PUEBLO, Colo. – Standing close to 6-feet tall and weighing in at 1,900 pounds, SweetPro’s Long John is certainly one hefty load when it comes to bucking bulls on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Long John’s lethal combo of height, length and size helped propel him to the 2015 World Championship, but they also bring some concern for stock contractor H.D. Page.
Page is well aware that Long John has packed on some extra weight since the bull last bucked at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals. He is confident that Long John will once again be a strong contender at winning the 2016 World Championship, but he does believe it may take a few outs for Long John to get into prime bucking shape.
Long John is set to make his season debut Sunday during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the Express Employment Professionals Classic in Oklahoma City.
“He is a little fat and out of shape probably, but I think he will be OK,” Page said. “It is hard to tell because they are like any other athlete. They are at their best when they just start hitting their spot. You can train and all of that, but until you get into some natural competition and groove then you start getting toward your peak. After his first four or five trips, that is when I think he can get into a roll.”
Long John went 2-0 at the NFR, but Page felt it wasn’t the same Long John that rose to the top of the BFTS last year. Long John bucked off Dustin Bowen (44.5-point bull score) and Joe Frost (45.5-point bull score).
“Ah, he was OK,” Page said. “He was a little sluggish I thought, for him. Everyone’s got an excuse. He has a little arthritis in one of his knees and it was bothering him a little bit. For some reason he didn’t buck as strong. We bucked him out of the chutes closer to the fence which I don’t like to do. I like to buck him closer to the center gate. Things weren’t set up for him to be at his best.”
Page believes Long John is strongest when he bucks out of the inner chutes because it allows Long John quicker access to the middle of the arena.
“He bucks better in the chutes closer to the back,” Page said. “I think he has just gotten used to turning right there in the center of the arena. When you buck him out of the chutes toward the crowd he has to go another jump before he turns.”
Page added that he doesn’t expect Long John’s arthritis to slow him down this season.
There were times last year where Page had to pull back on Long John’s outs as he dealt with a recurring foot injury and arthritis during the second half.
Regardless, Long John still finished the year with 11 buckoffs in 14 BFTS outs. The bovine athlete averaged 45.43 points per BFTS out and bucked 23 total times when combining his outs at all levels.
Long John was marked 45 points or higher in 10 of his 14 BFTS outs.
J.W. Harris was the last rider to make the 8-second mark on Long John when he covered the bovine for 90.25 points to win the PFI Invitational in Springfield, Missouri.
“You know you are going to pretty much get the same trip with him and are going to be 90 (points) every time,” Harris said. “My pick would be Long John day in and day out to bet on (for World Champion Bull) just because he is going to be consistent.”
Long John ended his PBR season with a full display of his power, size, height and athleticism.
He won the 2015 world title by bucking off Fabiano Vieira in 7.41 seconds for a season-best 47.25-point bull score.
“He is a big bull and he has a lot of bone and legs underneath of him,” Page said. “There is a lot of room and bull for him to roll around with. It is not as easy for him to perform like a bull that is 1,200-1,300 pounds. He has a lot more body to throw around. That is what makes him so exciting to watch. When he is able to put that all together with those big high jumps and big kicks.
“On the other side of that, it is a lot harder for him to do that. It takes a lot more effort and a lot more energy for him to do it than a young bull.”
Kasey Hayes fell victim to Long John twice last year. Hayes first got absolutely slammed by Long John in Billings, Montana, when Long John tossed him off in 6.49 seconds for a 46.75-point bull score.
The out was Long John’s second-best of the season.
Hayes then was brought crashing to the side of Long John in 2.3 seconds at the BlueDEF Tour event in Guymon, Oklahoma.
“Long John is more like a rocket ship,” Hayes said. “He is more rider- friendly. Then again, I have seen some trips out of Long John where you are like, ‘Man, I don’t know.’”
Page isn’t sure how many outs he wants Long John to have in 2016. Long John has been out 14 times on the BFTS in each of the last two seasons, while bucking a combined 45 times.
“We are going to play it by ear,” Page said. “I will try and get him qualified for the World Championship race and I am planning on taking him to some PRCA deals as well. Their deal is the same deal, it takes eight outs there too.”
Page has no doubts that his bull has what it takes to become just the fifth bull in PBR history to win multiple World Championships.
“Oh yeah. He is capable of bucking with 46- or 47-point trips together.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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