FORT WORTH, Texas – Talk about a bunch of bull.
Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan is in Texas this week, not far from a pair of 2-year-old bulls he owns that are being trained to possibly one day buck cowboys in the top-level Professional Bull Riders circuit.
"They're still doing their qualifying laps," Kanaan said of Downforce and Brazilian Bully, the bulls on a ranch about 100 miles from Texas Motor Speedway.
Kanaan's bulls are among 48 being trained how to buck at Aces of Spades Ranch in Stephenville, Texas. Instead of actual cowboys, the bulls have a 35-pound dummy on their backs where a rider would be. They are preparing for four Back Seat Buckers events that begin in August. That includes the October finale at Las Vegas, where the top bull can earn $100,000.
"His two are not the best out of the 48, but they are dang sure bucking hard," said Ross Coleman, a retired professional rider who cares for the bulls. "We're honored to have a famous race car driver to be part of this sport."
Kanaan bought the bulls after being told about the program by former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard, who was head of Professional Bull Riders before leading the opening-wheel organization for three years.
"They're on a range somewhere," Kanaan said. "Because they're so young, I actually only met them through pictures. I really have not physically seen them."
John Elway, Reggie Jackson and Wayne Gretzky are among other sporting celebrities who have been involved in American Bucking Bull's Back Seat Buckers program. New York Giants tight end Bear Pascoe and backup quarterback David Carr are partners in owning a bull in this year's program.
Coleman, who rode professionally for 13 years and is in the PBR Ring of Honor, said 10-15 of the bulls currently at Ace of Spades could be among elite bulls on the PBR circuit in the next three to four years.
The grand-sire of Kanaan's bull Downforce is Little Yellow Jacket, which won PBR World Champion Bull titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. A statue of Little Yellow Jacket is in front of the PBR headquarters in Colorado along with one of Adriano Moraes, the only three-time World Champion rider.
"He's got blood in him," Coleman said of Downforce. "Keep your fingers crossed, you never know how good they will be."
All the bulls at Ace of Spades came from breeding programs of the PBR and were chosen on their bucking ability.
When they get into their competitions later this year, the bulls will be judged on how quick they spin, how high they jump and the intensity of their bucking. Their training includes going through chutes and where the gates are to get them used to the surroundings.
After the finale in Las Vegas, held in conjunction with the PBR World Finals, the bulls can be shipped to their owners, sold online, moved to other programs to prepare for future events, or could be used for breeding purposes.
And there is another option as well.
"If he doesn't qualify, he's going to go to a barbecue," Kanaan said.