PUEBLO, Colo. – H.D. Page was prepared to bring two-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser to The Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride in Greensboro, North Carolina, this weekend for a tune-up before the 2018 PBR World Finals on Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Page, though, had some second thoughts after bucking Bruiser last night with a local rider at the D&H Cattle Company ranch in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Therefore, Page has decided to withdraw Bruiser from Greensboro and let the bull continue to rest in preparation for the World Finals.
“He bucked off the kid in one to two jumps, but he still doesn’t look quite ready,” Page said on Thursday morning. “He is improving. My dad (Dillon) thinks I may be overthinking things, but I want to be cautious.”
On Wednesday afternoon, H.D. appeared set and ready to have his dad, Dillon, haul Bruiser to the second-to-last regular-season event of the premier series.
“I was kind of leaning towards waiting, but I am ready to buck him,” Page previously said on Wednesday. “Get him loosened up and ready to go. It is no different than a bull rider. If they are coming back from an injury or have been off for a while, or they been on a break for whatever reason, they are not always as sharp right off as they are if they have been on the trail for a while.
“From past experience, he is better the fourth week than he is the first, and this will be his first week. So we got a little time before the Finals. I would like to get him to peak there.”
Bruiser is the frontrunner in the World Champion Bull race with a World Champion Bull score average of 46.28 points – 0.87 points ahead of active No. 2 Smooth Operator, who has been on a march up the standings with two 46-plus scores in his last three outs.
Smooth Operator tied with the talented ABBI bull Big Black last week in Milwaukee for the high-marked bull of the event (46 points).
Bruiser last bucked in competition in late July at two rodeos.
The 7-year-old was marked only 44.5 points during Derek Kolbaba’s 89.5-point ride in Salt Lake City at the Days of ’47 Rodeo and 45 points during Joe Frost’s 90.5-point ride at the PRCA event in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Bruiser did not look like his normal powerful self in either of those trips, and Page has taken a cautious approach with his bull during the last two months.
According to Page, the bovine athlete has been on the sidelines because of a minor stiff joint issue for the last month or so, and Page said that Bruiser appears to be improving.
Page just wants to make sure Bruiser can put together two strong outs over the course of four days in Las Vegas at the Finals.
That is ultimately what is going to make or break Bruiser winning a third consecutive World Championship -- not if he were to pad his lead atop the standings during the final two regular season events.
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.
Bruiser needed a score of 45.75 points or higher on Sunday to increase his World Champion Bull average, but Page ultimately wanted to get Bruiser back into bucking shape more than anything else.
A third World Championship would put Bruiser in prestigious company. He would join Little Yellow Jacket and Bushwacker as the only three-time World Champion Bulls in PBR history. Bruiser would also join Little Yellow Jacket as the only two bulls to win the title in three consecutive seasons.
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.
He used 47- and 46-point bull scores to win the 2017 World Championship.
Page would like to bring Bruiser to Nampa, Idaho, on Oct. 20-21 for a tune-up before the Finals, but he is still unsure what he will decide.
“We are running out of time to get him in bucking shape, and I would like to buck him,” Page said. “We are just trying to decide things week-to-week.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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