LAS VEGAS — The tightest race in the history of the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series got a little tighter in Round One of the PBR World Finals.
For the second consecutive year, J.B. Mauney of Mooresville, N.C., won the first round, riding the Mendell/Jaeger bull Chester for 89.75 points. Not only did he collect $25,000 for winning the round, but he also edged closer to the top of the world standings.
Mauney is still in third place, but he closed the gap on world standings leader Kody Lostroh and defending world champion Guilherme Marchi with the go-round win.
Lostroh maintained the overall points lead with an 83.5-point ride on GL Bucking Bulls' Red Kat. Marchi bucked off the Frontier Rodeo Company bull Monkey Blood and earned no points on the evening.
Lostroh has 12,025 points to 11,646.25 for Marchi and 11,645.75 for Mauney, who said he knew he had a chance to win the round when he saw what bull he had drawn, knowing the bull's typical pattern fit a left-handed rider well.
"It started last night," he said. "I told my dad at the draw last night that was the bull I was wanting. I ended up getting him and couldn't have asked for a better bull in this round, and it worked out great. I've seen that bull a bunch. He's been a great bull for a couple of years now. I had never been on him. He turns back to the left every time. He has a lot of kick, a lot of timing, just what you want when you're a left-handed guy."
Mauney said he also felt the pressure to deliver.
"I was pretty nervous," he said. "I had such a good bull I didn't want to mess things up. I tried not to think about (the world championship race) and just think about it as another bull riding and not really worry about what was going on around me."
Winning the round also gave Mauney the first pick in the draft for Round Two. Last year, after winning Round One, he picked Bull of the Year contender Troubadour of Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls and the two teamed up to win Round Two. He said he would be picking Troubadour again.
"He's an awesome bull," he said. "I've been on him twice and rode him, and both times I rode him I won, so I couldn't ask for better."
The draft allows riders to pick bulls that have tendencies that fit their riding style well, increasing the likelihood of a successful ride. Mauney picks first by virtue of his go-round win, while Lostroh picks 17th and Marchi picks 36th after bucking off.
Josh Koschel of Greeley, Colo., earned the second pick in the draft after his 89.25-point ride on Bad Moon of Duncan & Evans Bucking Bulls. The ride also earned him $18,000.
"I'd seen him at a couple Challenger (Tour) events and he was really good," Koschel said. "They always scored pretty well on him. It was pretty much a perfect bull. It turned back into my hand and faded across there. He made me hustle, but I felt like I rode him as good as I could."
Travis Briscoe of Edgewood, N.M., finished third in the round, riding the Don Kish bull Little Juicy for 88.75 points. He finished a quarter-point ahead of Brian Canter of Randelman, N.C., who rode Rio Grande of Box K Cattle Co., for 88.5 points. It was Canter's first ride since August and battling through knee surgery.
Ross Coleman of Molalla, Ore., finished fifth with an 88.25-point ride on Cat Man Do, and Ryan McConnell of Colgate, Okla., just days after suffering a punctured lung in an automobile accident in Oklahoma, finished sixth with an 88-point ride on Shotgun Willy.
Check back with ESPN.com and pbrnow.com all week long for continuing coverage of the 2009 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.