TULSA, Okla. ― Kent Cox has never been one to overstate anything.
Asked how Thursday morning's nearly six-hour trip from Dublin, Texas, up to Tulsa, Okla., went and he calmly replied, "We're just waiting on Saturday."
It was as if he thought the question was about something other than the fact that he hauls Bushwacker, one of the most celebrated bulls in PBR history and the frontrunner to win his second World Champion Bull title in the past three seasons.
Bushwacker, who has bucked off 42 consecutive riders at Built Ford Tough Series events and 57 overall, will be in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night at the BOK Center during the Express Employment Professionals Classic.
He's bucked once during the break, bucking off Pistol Robinson in 3.56 seconds, with $40,000 at stake during a Touring Pro Division event in Decatur, Texas, 10 weeks ago after Robinson accepted a challenge from J.W. Hart on Twitter.
The buckoff cost Robinson $1,000.
For Bushwacker, it added to an already historic legend.
As a matter of fact, he's probably gotten more press in the past three summer months than the first five months of the regular season-or, at least, more national and international recognition.
In addition to the press surrounding the challenge, which took place at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge on June 9, he was the first animal athlete to appear in the Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine and was featured in a segment of the nationally televised "CBS This Morning."
"Evidentially something about him keeps people tuned in and wanting to know more," said Cox. "I think he's turned himself into a legend."
What is it about Bushwacker?
Is it the recording-setting streak that dates all the way back to October of 2009?
Is it the athletic ability of an animal athlete that captivates longtime fans and casual observers?
Or is the comeback story of a champion, who overcomes injuries to reclaim greatness?
According to Cox, he simply said, "Everybody loves the best."
However, he almost wound up as just one of 14 names on a list of 18 champion bulls in PBR history after bone spurs were discovered in both of his back hocks in January 2012. Then he underwent a second procedure.
Since then, Cox, who has handled and hauled Bushwacker his entire career for owner Julio Moreno, has had him examined twice a year for precautionary measures.
He was examined down in Elgin, Texas, which is due east of Austin, by Dr. Gary Warner on Aug. 5. Warner X-rayed Bushwacker's hocks and fetlocks; he also checked "to make sure his joints are holding up."
At 7 years old, Cox said veterinarians have told him bulls should begin showing their age. Like a football player, who's played in the NFL for five or six seasons, arthritis usually begins to show up in areas of old injuries.
In Bushwacker's case, Cox said Warner told him he looks like he's still 5 or 6.
It is also a credit to Warner's treatment of the bone chips, which Cox believes is the primary reason the world class bull has returned to competition as good, if not better, than before the injuries.
"That definitely makes me feel good and it kind of helps me realize that all the effort we've put in Bushwacker has paid off," said Cox. "I can't say enough good things about Dr. Warner, and I have no doubt that without Dr. Warner we would not be where we are today."
Seven riders have attempted Bushwacker this year at BFTS events, and six times he's been the high-marked bull of the event, including two outs marked 48 points or higher. He's been the high-marked bull in 11 of his past 13 outs.
Although greatness is measured against 45-point bull scores, Bushwacker is making a strong case as the greatest bull in PBR history. He's been marked 47 point or higher a staggering 16 times in his career.
Asked if he expects Bushwacker to be unridden at season's end, Cox said, "Who knows?"
"They ride them all sooner or later," he added, "Shoot, they could ride him Saturday. There's no telling. It just depends on whether that magic moment happens. It could happen at any time. I've kind of-ah, just to get myself ready for when that day comes I kind of think it's going to happen every time I buck him. Really and truly, I'd like to see him go unridden again this year, but it is the PBR and these are the best bull riders in the world. There (are) some of them who can ride him every time they get on him. It just hasn't happened yet.
"When they do ride him, I hope they break records. That's what this game is all about-the best of the best against the best of the best."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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