PUEBLO, Colo. – H.D. Page looked down at the list of bulls he had submitted for this weekend’s WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational in Austin, Texas, and then paused.
He had originally committed to hauling SweetPro’s Bruiser south for his second-half debut, but Page took a moment to rethink his decision.
Did he really need to bring the two-time World Champion Bull and the No. 1 contender for the 2018 title to Austin?
“He is getting close,” Page said Wednesday of when fans may see Bruiser next. “I had him on the list to go this week and then I backed out Monday. It is too close to the end of the year to get him hurt before the Finals. He has a sore muscle and it can become a torn muscle if he tries to compensate.
“If I thought he would take care of it, I would start bucking him, but he is not that kind that is going to lay up or go through the motions. He is going to come firing. He is tough. He is a big, tough sucker.”
Page said Bruiser has been dealing with a minor stifle joint issue the last few weeks and that D&H Cattle Company has been taking a cautious approach with the No. 1 bull in the PBR.
Bruiser is currently leading the World Champion Bull race with a 46.28-point average score. He is 7-3 on the premier series.
The next closest competitor is No. 2 Spotted Demon, who is averaging 45.04 points per out and still needs two more outs to qualify.
The PBR World Champion Bull is based on a bull’s top eight outs during the premier series regular season and two outs at the PBR World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the champion.
Page said he is hopeful they can buck Bruiser before the World Finals begin on Nov. 7 at T-Mobile Arena, but he does not want to put any timetable on it.
Instead, the Pages will continue to work with letting Bruiser rest and recover in preparation for Las Vegas.
“Well, I am just playing it by ear,” Page said. “If he is going to be sound, I will take him. He is better when he is bucking. I rather him have four or five outs coming into the Finals, but that isn’t going to work out. You have to play the hand you are dealt, but I sure don’t want to get him sore to where he can’t buck at the Finals.
“If I was at a point where I had to buck him it would be different, but he’s got a pretty good lead and he just has to make sure he can perform well in Vegas mainly. I don’t really think it is anything serious.”
Bruiser did compete this summer at various rodeos, including the WCRA Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo in Salt Lake City.
Some have wondered if Bruiser may have lost a step this summer.
Bruiser appeared to certainly lack his normal power and strength during Derek Kolbaba’s event-winning, 89.5-point ride in Salt Lake City.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said last month he didn’t expect to see Bruiser until D&H Cattle Company felt comfortable bringing him back.
“He probably won’t bring him back until he is ready,” Lambert said. “Then when he is ready, we will find out if he still got it or he doesn’t. At some point, J.B. (Mauney) is not going to have it anymore. At some point, Bruiser is not going to have it anymore. That is part of the deal. If he has lost a step, we will say he has lost a step.”
Page said he understands the question marks surrounding his bull.
The longtime stock contractor explained that Bruiser normally loses some stamina after being out on cows during the summer.
“He definitely lost a step, but he does every year,” Page said. “We have done this the last two years and been able to have him in good form for the Finals. It has been the last half of every season. It’s been a battle to get him back in good shape.”
The hard work, including much love and care in Las Vegas, has paid off the last three years.
Bruiser has historically been dominant in Vegas too. Bruiser is 5-1 with an average bull score of 45.54 points in three trips to the PBR World Finals.
The 7-year-old bovine athlete used 47- and 46-point bull scores to win the 2017 World Championship.
“I would like to pad his lead, but they are going to have to come swinging to beat him as it is,” Page said. “I know he is going to bring it. When we get out there, he will be ready to go. That is kind of his town. He has been out there quite a few times and has never failed to buck.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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