LAS VEGAS ― PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert, 51, has been watching bull riding events and paying close attention to bulls since before he was even a teenager.
There's no telling how many thousands of bulls he's seen.
And he's certain Bushwacker is the best bull not only in the 20-year history of the PBR, but of all time.
"I think he's the best there's ever been," Lambert said, "definitely the best I've ever seen and I've been around it since I was a little kid. There have been some very good bulls and I've watched him lots of times, probably 50 times before I said that, and there have been some great bulls, but he's right there at the top."
Asked if any one particular outing or season led to that assessment or if it's been his consistency over a career that led him to make such a bold statement regarding Bushwacker, and Lambert replied, "I look at both. He never fails. He bucks as hard as he has to and he gets the job done and if somebody gets him started then he changes things up a little bit and he gets a little tougher.
"If somebody rides him they're going to earn it."
Speaking of earning a qualified ride, it was announced Wednesday that Bushwacker will be a $1 million bonus bull for the winner of next year's Iron Cowboy V on March 2, 2014, at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Cowboys Stadium), in Arlington, Texas.
"It's been rumored and if it is, oh yeah," said owner Julio Moreno, who hadn't heard a definitive decision when he first arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center. He then joked, "Maybe I, Bushwacker can get a run at the million and not only the rider?"
Bushwacker has been ridden three times in his career, but only once since October 2009.
J.B. Mauney, who finished second in the opening round of the World Finals and moved to within 173.5 points of Silvano Alves atop the world standings, rode him back in August for 95.25 points to win the Tulsa, Okla., event. It was Mauney's first of five Built Ford Tough Series wins and, more importantly, the history-making ride ended a Built Ford Tough Series record 42 consecutive buckoffs.
Bushwacker bucked off seven more riders than the second-longest streak of 35 by Silver Wings.
This season he has the six highest bull scores and 10 of the Top 20. He's also had the highest-marked bull score at 10 events and that doesn't even include his scores from the 15/15 Bucking Battles.
The 2011 World Champion Bull is a clear-cut frontrunner among the 2013 contenders.
"He's ready and that's all it takes," said Moreno. "He just has to do his thing."
The buildup and hype to these final two outs in Las Vegas has been a season in the making.
He's twice been featured on "CBS This Morning," he was in the annual Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine and profiled in several other national press and media outlets.
Thankfully, only his owner - "It makes me nervous," said Moreno - and handler Kent Cox can understand all the publicity.
For Bushwacker, his fifth appearance in Vegas is just another event for him.
Or is it?
"Yeah, I think, he's ready," Moreno said. "When the crowd's up for him and screaming and everything, I think, Bushwacker gets into it."
"He'll feel the energy in the building," Lambert added. "He'll know this is a big deal. That's where he shines."
The bull contenders will be in Thursday's second round rank-pen.
Douglas Duncan selected Bushwacker on Wednesday night at the bull draft. They previously met in Thackerville, Okla., in 2011 when Douglas lasted 4.17 seconds. Bushwacker was marked 46.25 points that night.
Although the focus is on the here and now, Moreno said "the bull deal" is financially unbelievable considering the amount of money now available in the sport of professional bull riding and that it's all on account of the PBR continuing to push the boundaries.
"Bushwacker's ready for it," Moreno said. "His other challengers - Asteroid and whoever - they're all ready for something like this to happen. It's real good for the sport."
THE AMERICAN, set for March 2, 2014, the day after Iron Cowboy V, and its over $2 million of prize money is another example of the growth of bull riding.
"It's an exciting thing that bull riding has come to this," Lambert said, "that there's a chance for somebody to win over a million dollars in one night, two nights in a row."
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