ST. LOUIS – Some call it a big or even huge opportunity and others think of it as an honor.
Of course, they’re talking about the fast-approaching the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V.
This year’s event takes place Saturday, March 1, at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas, and in addition to a six-figure payout to the winner, he’ll also have a shot a $1 million bonus if he can successfully ride Bushwacker for 8-seconds.
“That (will) be great,” said Zane Lambert, who until Nathan Schaper’s injury a week ago was the final qualifier for the Iron Cowboy V. “It’s one of the biggest payouts.”
With Schaper sidelined, Gage Gay is now in the draw.
Like Gay, Colby Yates was a late replacement in 2011.
In fact, Yates – a Metroplex native from nearby Fort Worth – wasn’t added to the draw until 48 hours beforehand and went on to win the second installment of the Iron Cowboy. He later credited a lucky penny that he kept in his cowboy boot.
Reese Cates, who is in his seventh season as a pro, will compete for the second year in a row after missing out on the first three.
The 2008 Rookie of the Year said, “I’m looking forward to getting a shot at the Iron Cowboy.”
Like Cates, Ty Pozzobon is thankful for another opportunity to compete on a grand stage like the one they’ll have in Arlington.
Pozzobon, who finished sixth at the Iron Cowboy in 2012, said it’s not everyday bull riders get to ride for that kind of money.
“It’s so important to every bull rider that’s here,” he added.
While the top eight riders from the final world standings from a season ago – J.B. Mauney, Silvano Alves, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Guilherme Marchi, Cody Nance, Marco Eguchi, Eduardo Aparecido and L.J. Jenkins – receive an automatic bid and a first-round bye, the remaining 16 spots are filled with the top riders not already among last year’s automatic qualifiers following the fifth Built Ford Tough Series event of this year.
Mike Lee, Fabiano Vieira, Stormy Wing, Robson Palermo, Ryan Dirteater, Matt Triplett, Willingham, Valdiron de Oliveira, Pozzobon, Chase Outlaw, Cates, Kasey Hayes, Billy Robinson, Lachlan Richardson, Lambert and Gay round out the remaining list of riders in the draw.
“It’s a great event,” said Willingham, who used an early-season BFTS win in Duluth, Ga., to catapult himself into the Iron Cowboy. “It’s one of our biggest events all year long. There’s a lot of money up for grabs and it’s also the toughest bull riding we have all year too because we have to get on so many bulls that night.”
Sean Willingham puts up 88.50 points on C Note to win the Duluth Invitational in Duluth, Ga.
In recent weeks, Pozzobon was so focused on the season as a whole he admitted to forgetting Bushwacker was worth an $1 million bonus at the end of the event.
Unlike Pozzobon, the seven-figure bonus had not escaped Willingham’s mind.
“That’s crazy,” said the 12-year veteran. “The PBR does such a great job of creating opportunities for us bull riders. To have an opportunity to win that kind of prize money at one single event is outstanding.”
Willingham had a Top-10 finish in Arlington the first year of the event in 2010.
Everyone is trying to get themselves into a good rhythm going into the grueling event.
Pozzobon said he had been feeling good, but things weren’t clicking for him until recently.
“I need to pick my game up a little bit,” Pozzobon added.
“It’s just coming together for me here,” said Lambert, a fellow Canadian. “I don’t know if anything changed. I’m just finally comfortable here. … You have to feel like you belong and, like I’ve been saying, comfortable here. I think I’m finally at that point in my career where this is where I need to be.”
Lambert later said, “It’ll be great bulls like here, they have great bulls too. I need to ride my bulls, stay disciplined, do everything right and, who knows, I might even walk away with a win out of there.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.