Bulls born and bred in Prince Albert area dominate Canadian Champion finals
Alberta’s Zane Lambert added a shiny new buckle to his belt on Saturday, after winning Professional Bull Riders’ Canada Championship.
He racked up big point totals on two bulls at Saskatoon’s Sasktel Centre, the site of the tour’s final round. But there was one animal he couldn’t conquer: Evil Genius, a bull raised by Prince Albert’s own Flying Four Bucking Bulls.
Lambert said Prince Albert is producing some fine bovine athletes. Over two nights of finals, Evil Genius was just one of eight bulls competing from the Flying Four ranch.
“They’re cood cowboys,” Lambert said. “They know a good bucking bull and how to raise ‘em. It’s pretty neat to see guys with passion raising these good bucking bulls and keeping this sport going.”
The new champion said he had trouble staying on the same rhythm as Evil Genius, who seemed to go down exactly as Lambert tried to go forward.
“He’s tricky,” Lambert said. “I hope to get on him again and figure him out.”
Prince Albert’s Byrne family runs the Flying Four ranch. Tanner Byrne, who also competes as a professional bull rider, was at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday taking care of the family jewels.
He said it was an “honour” to see Evil Genius selected as the final bull to go bucking on Saturday night.
“He’s our cream of the crop, he’s our best,” Byrne said. “That’s why he’s in the championship round, the last bull out.”
He called Evil Genius a “showy” bull with “a lot of kick.” That’s part of what the Byrne family looks for when breeding their champion bulls. Byrne said the best bulls combine a few key “attributes”: a powerful kick, dizzying spin and a whole lot of intensity.
“A bull that has all the attributes is one that really blows in the air, really kicks out,” he said. “You’ll see his hind legs way over the top of his head, as high as the panels, and he’ll be spinning fast. You’ll know when you see the good ones. You’ll think, whoa, that’s an athlete.”
Evil Genius certainly fits that bill. And another Flying Four bull seemed to bring exactly the same gusto to the arena on Saturday. Finning Milky Chance is only four years old, and was competing in his first full season this year.
“He’s just kind of getting going in the (Professional Bull Riders) world, under these big bright lights and the loud music,” Byrne said.
Milky Chance bucked off his rider well before the eight seconds were up. But he wasn’t nearly done bucking. He chased three bullfighters and a rodeo clown for what must have felt like an eternity more – out there on the dirt – until a cowboy corralled him back toward his pen.
Byrne seemed to relish that show of enthusiasm. “As you can see from his bucking, he got stronger and stronger and stronger as he went,” he said. “He was having a heyday out there; decided to do a little dance and show everyone he was in town to buck.”
BYRNE PLANS RETURN TO COMPETITION
Professional Bull Riders’ Global Cup is coming to Edmonton next month, and Byrne expects to see some of his bulls bucking the best riders in the world. They won’t be the only Prince Albert athletes in competition. After a stint on the sidelines, Byrne plans to join them.
“The top bulls that we’ve got going here should be rolling into Edmonton,” he said. “That’s actually where I’m going to make my return to riding too. So it’s going to be a pretty cool deal in Edmonton… I can’t wait.”
Byrne said 2017 has been “a year of injuries and problems.” He took first place in the Calgary Stampede in July. But he’s also earned a broken shoulder blade, a torn groin and a broken wrist. The groin injury on its own took him out for six months.
He said he views the Global Cup as a “fresh start” to kick off the 2018 season.
“I feel strong and in real good shape,” Byrne said. “I’ve been working and training to get back.”
The Global Cup will see riders from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Australia form into national teams. Fourteen riders will compete with Team Canada, with seven chosen through a qualifying round just before the tournament.
Five others get in by virtue of their place in the world standings. That will secure Lambert his spot on the roster, and it’s also good news for a rider out of Tisdale. Justin Lloyd’s heavy schedule of competition has made him the fifth highest ranked Canadian in the Professional Bull Riding standings.
“Every weekend I’ve gone to wherever I could to get on the best bulls available, to work my way up,” Lloyd said.
The Canada Championship finals were hard on Lloyd. He was thrown face first into the dirt during his first ride on Saturday.
“I was glad I was wearing a helmet, because I was surprised by how hard my face hit the ground,” he said. “I’ll have a bruise on my forehead from that one.”
Lloyd has been riding for nine years, but he still has a healthy respect for the animals. He looked on as the Byrne family’s Milky Chance went on his bucking tour around the arena Saturday. The last time Lloyd rode that bull was in Nipawin, he recalled. That was a wild ride.
“These bulls are no joke,” he said. “They’re getting better and better, stronger and stronger.”
RIGHT: Milky Chance begins his “dance” around the arena floor, just aftter bucking off Jackson Scott of Kamloops, BC.
LEFT: Zane Lambert rides Evil Genius, a top Prince Albert bull, during the championship round Saturday.