|Harry Bridges from Julia Creek, Queensland, Australia, flies off the back of Hard Knocks last May 4, 2013, during the Mile High PBR at Timís Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.|
Photo courtesy Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Now in its fourth year, the Bucky's Casino Mile High Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event continues to attract some of the best cowboys - and bulls - in the sport.
A part of the PBR's Touring Pro Division, the popular Mile High PBR kicks off at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, May 17, at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. (Doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
Respected former pro bull rider Judd Mortensen of Dewey organizes the annual gathering, which this year will include 35 athletes - any of whom could win it. The Touring Pro Division offers up-and-coming bull riders the chance to compete in PBR-sanctioned events while earning money to qualify for the PBR's elite Build Ford Tough World Finals Oct. 22-26 in Las Vegas.
In 2013, the Mile High drew a capacity crowd at Tim's (seats about 4,800). Ticket prices start at $10 each and go up to $45 a pop.
"The last two years have been sold out, pretty much," Mortensen, owner of Rocky Mountain Bull Bash, a PBR promoter, said in a phone interview this week from Colorado. "It's a fast-paced, high-energy, quick, fast-action bull riding. We don't have much down time. You just get out there and have some fun with it."
It's fun for fans because watching grown men ride menacing bulls live and in-person is jaw-dropping stuff.
As for the cowboys who'll ride in the 2014 Mile High, Mike Lee of Decatur, Texas, who's been at or near the top of the world standings this year, leads the pack.
Lee recently injured his knee on a practice bull. That forced him to spend about a month off to recuperate, dropping him slightly, to No. 5, in the latest PBR world standings (through May 7).
However, Lee, the PBR's world champion in 2004, holds the distinction as the first PBR cowboy to claim the organization's $1-million bonus when it was offered.
"He's the first guy (in the PBR) to win the world finals and the world title in the same year," Mortensen said. "He's kind of a veteran, but he's riding really good."
Other standout riders scheduled to appear at the Mile High include 2013 world qualifiers Matt Triplett of Columbia Falls, Montana, who's presently ranked seventh in the standings, and Markus Mariluch of Elko, Nevada, who's at No. 17.
Mortensen said he also invited No. 32-ranked Guytin Tsosie of Burnham, N.M., a Native American from Window Rock on Arizona's Navajo Reservation, to compete.
"We took like four or five Navajo guys, probably three years ago maybe, and Guytin won it (Mile High PBR)," he said.
Tsosie kept a low profile after his Mile High victory. But ever since pro-rodeo cowboy Ty Murray invited Tsosie and a few others to the Ty Murray Invitational earlier this year, Tsosie's re-proved his mettle.
"He's become the local favorite, really," Mortensen said.
In addition, the Mile High PBR will feature Pistol Robinson of Burleson, Texas, who's rated 35th in the Built Ford Tough Series standings, and past PBR World Finalist Jarrod Craig of Hillsboro, Texas.
"Pistol has made it to the PBR Finals several times, and he won our Cowboy Capital Bull Riding in the fall there at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds," Mortensen said.
In regard to coordinating the field of bucking bulls for the Mile High, Mortensen said he does most of that work himself. He receives anywhere from 10 to 13 videos per week of bulls that folks would like to showcase at the event.
Among the better bulls that the Mile High will boast next weekend include Blackberry of the Wolf Creek Cattle Co. (Louisiana/east Texas) and Bird Creek of Man Creek Bucking Bulls (Utah), which has appeared at the PBR Finals several times. Some Arizona-based bulls will also buck here.
"I look for high-scoring bulls that have good rhythm," Mortensen said of the selection process. "The bull business in the PBR is probably just as big as the bull-riding industry."
Mortensen added that the Mile High's fortunate to have a PBR Built Ford Tough Series event being held the weekend before (Friday and Saturday) at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Bulls from that event could easily be brought to PV afterward because the venue's so close.
"We have a lot of good bulls that are right around there," he said. "We're going to bring the bull power, just like we have to, because these guys ride so good. It's not fair to not be able to win on every bull you get on."
In the coming week, one of Mortensen's experienced arena crews will reconfigure Tim's Toyota Center. That entails a drawn-out, painstaking process of laying down dirt and erecting chutes. In all, Mortensen said it requires 24 hours to complete the job and another 24 hours to dismantle it.
"To put dirt in an arena, the atmosphere changes," Mortensen said. "And as far as Tim's goes, there's really not a bad seat in there the way that we confine the arena."
With the hockey ice now removed from Tim's, Mortensen and his crew will haul in between 400 to 500 tons of dirt and place it on the arena's concrete floor early next week so that it's 10 to 15 inches thick.
By next Thursday, the reconfigured arena will begin to take shape. That Saturday, 55 bulls will be brought from the Prescott Rodeo Grounds to Tim's.
"It is a lot of work, and a lot of hours," Mortensen said. "But to be able to have an event like we've had over there at Tim's the last couple years, it's worth it."
Besides the pro bull riding, there will be other activities at Tim's in which spectators and their families can participate late next week.
For example, next Saturday night, children will once again have the opportunity to ride miniature bulls, steers and junior bulls.
The night before, on Friday, May 16, Tim's will hold the first round of the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association Finals' rough stock bucking. Mortensen said that's part of the inaugural "Dirt Bash," which will host a live concert with Redline (a cover band) and a party on the arena floor.
Tickets for the Dirt Bash cost $10 apiece at the door. A barbecue buffet dinner from Gabby's Kitchen will also be available for $8 a person.
"We're going to do some interesting stuff throughout the night - kind of a heads up on who's getting on what bull," Mortensen said. "There will be six or seven calf riders and probably seven or eight steer riders, and probably four junior bull riders."
To find out more about buying tickets for the Mile High PBR, call Tim's Toyota Center's box office at 928-772-1819 or 866-443-8849 (toll free). Fans may also purchase tickets online at timstoyotacenter.com.