Steaks hasn't been ridden in more than a year, and he has a ton of up-and-down movement. He's almost like Asteroid minus the speed. Vieira is less than two percentage points behind Alves and Oliveira in overall riding percentage, and he has been better than both of them against elite bulls like this.
J.B. Mauney on 57 Shamoun:
Shamoun hasn't been to the big show since April, and he's not exactly a household name, but he's logged 19 straight buckoffs at Built Ford Tough Series events, and hasn't been ridden at all since Harve Stewart did it more than two years ago. Mauney has been a victim twice, once in 2010 and once in 2011.
Valdiron de Oliveira on 781 Asteroid:
This is a rematch from the 15/15 round in Indianapolis earlier this season, where Oliveira failed to make the whistle. It's easy to take the bull in this matchup because of Oliveira's recent lackluster performance, but he is the same rider he was before, and he could emerge at any time riding as well as he ever has, and he is capable of giving Asteroid all he can handle.
L.J. Jenkins on 601 Shepherd Hills
If you break down what these bulls do that makes them world class performers, Asteroid and HIGH Steaks have world-class kicking, Palm Springs and Tennessee Honey are world-class spinners, and David's Dream and Rango have world class intensity - but Shepherd Hills Trapper has a world-class corner.
When a bull makes his first move into a spin, riders call it the "corner," and this bull has as quick and tough a corner as any bull in the history of bull riding. He earns a lot of quick buckoffs with it. On his best day he's practically unrideable, but he doesn't always show it off. Sometimes he's a little more rider-friendly, and at least once this season he didn't even spin and earned a 46-point bull score in the least rider-friendly trip of the year. Jenkins is certainly capable of riding him, but he could use a little help from the bull here.
Silvano Alves on 5081 Highway 12:
Highway 12 isn't as visually spectacular as many of the other bulls here, but he is 30-4 at Built Ford Tough Series events, and 15-0 everywhere else. He's no slouch at throwing riders off. Alves just took the lead in the world standing, but he's in for a fight. He was able to dominate last season because he rode the elite bulls far more consistently than anyone else. His riding percentage against those bulls is down this season, and it's down against the field as well, although it's still very good. If he wants to repeat, he needs to get scores on more of the top bulls, and this is a good place to start.
Follow Slade Long on Twitter @probullstats.
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