LAS VEGAS – H.D. Page can only say for certain one thing about reigning and two-time World Champion bull SweetPro’s Bruiser.
“I am confident he is going to give me 100 percent,” Page said on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena. “We will see what he has to give.”
Bruiser did not compete at all during the second half of the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast series.
Instead, the 7-year-old stayed at home in Ardmore, Oklahoma, following a series of rodeos this summer and being a part of the D&H Cattle Company breeding program.
Bruiser is the No. 1 active bull in the PBR and heads into Round 2 of the 2018 PBR World Finals with a World Champion Bull average of 46.28 points.
He leads No. 2 Smooth Operator (45.63 points) by 0.65 points ahead of Thursday’s showdown. No. 3 Spotted Demon (45.06 points) is 1.22 points back.
Fans can watch Round 2 on CBS Sports Network at 9:30 p.m. ET. RidePass will have companion coverage at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Francisco Garcia Torres is slated to take on Bruiser, while Fabiano Vieira and Marco Eguchi take on Smooth Operator and Spotted Demon, respectively.
Page said he is OK with the draw and added that it is key for Bruiser to get off to a fast start out of the gate.
“Explosiveness out of there,” Page said. “If he gets off to a good start, then he will be great.”
But does Bruiser still have that top-notch eruption?
That is arguably one of the biggest unknowns heading into T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night.
Bruiser last bucked in competition in late July at two rodeos.
He 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 three months.
There were two instances – Austin, Texas, in September and Greensboro, North Carolina, in October – where Page was going to haul Bruiser only to pull him out of the event.
Page said the minor stiff joint issue that was hindering Bruiser earlier this fall should no longer be a factor this week.
Still, he isn’t sure how Bruiser will buck in his first competition at any level in three-plus months.
“He has been off for so long that my fear is he is a little rusty,” Page said. “He has bucked over 100 times (in his career). He knows what he is doing. Hopefully he is sharp enough that his muscle memory (kicks in) and he will get a good start.
“That is all we need.”
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.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert believes Bruiser will show up with a little bit less ability than normal.
“He’s going to be pretty good,” Lambert said. “It’s Bruiser. I just don’t think he’s going to be as good as he was. I’ll be surprised – I’ll be pleasantly surprised – if he’s good enough to win the championship.”
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.
“Since he’s been 3 years old, he’s just been unbelievable,” Lambert said. “But not just in Vegas, a lot of places. He’s just been one of those kind of bulls that don’t come around very often, and there haven’t been very many of them that are close to that good.”
Bruiser is 44-12 (PBR UTB) and averages 45.56 points per out.
The fifth-year pro is 7-3 with an average bull score of 45.95 points, which is the second-best of his career.
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.
“He doesn’t have to do anything else to be one of the greatest of all time,” Lambert said. “He doesn’t have to do anything to be as good as he always has been. If he’s not up to that here, I won’t think any less of him.”
Page agrees with Lambert about Bruiser’s legacy, but he is hopeful the bull can add another chapter to it this week at T-Mobile Arena.
“Oh yeah,” Page concluded. “That would be legendary status. He would be up there with the greats. In my mind, he is already there, but that would be great for him to pull it out.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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