DUBLIN, Texas - Julio Moreno had never been as nervous as he was last October.
Last fall, Moreno's bull Bushwacker was the frontrunner for World Champion, and at the World Finals, it came down to him and Asteroid, and their final two outs.
On the final day of competition, Bushwacker left little doubt that he was the best bull of the 2011 season.
'I'm all nervous wanting to know if he's going to have that explosion, that kick. I want to see that.'
Since then, Moreno, co-owner Richard Oliveira and handler Kent Cox have waited with baited breath as the top-ranked bull recovered from surgery on his back legs.
Bushwacker and Asteroid will face off next week in Arlington, Texas, at the third annual Dickies© Iron Cowboy Invitational.
"I'm more nervous now than I was when he was trying to win the world," Moreno admitted. "I'm all nervous wanting to know if he's going to have that explosion, that kick. I want to see that."
The last time Bushwacker saw action in the arena, he tossed J.B. Mauney after 3.6 seconds in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round of the 2011 World Finals.
After spending a few weeks with the veterinarian in Elgin, Texas, Bushwacker has been cooling his heels in Dublin, Texas, while Asteroid has competed four times and established himself as the 2012 frontrunner.
Cox said he lets Bushwacker out in the arena every day to play and dig in the dirt. Then he works on having him jog to get back in competition shape. Cox said that the bull grows more active with each passing day.
He said Bushwacker could compete today if he had to.
"When he moves around now, he has that bounce back to him," said Cox, "like his feet almost barely touch the ground when he's trotting around. So that alone right there lets me know that bull feels good."
A year ago, a late-appearing Asteroid had to prove himself to be in the same league as Bushwacker. This time around, it's Bushwacker who is out to prove he's still as fearsome as he was before the procedure.
Moreno said he thought Asteroid has gotten better with each out.
"When J.B. (Mauney) had him (in Portland, Ore.), he flipped J.B. over his head, and there at Sacramento (Calif.), he was awesome," said Moreno, who added, "To me, he looks like Bushwacker last year at this time. Now's the time to have two fighters go at each other.
Cox and Dr. Gary Warner, the highly respected bovine veterinarian who performed the surgery, insist that Bushwacker shows no signs of having been hurt.
In fact, Cox said he might be better than he was at the World Finals.
Asteroid and Bushwacker competed head-to-head seven times in 2011.
In Thackerville, Okla., last summer, Bushwacker posted 46.25 points in dispatching Douglas Duncan.
Bushwacker posted the higher score in the first two meetings, with 47 points in Pueblo, Colo., and 46.25 points in Thackerville, Okla., as well as the last two meetings at the World Finals. Asteroid had the higher score three times, with 46.5 points in Tulsa, Okla.; San Antonio, and Springfield, Mo.
Bushwacker competed in 14 BFTS events in 2011, and was the high-marked bull 10 times.
'Now's the time to have two fighters go at each other. Get ready.'
He had the three highest scores of 2011, with 48.5 points in Round 3 at the World Finals, and 47.75 points in Anaheim, Calif., and Arlington. He had four of the Top 6 scores, six of the Top 8 scores and seven of the Top 10 scores.
Moreno, who lives in Central California, will be in Arlington for Bushwacker's return.
He recently tore a meniscus in his knee - one reason why he hasn't been on horseback at recent Built Ford Tough Series events - and will be examined by Dr. Tandy Freeman. But he had already planned on being at Cowboys Stadium for the event.
"I'm craving to see it," said Moreno.
Tickets for the Dickies© Iron Cowboy III are available via Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000.
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