Smooth Operator rank in return to competition

Before Big Sky, Smooth Operator last bucked in February before a knee fracture sidelined him for five months. Photo: Andy Watson/


  • Smooth Operator has only bucked twice this summer, but in those two outs, scored 44.5 and 46.5 points in two buckoffs.
  • Stock contractor Chad Berger switched the bovine to a right-handed delivery which has aided his predictability, leading to consistently great outs.
  • Smoot Operator's buckoff victims in Big Sky, Derek Kolbaba and Nathan Burtenshaw, believe he's reached a new level and could contend for a world title.

In This Article

PUEBLO, Colo. – Smooth Operator has only bucked twice this summer, but those two outs have certainly caught the eye of PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert.

“The rankest bull I have seen this summer is Smooth Operator, and I have just seen him twice at Big Sky,” Lambert said on Monday morning.

Smooth Operator hadn’t bucked in over five months before erupting for 44.5 and 46.5-point bull scores at the PBR Touring Pro Division event in Big Sky, Montana.

The eight-year-old bull first took down one of the tallest riders in the PBR – Nathan Burtenshaw – and last year’s runner-up in the world title race – Derek Kolbaba – with relative ease.

Smooth Operator first flung the 6-foot-2 Burtenshaw upside down off his backside in 3.02 seconds. Then on Saturday night Kolbaba was tossed in 2.88 seconds.

Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger had switched Smooth Operator to a right-handed delivery earlier this year before a slight knee fracture took the bovine athlete out of competition.

The decision seemed like a good one with Smooth Operator going 5-0 and earning a career-high 44.5-point bull score before getting hurt.

Smooth Operator was back on the right side in Big Sky, and that decision has Lambert thinking Smooth Operator is going to consistently post solid scores once the second half of the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast begins on Aug. 11 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“He is unpredictable out of the left delivery and inconsistent, as rank as he was,” Lambert said. “Out of a right-hand delivery, he is way more predictable; but that helps him because by being predictable we can predict he is going to have a great trip every time.”

Smooth Operator was no-nonsense in Big Sky too.

He simply came out to the right in full force to dislodge Burtenshaw into his right hand and Kolbaba away from his left.

“He definitely made me look stupid,” Kolbaba said. “He is a big bull and has a lot of power. For me, as a left-handed guy, he is right there to the right and he just pushes and drives so hard that it is almost like he disappears if he comes around to the right just because he is pushing off his front end and kicking through it.

“That was probably the best out I would say he has had with me on him. You could just feel he was bringing it.”

It was, in fact, Smooth Operator’s highest bull score at any level of competition since he received 46.5 points for bucking off J.W. Harris at the 2015 Seattle 15/15 Bucking Battle.

RidePass commentator Colby Yates said, “That is a rank bull of Chad Berger. Watch the whip and kick that this bull brings. He is so intense and so hard to get ahold of.”

Smooth Operator has yet to return to his 2015 World Championship contender form after missing the first seven months of the 2016 season because of a lower back/pelvis injury.

However, Smooth Operator did go an impressive 15-1 last year on the premier series with a 43.14-point average bull score.

The question that is on everyone’s minds is who will try to take the throne alongside World Champion frontrunner SweetPro’s Bruiser with the passing of Pearl Harbor in the spring.

It will be an on-going question as the stretch run to the PBR World Finals continues to heat up over the next three months.

Kolbaba recently rode Bruiser for 89.5 points to win the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo.

Bruiser has not had his best days this summer – he was also ridden by Joe Frost for 90.5 points last weekend at a PRCA event in Rock Springs, Wyoming – but the two-time World Champion Bull is still the most elite bull going in the business.

Smooth Operator has only been ridden three times in 73 career outs.

Could Smooth Operator potentially put his name in the mix as a dark horse contender for a world title?

Bruiser and Smooth Operator are certainly different in a variety of ways, including their bucking patterns, but Kolbaba believes Smooth Operator can potentially sneak into the race if he bucks the way he did in Big Sky.

“The other night I got on him, he dang sure had a pretty outstanding out,” Kolbaba said. “He is one there is definitely not much time to catch back up with him. I know after about the second jump I lost him and he kind of disappeared around to the right. I tried to make a move to get back there and he was too strong and he got me down that day.

“If he has outs like that, I would put him up there as a competitor for sure.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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