The Professional Bull Riders popularly known as the PBR rolled into Anaheim, CA at the Honda Center to showcase some of the best bull riding in the world. Much like jockeys getting a leg up on a thoroughbred mount, thirty-nine riders strapped on their boots and cowboy hats to ride mammoth bulls weighing 2,000 lbs. The event began on Friday with the riders putting up their first qualifying rides of the weekend. Coming into the weekend Travis Briscoe (Edgewood, NM) had secured the number one spot for Saturday’s second round of qualifying. Briscoe attributes a boost in confidence to his improved riding. Briscoe said, “I’m finally working out and doing things to work at my bull riding and work at my everyday life.”
Saturday began with a bull draft which could be compared to a post position draw for any big race. The rider’s names on the left and bulls on the right. Each rider gets his choice of bull based on his score from Friday night’s first round. The riders sat classroom style awaiting their turn to pick the bull who gives them an opportunity to post a big score. Names like Beer Goggles, Kick Butt, Tighty Whitey, and yes, Homer Simpson, all have specific characteristics and tendencies which make that bull a desired option for the rider. Each rider had 45 seconds to make a selection, rider McKennon Wimbley (Cool, TX) came sprinting in to make his selection as rider Kasey Hayes was about to announce his. Wimbley selected the bull, Hank , as Hayes threw his arms up in disbelief obviously having his sights set on the same ride. The rest of the round is completed and there is one lone bull left on the board, Silver Wings. Rider Cody Campbell (Summerville, OR) had the lowest time on Friday leaving him with the bull 38 riders passed on.
Honda Center mostly known for Anaheim Ducks hockey was covered in dirt, surrounded by steel bars, and branded with the PBR sponsors. The lights turned off and loud music usually reserved for local radio stations echoed through the arena creating an atmosphere filled with heart pumping excitement. The riders entered through a grandstand size white curtain which was then raised to reveal the current top five riders in the standings. The PBR logo ,covered with flames, was lifted to reveal the reigning PBR Champion Kody Lostroh (Longmont, CO). After the pageantry the arena was buzzing as the first gate was opened and the Tecate Light Invitational was underway.
The action was fast paced as the PBR wastes no time getting its riders strapped in and ready to put on a good eight second ride. The first five riders gave it their all but were thrown before they could post a successful round. The 2009 Daisy Rookie of the Year Cody Nance (Paris, TN) has been battling injuries early this year but rode Stump Whiskey to a score of 84 and electrified the crowd with his dedicated effort. Skeeter Kingsolver (Mclouth, KS), who drinks a cup of coffee before he rides, rode Bad Action to an 84 and moved to first in the standings early on. The danger of the sport is obvious but no more apparent when the bull, Pick a Spot, entered his stall. Pick a Spot displayed an aggressive attitude by standing on two legs and amusing many fans with his antics. Without hesitation Brian Canter (Randleman, NC) climbed aboard in preparation for his turn at Pick a Spot. The bull thrashed violently and threw Canter to the ground stepping on him in what looked to be a very serious incident. After a few moments Canter was up and walked off with the help of medical staff with what was later diagnosed as a concussion.
The stars of the night were Brazilians Renato Nunes, Robson Palermo, Valdiron de Oliveira, and Guilherme Marchi who all put up rides in the high 80s. The crowd was in a frenzy, as one after another they rode the bulls with grace and precision followed by exciting celebrations. The most memorable performance was from Nunes, who like Carl Edwards in Nascar and G.R Carter in quarter horse racing did a back flip off the top barrier in front of an ovation of thrilled fans. Guilherme Marchi posted top score of the night with an 88 on Slinger’s Back.
Southern California horse racing had presence felt at the event as trainer of Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag, Brian Koriner, attended the event. While Koriner has made a career out of horse training he grew up calf roping and showed his support for the sport and its stars.
PBR goes a long way to please its fans, something every sport’s success is based on. The event will conclude Sunday night January 24, where a champion will be crowned.