ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Here are three things we learned from the Atlantic City Invitational this weekend at Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey.
Davis rides Smooth Operator for career-high 93.75 points
Cooper Davis’ World Championship aspirations took a major hit last year at the 2017 PBR World Finals when Smooth Operator had a trashy out in the second round during his 4.92-second buckoff of Davis.
Fast forward to this past Sunday, and Smooth Operator may have just helped Davis re-start his march for a second World Championship and the 2018 world title.
Davis conquered Smooth Operator for a sensational and career-high 93.75 points in the championship round to finish the Atlantic City Invitational in second place (355 world points).
“It was a little bit of revenge right there,” Davis said. “I had him at the Finals and he didn’t really have a great trip. Since I have seen him out of the right (delivery) I have wanted to get on him. I really didn’t know what he would feel like over here but I figured like he would fit me a whole lot better. That is a step in the right direction for sure.”
Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger is hopeful this ride can spearhead Davis on a run at the world title.
Berger felt horrible last year at the Finals when Smooth Operator underperformed for Davis.
“He had a terrible day and set the whole week off bad for Cooper,” Berger said. “I think the world of Cooper. He is a great bull rider and he is riding good this weekend. That was a great ride by Cooper Davis. Hats off to him. That bull was bucking harder at 8 than he was at four. He kept going at him. That was amazing and the bull was amazing.
“I wish that could have happened at the World Finals last year.”
Davis’ previous career-high was 91.75 points on TLW’s Big Cat last year in Austin, Texas.
The 24-year-old may have been able to win the Atlantic City Invitational if he had converted aboard Muscles & Shovels (6.3 seconds) in Round 2.
Davis began his weekend with 85.5 points on Jesus & Bocephus in Round 1.
He moved up to No. 7 in the world standings and is now 1,430 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco.
Pacheco bucked off both of his bulls in Atlantic City and failed to accumulate any world points.
Davis wasn’t kicking himself over any missed opportunities about his Round 2 buckoff though.
“Not really because it was one of those deals where I didn’t do too much wrong,” Davis said. “He just got the best of me there in the second round today. I can’t be too pissed off about that. You are not going to stay on every one.”
There are five regular-season events left before the World Finals, and Davis believes this ride can help propel him on a hot streak.
“When you make bull rides like that, it shows you can do it at the top level,” he said. “You get the idea that there is nothing out there that should buck you off. Whenever it does buck you off, you just have to brush it off and go onto the next one. They are going to get you down, but it is how fast you can bounce back and keep coming at them.”
Smooth Operator also gets career-high score
Smooth Operator was marked a season-best 46.25 points for his teamwork with Davis.
Berger scoffed at the score, insisting his bull could have easily been 47 points.
“He was a 47 all day today,” Berger said. “I truly think you can go look back at all the 96-point rides in the records today and there might have been some of them that came close to that today, but none of them were better.”
Regardless, it was an impressive rebound performance from Smooth Operator after he hipped himself last week with Cody Nance during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
“He didn’t really have a bad out. He just got buckled up in the chutes there,” Berger said.
Smooth Operator is now ranked fourth in the World Champion Bull standings with a 44.75-point average score.
Berger originally wasn’t planning on bringing Smooth Operator to New Jersey until his mishap in Springfield happened.
Smooth Operator is going to rest the next couple of weeks before bucking again in Milwaukee and Nampa, Idaho.
“I have to get a couple more outs and wash away a couple of lower scores,” Berger said. “I have to give him a shot to win it in Vegas. The only way to do that is to probably buck him in Milwaukee and Idaho. Give him a few weeks off now to recoup. Get them two outs and hopefully we can have two great trips there and go into the Finals with a shot.”
Dirteater wins Atlantic City Invitational
Ryan Dirteater also made quite the bull ride in his own right during the championship round.
Dirteater rode Cochise for 90.75 points and then looked on as Fabiano Vieira bucked off Rising Sun in 2.26 seconds, sealing Dirteater (3-for-3) his second event win of 2018.
“Keyshawn said he felt good last weekend out of the left (delivery) and I thought would pick him,” Dirteater said. “He wasn’t lying either. A lot of guys get along with him, and a guy could be 90 points. I knew Fabiano was ahead of me. If there was any chance possible, I had to pick something I could be 90 on. I picked him to win it. Fabiano stubbed his toe and it happened to be my time. It worked out.”
Cochise used to be a right delivery and he was marked 44.5 points in Atlantic City. He is third in the World Champion Bull race with a 44.84 average.
Dirteater was otherwise methodical in his victory.
The 29-year-old rode Livin the Life for 84.5 points in Round 1 and Sam for 81 points in Round 2 to head into the championship round sitting in second place.
Dirteater was the only rider to go a perfect 3-for-3 and he walked away with 460 points toward the world standings.
He will head into next weekend’s U.S. Border Patrol Invitational in Fairfax, Virginia, ranked 13th in the world standings. Dirteater is 2,262.5 points behind Pacheco.
“Anyone of us has a chance to win the world,” Dirteater said. “It doesn’t matter if it is your time or not. When you get on a hot streak, you just keep working hard and keep grinding. The sky is the limit. Ain’t no telling what can happen. There are five more events until the PBR Finals. There are a lot of points. I have to keep on going.”
Vieira finished in fifth place with 115 world points.
Rounding out the Top 5 behind Dirteater and Davis was Marco Eguchi (2-for-3, 330 world points) and Matt Triplett (2-for-3, 177.5 world points).
Eguchi covered Stunt Man Ray for 89.75 points in the championship round, while Triplett was successful aboard Beaver Creek Beau for 87.5 points.
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, No. 35 Marcos Gloria did not compete on Sunday after landing on his elbow Saturday night attempting to ride Shameless (5.8 seconds). Gloria has an apparent subluxation of his left shoulder and a possible fracture.
Gage Gay did not compete in the championship round after aggravating a previous riding hand injury during his 86-point ride on Slinger in Round 2.
ATLANTIC CITY DRAW: KOLBABA HEADS TO EAST COAST FOLLOWING PENDLETON VICTORY (9-12-18)
Derek Kolbaba has been dominant in the Pacific Northwest for the past four years, and now the 22-year-old will look to duplicate his winning performance from Pendleton, Oregon, 2,800 miles away in Atlantic City, New Jersey, this weekend.
Kolbaba went 4-for-4 at the Pendleton PBR Classic at Happy Canyon Arena in Pendleton, Oregon, on Monday and Tuesday to finish first and second at the Touring Pro Division event.
The local Walla Walla, Washington, cowboy posted rides aboard Don’t Sweat It (84.5 points), SNJ-915 (63 points), Shooter (81 points) and Papa’s Rockstar (87.5 points).
“Ya we got lucky,” Kolbaba said. “Only one to ride two both nights.”
Kolbaba has won the Pendleton PBR Classic three of the past four years.
It can’t just be luck, right?
“I have no idea,” Kolbaba responded when asked about his success in Pendleton. “Wish I could do that everywhere we go.”
Kolbaba won the then-Velocity Tour event in 2015 to earn a spot on the PBR’s premier series.
The fourth-year pro hasn’t looked back since, qualifying for the 2015 PBR World Finals and finishing runner-up in the 2017 PBR World Championship race.
Kolbaba is trying to push himself back into the 2018 championship race. Kolbaba picked up 90 points toward the world standings, and he heads into this weekend’s Atlantic City Invitational ranked 13th in the world.
“Coming to this event, there was a lot of money up for grabs, and points,” Kolbaba told Annie Fowler of the East Oregonian. “It always puts a little icing on the cake to get you down the road, not to mention the confidence it gives a guy, and to move up in the standings.
“I’m just a kid with a dream who grew up in the stands out there,” he said. “I can’t be any more thankful.”
Kolbaba trails world leader Kaique Pacheco by 2,575 points.
Historically, any rider within 2,000 points of the world lead has a good chance at winning the championship. Currently, that would only be the Top 10 riders in the world.
Kolbaba has six regular-season events left to try to get within that number.
He faces Millennium’s Buck (2-1, UTB) in Round 1 on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.
RELATED: Atlantic City daysheet
Pacheco has drawn Acting Crazy (21-8, PBR UTB) for Round 1.
Fans can watch all of the action Saturday night exclusively on RidePass beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Pacheco leads No. 2 Claudio Montanha Jr. by 826.67 points.
Montanha is set to take on Gangster Boy.
Meanwhile, there are five alternates or exempt riders competing this weekend – No. 36 J.B. Mauney (3.34 points behind No. 35 Lachlan Richardson), No. 38 Alisson de Souza (-130 points), No. 39 Cliff Richardson (-165 points), No. 40 Cody Campbell (-224.17 points) and No. 61 Mason Taylor (-427.5 points).
They are replacing No. 20 Tanner Byrne (right ankle), No. 22 Guilherme Marchi (personal) No. 28 Lonnie West (shoulder) and No. 33 Brock Radford (left ACL/MCL) in the draw.
Taylor is set to make his premier series debut as this week’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour invite.
The 19-year-old went 2-for-2 to win last weekend’s RVT event in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
The Maypearl, Texas, bull rider is coming off a fifth-place finish this week in Pendleton, where he posted a career-best (non-premier series) 87.5 points on Spit Ball.
Taylor is 14-for-43 (32.6 percent) at all levels of competition this year with two wins, seven Top-5s and nine Top-10s. He is 61st in the world standings.
Taylor is No. 61st in the world standings and will look for his first career ride when he faces Dipping Snuff.
The teenager won the 2018 International Finals Youth Rodeo last month in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and has been mentored for the last few years by 2012 PBR World Finals qualifier Cody Johnson.
Richardson rode Long Haired Outlaw for 88 points and a fourth-place finish in Pendleton (15 world points).
Meanwhile, No. 18 Valdiron de Oliveira (chest) and No. 26 Alex Marcilio (ribs) are returning to competition after missing Springfield.
Reigning World Champion Jess Lockwood has an MRI scheduled on Thursday to determine the severity of his right groin injury. He will then make a decision on Atlantic City.
If he is unable to compete, No. 41 Fraser Babbington would be the first alternate.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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