Steamboat will mark the end of a busy week for bull rider Tony Mendes.
He is scheduled to leave his home in Jensen, Utah, on Thursday for a pair of bull riding events in Texas, after which he will swing by Steamboat Springs on Sunday evening for the Pro Bull Riding Classic. If things are going well, he is hoping to cap off a successful week by riding a bull named Up in Smoke into the short go in the annual Labor Day event, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.
"This is a big week, and Steamboat will be an important performance," Mendes said. "It's the end of the season and everyone out there is fighting for position. Every event counts."
To improve his ranking, Mendes said he will need two solid rides at the Classic, including the most important one on the back of Glenn Southwick's Up in Smoke in the opening round. A top-10 finish on that bull will allow Mendes to advance to the finals where riders will face the likes of Hunter, Red Zinger, High Five, Red Alert, Little Tiger, Gunpowder, Cool Cat, Sheep Dip, Cheap Trick and Crown of Thorns.
Only the top riders will get a shot at that elite field of bulls. First, Mendes will have to prove he is worthy on the back of Up in Smoke.
Mendes is familiar with Up in Smoke and is excited about his chances.
"I think it's the type of bull that can get me to the short go," Mendes said.
The bull rider said Up In Smoke had an off-day the last time the pair met. Mendes is expecting things to be different this time around.
Brent Romick, one of three producers of this year's event, said Mendes and Up in Smoke should make for an exciting pair that can score high in the opening round of the bull riding. Others to watch will include Gary Richards on Color Me Bad, Ross Johnson on Fire and Ice and Gerardo Venegas on Frank the Crank.
The 45 bull riders entered in this year's Pro Bull Riding Class will compete in five flights.
The top 10 riders after the first bulls have been ridden will advance to a short go where they will ride a fresh group of bulls to determine which cowboy will take home this year's title. Injuries will keep past champions Cory Navarre and Chad Denton from competing at the event. The only other cowboy to win a PBR event at Romick Arena is Cody Custer. He retired after last season and is one of the producers of this year's events along with Romick and Jerome Robinson.
Other top riders will include Cory Turnbow, Gilbert Carrillo and Tater Porter. But Romick didn't want to make any predictions.
"That's the cool thing about the Challenger Tour," Romick said.
"It's wide open this time," he said. "My prediction is that somebody nobody has ever heard of will win this event."
The PBR is broken down into the Ford Built Tough series, which is televised. There also is the U.S. Smokeless Challenger Tour, which acts as a feeder program for the Ford Built Tough Tour. There also is an entry-level series called the Humps and Horns Tour.
Gates for the Steamboat event will open at 5 p.m. Sunday and tickets are still available for the event. Reserved seating, which allows spectators to enter a specified area to find the best seat, is $33 in advance and $38 at the gate. There is also a general admission area.