LAS VEGAS - Once the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals begins, the bulls competing for the World Championship have precious few chances to make a statement so every missed opportunity are costly.
In Thursday’s Round 2 we saw all nine of this year’s contenders, and now that the scores are in the books, reigning World Champ SweetPro’s Long John is leading the way with a 45.75-point bull score against Kasey Hayes. At least a couple of the others aren’t contenders any more.
The race won’t be over until Sunday’s short round, but for Cochise and Crossfire, it’s over now. Cochise flipped over in the chute with Wallace de Oliveira, resulting in a re-ride. Because Cochise didn’t get a bull score he’s eliminated from the race. Crossfire turned in a 41.75 point bull score and was ridden by Valdiron de Oliveira. While he’s not mathematically eliminated, the odds are heavily against him recovering from a four point deficit.
Air Time, who is widely considered the most talented athlete of the bunch looked a little lost, scoring just 42.5 points against Zane Cook. He is 3.25 points behind Long John, and outscoring Long John by that much on Sunday will be tough, but not impossible for a bull like this. There’s a good chance Air Time will be back in the short round where he needs to be to pull off a comeback, but if other bulls outperform him over the next two days he may not get the nod from PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert.
Stone Sober also gave up a qualified ride, and as a result didn’t earn the best possible bull score. Stone Sober usually turns back right in the gate, but last night he stumbled a bit and three seconds ticked off before he could gather himself and really buck. He turned in a 43.25-point score, and he’s 2.5 points behind Long John. Like Air Time, he has the talent to pull that off, but both bulls are dependent on Long John having a bad trip on Sunday.
Hey Jack, who is in the race because of the riders’ vote, acquitted himself well, throwing off Tyler Harr, and earning 44.25 points. He is 1.5 points off the lead after the round and still in the game. He has less big score potential than Air Time or Stone Sober, so the deficit means more to him that it does to some of the other bulls.
Bruiser didn’t have his best day, but he didn’t have his worst either. He managed 44.5 points, which is 1.25 points down. He is very much still in the race. Bruiser was the most consistent of the group all season, and he had an off day for him at the worst possible time. It’s worth noting that an off day for Bruiser is still worth 44.5 points, and most Built Ford Tough Series level bulls will never see that kind of score on their best day.
Pearl Harbor and Seven Dust both turned in 45 points, and are just 3/4ths of a point out of the lead.
Seven Dust looked great, and he’s quietly turned in three 45+ point scores in a row against Brazilian riders. He’s been the dark horse in this race, but he’s very much in this, and Lambert believes he may have the best shot at catching Long John. Pearl Harbor is right there with him, but the possibility of problems in the chute or leaving the chute on Sunday are a much bigger issue for him than they are for Seven Dust.
All speculation is moot, however, if Long John stays true to form. He’s been to the Finals twice, and he’s outscored every other bull at the Finals both times. Long John has had the biggest and most impressive outs of his career here. He controls his own destiny, and it’s hard to imagine him leaving the door open for one of the others to catch up.
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