STEPHENVILLE, Texas - "Welcome to professional sports."
Those were the words of nine-time World Champion Ty Murray after hearing a list of the riders facing a last opportunity to ride their way into the Top 25 in Baltimore next weekend, or get cut from the Built Ford Tough Series.
The list of riders who qualified for last year's World Finals facing the first cut includes Douglas Duncan, 27th; Dustin Elliott, 29th; Stormy Wing, 30th; Douglas Ferreira, 31st; Elton Cide, 32nd, Cody Campbell, 35th; Colby Yates, 36th; Elliott Jacoby, 37th; Ben Jones, 38th; Rubens Barbosa, 42nd, and Reese Cates, 44th.
Yates, Jacoby and Barbosa all have one injury exemption beyond this weekend, as does Campbell, who is planning to sit out Baltimore. Cates, who broke his jaw at Touring Pro Division event in Denver, and is expected to return in Atlanta, will have four exemptions upon his return.
Those down to one event are Duncan, Elliott, Wing, Ferreira, Cide and Jones.
"All these guys you're naming haven't produced this year at all," said Murray in his weekly podcast.
'All these guys you're naming haven't
produced this year at all.'
"I think Ben Jones has stayed on (two) bulls … and that was lackluster - that's like saying a guy caught a 2-yard reception."
On the flip side, last weekend's Sacramento, Calif., event had plenty of memorable moments.
The fourth BFTS event of the year featured the first of nine PBR 15/15 Bucking Battles. It was also the first event win for newcomer Marco Eguche.
In regard to the Bucking Battle, which was broadcast Sunday on NBC, Murray said, "I thought it was a huge success.
"It was a lot of fun to watch, the in-house crowd that was at the arena in Sacramento loved it, I think it made a great television show. I think it gives our fans a chance to get to know more about the guys and more about the bulls. I was thrilled with how everything turned out. It was good to see the guys stepping up, making some good rides."
"We saw five rides go into the 90s," he continued, "and we haven't seen that for a long time."
Valdiron de Oliveira protected his lead atop the world standings by winning the Battle with a 94-point effort on Buckey. Austin Meier, who trails him by 127.75
Poetry in motion: Austin Meier uses toughness and technique to post 92.25 points on Shepherd Hills Trapper in Sacramento, Calif.
One day later Eguche capped off the weekend by winning the Ariat
Invitational with a 92.25-point ride on Priceless
- his second score of 90 or better in three rounds.
It was also the second BFTS event in a row in which the youngster from Sao Paulo, Brazil, went into the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with the No. 1 pick in the bull draft.
"He looked really good," Murray said. "And the thing to think about, right now, is that out of about the four [top riders in the standings], Marco and Austin [Meier] are healthy."
'Austin seems to be doing really well this
year. He's using more technique then we've seen him use. He's used
more technique this year than he used all of last year, and it's
making his life a lot easier.'
The Top 4 in the world standings are separated by less than 200 points.
Oliveira is in the lead for the third week, followed by Meier, Eguche (-147.25) and Luke Snyder (-199.25). Snyder split fourth and fifth in the Bucking Battle with 90.25 points on Black Attack. Oliveira and Snyder are both contending with shoulder injuries. Snyder will have an MRI on Monday.
Murray, who has in the past been critical of Meier's mechanics, was impressed with his performance in Sacramento. A week after "struggling" with Shepherd Hill Trapper, he dominated the bull. "Austin seems to be doing really well this year," Murray explained. "He's using more technique then we've seen him use. He's used more technique this year than he used all of last year, and it's making his life a lot easier.
"Austin is a guy - I have so much respect for him - I hate to see him struggle at his own hand by trying to muscle bulls, and sometimes he lets his toughness take over what he should be doing. It would be a lot like a fighter, a boxer, going into the ring and just putting his head down and wind-milling his arms. It doesn't matter how tough you are and how much grit you have and how good of a punch you can take, that's not going to win a fight."
"That's what it felt to me like what Austin was doing," he continued.
During this week's podcast, he also talked the third-place finish by Jory Markiss in Sacramento. "It's going to be fun watching this kid and see if he can keep that up," he said.
He also mentioned the ongoing debate surrounding reigning World Champion Silvano Alves.
Even though Alves moved to fifth in the standings with a second-place finish, Murray still feels Alves ought to be worried about how well Oliveira and Meier have been riding, and about their desire to win each and every event, as opposed to simply making the whistle.
"The Built Ford Tough Series level is a grind," he said, "and it's a test every time the gate opens."
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