LAS VEGAS, Nevada (November 6, 2009) – There are plenty of sports races that get labeled as being “too close to call,” but there is no other way to explain the 2009 PBR World Champion race.
As the rounds have progressed over the past week at the Thomas and Mack Center, the field of potential 2009 world champs has certainly narrowed. In fact, it is really down to just two bull riders – the Colorado Kid, Kody Lostroh, and JB Mauney of the Tarheel State, who is looking to bring the PBR World Champion title east of the Mississippi River for the first time in the 16-year history of the PBR.
The pair couldn’t be more opposite: soft spoken versus outspoken, quiet versus a wild streak, a classic style rider compared to an all out “take no prisoners” style.
What Lostroh and Mauney do have in common is their desire for that gold world champion buckle, the fact they have each ridden all five of their bulls so far, and at least one round win each at the World Finals so far.
In Built Ford Tough Series points, Lostroh is ahead of Mauney by 732. 5 points after Friday night’s round. At the World Finals, Mauney is ahead of Lostroh in the average by two and a half points, and ahead of him in total World Finals points by 52.5 points.
Throw in the points still to come for the World Finals average overall, and even the best oddsmakers in Vegas would be hard-pressed to tell you which one is likely to be the winner after Sunday’s short-go.
Heading into the PBR World Finals, much attention and media play was given the fact that this was the closest points race in the history of the PBR.
What an understatement.
A few things have been made clear over the last five rounds: Guilherme Marchi won’t be the first bull rider to win back-to-back PBR World Champions, at least this year. In fact, Marchi has bucked off all five of his bulls so far, and hasn’t even made the four-second mark on any of them.
Also out of the running was the early “dark horse,” Zack Brown. Brown, after winning the last regular season event in Mohegan Sun (Uncasville) Conn. in mid-October, had a groin injury that has progressively worsened. Brown hadn’t made a qualified ride in the World Finals through Thursday night, and finally accepted he is too hurt to ride. Starting with Friday’s round, he was replaced by alternate Billy Robinson, of Virginia.
Third in the World Finals average, but still 4th in the BFTS points race, almost 4,400 points behind Lostroh, is Valdiron de Oliveira, who also has been putting on a riding clinic at the Finals, going five-for-five on his bulls. Oliveira is only 4.75 points behind Mauney in the World Finals average, but falls more than 500 points behind him in the total points earned at the World Finals.
It’s an easy guess de Oliveira’s $27,000 in prize money so far, with two rounds and the short-go still to go, will help ease the pain at least a little.
In Friday night’s round five, the 40 riders faced off against 40 of the toughest bulls the PBR has, in a re-appearance of the rank pen. While a surprisingly high number – 13 – of riders managed to put scores on the board Friday night, it was definitely the bulls’ show.
Friday’s round went to Thursday night’s winner, Kody Lostroh, who put up a blazing 91.25 pointer on Troubadour (Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls) midway through the night. Lostroh earned $25,000 for the win, and another $5,000 in the Enterprise Ride With the Best contest, a prize he gets another shot at Saturday night. He also secured the all-important first choice in the draft for round six.
Second in the round was young gun Caleb Sanderson, who picked a great moment at the World Finals to shine. Sanderson took the lead early in the night, with 90.75 big points on “Chicken on a Chain” (J Robinson/M Tedesco/Larry the Cable Guy). Far out of the world title race, and only his second qualified ride of the Finals, the $18,000 payday is sure to put a smile on Sanderson’s face.
Oklahoma’s Austin Meier also joined Friday night’s 90-point club, with exactly that score on “Far West” (Martinez Bucking Bull LLC) and a 3rd place finish in the round. Meier has been having a great Finals, with his third qualified ride, and finds himself sharing 6th and 7th place in the Finals Average with Ryan McConnel.
McConnel wasn’t as lucky Friday night. Riding “Rowdy Hoodlum” (Circle T Ranch & Rodeo), McConnel bucked off and took a direct shot to the chest from the bull with the clock reading 7.9 seconds. McConnel barely made it to his feet, and went staggering to the corner of the arena, where the Sports Medicine team intercepted him and helped him out.
Knowing McConnel, had he been physically able, would have hit the Pike Replay challenge button, several people – including retired rider turned commentator JW Hart – took on that task for him, and called for a review of McConnel’s ride. The outcome was even more frustrating – the ride time was 7.97 seconds – and drew plenty of boo’s from the crowd.
At the end of the night, it was reported McConnel, who suffered a contusion to his chest, would be out of the rest of the competition. Then late Friday night in the Media Room, word surfaced that McConnel was going against the doctors, and is insisting on riding Saturday night in round six. Tied for sixth in the World Finals average and having moved up to fifth in the BFTS standings, McConnel appears determined to finish out the World Finals. Whether he does, or if common sense and medical advice win out, will be seen Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack.
Another rider who gave fans a big scare Friday night was Mike Lee. Lee took a horrible shot from “Unabomber” (En/Kubinchak Bucking Bulls) at the 5.5 second mark, and for several minutes lay motionless in the arena.
The crowd was shocked when, suddenly, Lee began moving and, to the crowd’s disbelief, got up and with assistance walked out of the arena. He is reported to have a concussion and is listed as “probable” for Saturday’s round six. As of Friday, Lee has two qualified rides in the World Finals.
Injuries are starting to rear their heads, as two other bull riders are competing while hurt – Brian Herman, who is scoreless still, is riding with a broken riding hand and Sean Willingham, also scoreless, has a muscle injury in his riding hand. Both are listed as “competing” on Saturday.
Another familiar face made it into the World Finals starting in Friday night’s round, as Reese Cates joined the line-up. Cates jumped into the fray in a big way, scoring 88.5 points – a tie for 9th and 10th place – on “Mac Nett’s El Presidente” (J Robinson/Bar None/Skyhawk Rugs). Cates was an obvious last minute replacement for the injured Cody Ford, as Ford participated in the draft for the round and was still listed on the round’s day sheet.
Former world champion Ednei Caminhas has shown he isn’t letting last weekend’s ugly wreck that left his riding arm battered and deeply bruised slow him down. Caminhas, who last year announced and then revoked his retirement, rode “Necessary Evil” (Don Kish Bucking Bulls) for 89 points and 7th in the round. It was Caminhas’ third score of the Finals and came the hard way, when he hit the Pike Replay challenge button after seeing the clock read 7.9 seconds. The review judge timed the ride at 8.107 seconds, and Caminhas walked away sore but with the score.
Opening up the scoring in round five was McKennon Wimberly, who took “Yellow Jacket Jr.” (Dakota Rodeo/Clay Struve/Julie Rosen) to task for 89.75 points. His fourth place finish brought Wimberly a $10,000 payday. It was his second score of the finals.
Fans waiting to see Brazil’s Renato Nunes do a back flip off the chute gates finally got their wish, as Nunes broke his scoreless streak at the Finals, riding “Tahonta’s Shadow” (4 C’s/Sills/Vaughan) for 89.5 points and 5th place in the round.
JB Mauney took 6th in the round, riding “Ricky Bobby” (HD Page/B&B Morrison) for 89.25 points. It put him outside the pay window, but kept him neck and neck with Lostroh for the world title and the average. Already having pocketed $58,000 at the World Finals, it’s unlikely he’s complaining.
Robson Palermo, who saw his first buck off Thursday night, got everything back in working order and rode “Sure Fire” (D&H Cattle Co.) for 88.75 points and 8th place in the round.
The other three qualified rides in the round that pitted riders against some of the toughest bulls the PBR has were:
11th, Aaron Roy, 87.75 points on “Mellow Yellow” (Duncan & Evans Bucking Bulls). It was Roy’s fourth qualified ride of the Finals, and the Canadian is sitting in fifth in the Finals Average after Friday.
12th, Wiley Petersen, who broke his scoreless streak by riding “Hot Stuff” (D&H Cattle Co.) for 87 points. The score would have likely been higher but the bull, usually a powerhouse, went flat for a few jumps in the middle of the ride, before picking up the tempo again.
13th, Kasey Hayes, who after a tough time in the chutes, rode “Secretary of Soul” (Don Kish Bucking Bulls) for 84.25 points, his second score of the Finals.
Six riders remain scoreless through five rounds. They are reigning world champ Guilherme Marchi, two-time world champion Chris Shivers, rookie Skeeter Kingsolver, Brian Herman, Cody Campbell and Bryan Richardson, who won over the crowd Friday night, despite his buck-off at the 2.7 second mark, when he somersaulted off his bull, “Kabookie” (Boyd Floyd Bull Co.), and stuck the landing perfectly.
Short ride of the night, and therefore last place in the draft for Saturday’s round, goes to Pete Farley, who won Sunday’s round. On Friday, Farley bucked off “Uncle Buck” (Teague Bucking Bulls) at the 1.3 second mark, one of four riders who did not last on their bulls for even two seconds.
The draft for Round Six will take place Saturday morning at the Fan Zone at Mandalay Bay, with the round getting underway at 6 p.m. at the Thomas and Mack Center. Taking center stage will be the race between Mauney and Lostroh, as fans wait to see if either or both can do the near-impossible and make it through the PBR World Finals with a perfect 8-for-8 record. With both the World Finals average and the $1 million World Champion gold buckle sitting right between the two, the temperatures in Las Vegas are only getting hotter.