The Built Ford Tough Series is set to begin after a long break for the Professional Bull Riders, as New York will host the event in this year's 2013 Monster Energy Invitational.
The last event of the 2012 season took place in October, when Robson Palermo won the Built Ford Tough Event Finals in Las Vegas, but it wasn't enough to win the overall standings award away from series champion Silvano Alves—who now is the two-time defending champ.
After a nearly two-month layoff, the riders are back and raring to get this 2013 season and year off to the right start, and can do so with a successful run on some of the toughest bulls this side of the Mississippi.
Here's a preview for the first event of the PBR season, including when and where to watch, a brief prediction and a few of the bulls you should be wary of come the gate opening on Friday night.
When: Friday, January 4 — Sunday, January 6, 2013
Where: Madison Square Garden; New York, N.Y.
January 4 — 8:00 p.m. ET on YouTube, PBR Live Center
January 5 — 10:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
January 6 — 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
Predictions/Riders to Watch
As always, look for tour champion and fan-favorite Alves to be one of the men to watch on Friday. He's coming off an impressive 2012 campaign, where he was second on the PBR circuit in percentage of bulls ridden and first in points—resulting in a second consecutive PBR Series championship.
L.J. Jenkins is another fan-favorite to look for, and after his great season (top three finish) and quality season, it's no surprise that he is once again in the top of the rankings for the 2013 campaign. He and J.B. Mauney—winner of four PBR 2012 events—are ringing the bell on Wall Street on Wednesday at closing time—another perk from being a bull rider in the big city.
Those three riders have a good chance to get through the early rounds and into Sunday, as does Palermo, who seems to come on late each season. Sleepers include Ben Jones and Cody Johnson, as well as Cody Nance, who won this event to open the 2012 season last year.
Guilherme Marchi finished second in the standings last season, and won the DEWALT invitational in September. He's always a threat to the top of leaderboard, as is Mike Lee, winner of the Cooper Tires invitation in October.
As always, the crop of riders leads us to wonder which guy will get on a hot streak and ride some bulls they aren't supposed to be able to for eight seconds. It's a fairly safe bet that Alves will be around into the third round, but the rest of the field has some variety that should lead for a good show to get fans re-energized about the upcoming season.
Bulls to Watch
Slade Long of PBR.com helped prime us for this first event with a little information on the bulls that are being brought in to Madison Square Garden, which he notes is one of the biggest venues for the sport each year.
Rock & Roll, a bull that hasn't been ridden in 29 attempts, is on hand, as is Mulligan Man, a bull that got the best of Alves, Mauney and Jones multiple times.
Here's an excerpt from the piece about some of the bulls that will be must-sees:
Lambert noted that Rock & Roll "deserves some attention." His record of 29-0 is starting to get him some. It's not unusual for a bull to go unridden for a time to start his career, but in two full seasons on the Built Ford Tough Series, Rock & Roll has faced the very best riders in the world in 18 of his 29 career outs, and no one has earned a score on him yet.
Here's a look at some of the short round bulls Long and PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert singled out for a sneak peak:
Lambert singled out a few bulls that finished strong last season, including Robinson's Pawnbroker and K Bar C's King Lopez. Both will be seen in the short round on Sunday.
RFD-HD is another bull with a great record against riders, as will veteran bull Carrillo Cartel.
It's going to be a great start to the season, as New York is the perfect blend of city and country for these riders to not only make a PBR statement, but showcase their abilities in a city that doesn't get much of this action the other 11 months of the year.
Make sure to tune in to YouTube, PBR.com and CBS Sports Network for all the Monster Energy Invitational coverage you can handle, and as always, check back with Bleacher Report for the latest coverage on the PBR circuit.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.