Fans also witnessed the first cowboy to stay on all eight bulls at the World Finals in Las Vegas, thrilling early-season matches, and a PBR founder who thrived on a major network TV show.
The emergence of cowboys and bulls from North Carolina and a determined U.S. Team winning the World Cup also were attention-grabbers.
Looking back, here are eight of the more compelling story lines:
One close race
For the first time in three years, fans witnessed a world title race that went down to the last day of the World Finals.
Kody Lostroh, J.B. Mauney and Guilherme Marchi entered the World Finals in a dogfight.
During the last performance, Lostroh rode twice in Rounds 7 and 8 (the 15-man final). According to PBR officials, he actually clinched the title after staying on his bull in Round 7. Lostroh, who was bucked off of the renowned bull Voodoo Child in the final round, said he was unaware he had clinched the title before making his last ride of the year.
“I didn’t have a clue,” he said. “I was just going to try to do my job. I was going to try to ride that bull no matter if I had it won or if I didn’t have it won.”
Lostroh was bucked off of Voodoo Child in 7.4 seconds. Meanwhile, his rival J.B. Mauney won the round after turning in a score of 93.75.
And although Mauney became the first cowboy to stay on all eight bulls at the World Finals, it wasn’t enough to surpass Lostroh in the world standings.
After the dust settled, Lostroh clinched the title after earning 16,640 points, 594 more than Mauney. Marchi finished third in the world title race with 11,920.75. Marchi stayed on only two bulls during the finals and never finished in the money.
The close race made a big impression on longtime PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert.
“When you look at their riding percentages throughout the year, you see that Kody Lostroh stayed on 64.21 percent of the bulls that he got on, slightly ahead of J.B. Mauney who stayed on 63.64 percent,” Lambert said. “Then you look at the world standings points, and Kody Lostroh finished ahead of J.B. by a small margin. It just shows that we have the right type of point system in place.”
A perfect season
Every great bucking bull gets ridden for the 8-second count at some point. Even the legendary bulls of the past - Little Yellow Jacket, Bodacious and Dillinger -concluded their careers with a far-from-perfect record.
But throughout 2009, no cowboy stayed on Code Blue throughout the bull’s first year on the Built Ford Tough Series. The bull finished with a 14-0 record against the cowboys.
The bull is owned by Rick Wagoner and Jimmy Walton and Chad Berger and Clay Struve.
When the title was at stake during the World Finals, Code Blue bucked off Edimundo Gomes, Cody Nance (the 2009 Daisy Rookie of the Year) and Austin Meier in Rounds 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
After all that, Code Blue clinched the 2009 World Champion Bull title with a three-ride aggregate tally of 140.75.
The title was based on an aggregate score after each of the 10 World Champion Bull contestants had competed in three rounds.
Code Blue, a light colored bull, edged second-place finisher Voodoo Child (owned by Jeff Robinson, Bar None, Beutler and Sons) by 1.25 points. Voodoo Child turned in a three-ride score of 139.5, and Big Tex (Dakota Rodeo/Clay Struve) came in third with a 138.75.
Lambert said Code Blue was clearly the best bucking bull going down the road in 2009.
“He traveled as much or more than any bull out there, and he was the best bull at this time,” Lambert said. “His travels ranged from being in places like Nampa (Idaho), Albuquerque, N.M., Worcester (Mass.), and in North Carolina.”
A perfect Finals
J.B. Mauney, who lives in Mooresville, N.C., won the World Finals average in dramatic fashion by becoming the first cowboy ever to stay on all eight bulls at the Las Vegas championships.
After winning the average title, Mauney earned the World Finals’ much sought-after $250,000 average check. That pushed his 2009 World Finals earnings to $343,000. Mauney earned $742,207 in 2009 and his PBR career earnings are now more than $2.1 million.
Going into the World Finals Championship Round on Nov. 8, both Mauney and world title race leader Kody Lostroh had captivated fans by staying on their first seven bulls. In the eighth round (the short go), Lostroh was bucked off. So was Brazilian Valdiron de Oliveira, who also had stayed on his first seven.
But Mauney, who finished second in the 2009 Built Ford Tough Series world title race, stuck it on his final round bull in dramatic fashion. He won the round with a score of 93.5 aboard Black Pearl, the fast spinner owned by Ravencroft/Boyd-Floyd Bull Co.
The 93.5 helped Mauney win the average with an eight-ride score of 715. Lostroh finished runner-up with a 624 on seven rides.
Mauney said one reason he won was because he never looked too far ahead throughout the World Finals.
“I try not to think about it a whole lot,” Mauney said. “I look at each round as a different day. I try not to think about what I’ve done the day before or what’s coming the next day. I just look at the bull that I have to ride, and set my mind on staying on him.”
Two weeks following the World Finals, Mauney won the Challenger Tour Championship, a finale for the PBR’s lower-tier tours that was held Nov. 20-22 in Duluth, Ga. The association also conducted its first Ford Series show of the 2010 in conjunction with the Challenger Tour Championship.
Guilherme Marchi, the PBR’s 2008 world champion, won the Ford Series segment and earned $210,000. Mauney finished second in the Ford Series competition, but won the Challenger tour title. He pocketed $78,750.
North Carolina’s year
Last year, Brazil was in the spotlight, with Guilherme Marchi winning the world title and Robson Palermo clinching the World Finals average buckle. But throughout 2009, North Carolina was the big newsmaker, with J.B. Mauney winning the World Finals average, and Code Blue clinching the World Champion Bull title.
It was the third consecutive year that a North Carolina-owned bull won the world title. Bones, the 2008 World Champion, is owned by Tom Teague, a highly successful North Carolina businessman who also serves as a key advisor of the PBR. Chicken on a Chain, the 2007 World Champion, is co-owned by Jeff Robinson. Both Bones and Chicken on a Chain were among the 10 contenders for the World Champion Bull award that was contested at the 2009 World Finals.
Brian Canter, who lives in Randleman, N.C., finished first at three Built Ford Tough Series regular season tour stops in 2009. He also he tied for first in the sixth round at the World Finals after turning in a score of 89.25.
Cody Lambert said a main reason North Carolina has become a hot spot is because of the success of North Carolina bull rider Jerome Davis, who in 1995 became the first cowboy who lived East of the Mississippi to win a world bull riding title. He also said North Carolina has an abundance of bull riding activity and stock contractors who are finding a niche in the PBR.
Striking up a match
At the beginning of the year, two match rides against the World Champion Bull Bones created a buzz among fans.
Tom Teague, the owner of Bones, claimed no cowboy could stay on his star bull. But he was willing to pay $20,000 if a cowboy indeed could stay on for the 8-second count.
The first match was against Marchi in late January at Winston-Salem, N.C. Bones had Marchi off in 4.3 seconds,
After that, J.B. Mauney said he wanted a chance. After all, he was the 2009 world title race leader at the time, and wanted to see if could go where no other rider had been.
Teague gave Mauney the opportunity to face Bones two weeks later in Oklahoma City. The match capped an opening-night performance of a Built Ford Tough Series show at the Ford Center where the NBC cameras were rolling, and the crowd was popping.
After Mauney called for the gate to be opened, Bones exploded from the chutes and began spinning furiously to the right. But Mauney had taken a deep seat early in the ride and wasn’t about to let go.
Bones spun fast and made his usual high kicks. But Mauney handled the centrifugal force.
“It was a dogfight from the word go,” he said.
Teague said Mauney dominated his champion bull.
"He had his number," Teague said. “There’s no question about it.”
Bull vs. Bull
Teague and Chad Berger, the owner of Big Tex, made a bet that each man owned the best bull. And the losing stock contractor would pay the winner $50,000.
The match was conducted in conjunction with a March PBR Built Ford Tough Series tour stop in Birmingham, Ala., and it was the first bull-vs.-bull challenge in which the winning score earned a large sum of money for the bovine’s owner.
In a nail-biter, Big Tex edged Bones, 46 to 45.5.
“I was a little nervous because he had lost a lot of weight within the last month,” Berger said of Big Tex. “But he still did the job.”
The judges scored each bull during the final round of the Birmingham show. Veteran Zack Brown faced Big Tex and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee mounted Bones. Both men were bucked off.
It proved Big Tex was one tough bull to be reckoned with.
“If you ask any of the bull riders, they’ll tell you how strong Big Tex is when he hits the ground,” Berger said. “They’ll say that he’s one of the strongest bulls that they’ve ever been on.”
A victorious U.S.
The United States won the PBR World Cup for the second consecutive year, but this was one team that came together after some patchwork.
The U.S. competed in the Aug. 28-30 show in Barretos, Brazil, without PBR world title race leader Kody Lostroh, who was battling an elbow injury in his riding arm.
The U.S. also was missing North Carolina sensation Brian Canter, who was sidelined with a knee injury. He was replaced by Ryan Dirteater, the young Oklahoman who won the Dallas Ford Series tour stop in January.
By comparison, last year’s five-man squad had more credentials. That team included Lostroh, along with two-time World Champion Justin McBride.
But the 2009 U.S. team was very determined. When the title was at stake during the final round, the U.S. entered the performance one ride behind Team Brazil. But the Americans rallied and clinched the title with 1,387.75 points. Brazil finished second with 1,217.5 and Canada was third with 1,027. Team Australia came in fourth with 685 and Team Mexico wound up fifth with 173.
J.W. Hart, the U.S. team captain, commended his squad for effort.
"They were all behind the chutes pulling for each other and helping each other," said Hart, the 2002 PBR World Finals average winner. "I mean, these are five guys who normally do not travel together when they are in the states. But they really made a team effort out of this deal."
Team USA consisted of Mauney, who was the only returning member of the World Cup team who claimed the 2008 title in Chihuahua, Mexico; Zack Brown (Santa Fe, Texas); Ryan McConnell (Colgate, Okla.); Austin Meier (Kinta, Okla.), and Dirteater (Hulbert, Okla.).
Mauney was also named the 2009 World Cup MVP after he scored 439.5 points, the highest among the field of 25 riders.
The World Cup performances drew huge crowds. The final show may have drawn 70,000, according to Randy Bernard, the PBR’s chief executive officer.
“The biggest thing was the passion of the Brazilian fans,” Bernard said. “They would applaud when the Americans got bucked off, but that didn’t offend the Americans because it’s expected.”
Still, Team USA received a round of applause after they clinched the title.
Murray can dance
In recent years, seven-time world all-around champion Ty Murray has made impressive national TV appearances, competing in celebrity auto racing and teaching famous people how to ride bulls. But his success on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” last spring far exceeded anything he’s done in terms of bringing attention to western riding sports.
Murray stayed on the hit series for 10 weeks and reached the semifinal round. And though he and his partner, Chelsie Hightower, were eliminated at that point and finished fourth overall, Murray’s success was one great publicity stunt.
“Every week that I stayed on the show, the exposure and recognition intensified, and that’s what drove me to bear down and do the best that I could,” said Murray, a founding member of the PBR.
“The neat thing about this show is each couple had a team behind them throughout America, and no one knows really how big their team is,” Murray said. “But I think we got a tremendous amount of support from the cowboy nation. I said since Day 1 that the reason I went on the show was to bring recognition to professional cowboys and bull riding.”
Murray earned respect from judges, pro dancers and fans for his sheer determination to learn sophisticated dance moves as he competed in the Los Angeles studios.
“All I knew to do was to not let them outwork me,” Murray said. “Chelsie and I danced enough dance steps, that if you put them in all in a straight line, we’d in Florida.”
-By Brett Hoffman
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