GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. ― The Grand Rapids Invitational starts Friday and will feature the first 15/15 Bucking Battle since Des Moines, Iowa, back in April. This double-points round will play a big role in the World Championship race, and with the top two bulls in the PBR resting this week you can expect to see some qualified rides here.
PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert expects this to be the most rider-friendly bonus round of the season so far.
"It could be the least difficult 15/15 pen we've seen this year," said Lambert. "Bushwacker and Asteroid are out, and any bull that replaces them won't be as hard to ride. When we go to Florida in a couple of weeks, the 15/15 round there will probably be easier ― none of the top finals bulls will be there because of the logistics of getting them from South Florida to Las Vegas in a short amount of time."
The World Championship race of late has been between two riders ― Silvano Alves and J.B. Mauney. Both have had a great amount of success since the Built Ford Tough series resumed in August, and the double-points round is important for both. Alves has drawn Jared Allen's H4WW Hot Iron; Mauney will face Jeff Robinson & Bar 3D's BIG TEX "ROCKS", a bull that hasn't been ridden yet.
"I think J.B. will get along with him and like him," said Lambert. "BIG TEX "ROCKS" goes to the left, and if J.B.'s confidence level is high, I think he can ride anything. It's hard to keep your confidence level high when you go 1-for-4 on the weekend, and you get slammed pretty hard by Bushwacker. J.B. is a young guy, but he's a veteran rider, and he should be able to shake it off and get started right."
"Hot Iron is pretty level and fast, and Alves should ride him; but if he leaves the chute in a bad position this bull won't give him a chance to correct it," Lambert said. "He doesn't spend a lot of time in the air, and once he gets into a spin he doesn't let up. Alves is the best rider in the world, and he makes more rides than anybody else does."
The Monster Energy Money Bull ― Jeff Robinson's 164 Great White ― carries a bounty of $111,000 in the 15/15 round. If Eduardo Aparecido can ride him, he'll get rich quick. To say Great White is hard to ride would be an understatement. No one has ridden him to the four-second mark in 15 months.
"Most guys are bucked off the first jump on him," Lambert said. "He doesn't have tremendous break over, but he drops out of the air like a ton of bricks. He gets all four feet in the air, and he has a way of dropping that gets everyone pretty quick. He's not the flashiest bull out there to me, but there must be more to him than what I see."
Mike Lee will face Robinson & Bar 3D's Meat Hook again after posting 90.25 points on him to win the Battle at the Beau in Biloxi, Miss., last Saturday. Meat Hook is usually the best draw in whatever round he's in, and one of the more rideable elite level bulls in the PBR.
"Meat Hook is just a notch below Mudslinger in my book," said Lambert "He's one of those great rank bulls with perfect timing that goes hard to the last jump. He allows you to make a perfect ride, but anything less than a perfect ride, he bucks hard enough to buck guys off. It's all on the rider to do his part. You don't see guys making mistakes and hanging off the side on Meat Hook because he doesn't allow it. His bucking style and his timing is such that the best riders should get him ridden, but any little mistake the rider makes will cost him a score.
"If I were breeding bulls, I'd want to breed to a bull like Meat Hook because he's a great performing bull, he's strong to the last jump and he's the kind of bull that has a long successful career. He does everything a bull can do and does it pretty well. I think if you breed a bull like that to a cow out of a spectacular physical athlete ― like a daughter of Bushwacker ― you'd have everything you could want in a bloodline."
In the short round in Grand Rapids we'll see K Bar C's Mississippi Hippy, King Lopez and Rock & Roll, along with Chad Berger's Flint and Carney Man. Shane Gunderson's Buck Wild will make his first out on the Built Ford Tough Series since April. In a year where 90-point rides have been hard to come by, Buck Wild has produced three rides in excess of 92 points.
"The hardest thing about Buck Wild is getting out of the chute," Lambert said. "If they can get out clean on him, he should feel like a million bucks. He gets way up in the air and stays pretty level, but when he hits he's got just enough backup to pull guys right up on their rope. He's flashy to watch, and I'm waiting to see him draw a right-handed guy who wants to rear back and spur one and make something really exciting happen."
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