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Clay Applegate EPB Finals

Clay Applegate, of Deer Lodge, starts his ride on "Nutcracker" and stayed on the full 8 seconds to score an 84 during the opening go-round of the Elite Professional Bullriders Finals last year in the Butte Civic Center.

Bittersweet moments filled the air at the Butte Civic Center for Day 1 of the Elite Professional Bullriders 2016 Finals on Friday.

Andrew Smith, who was competing for the season’s championship, earned 86 points by riding Pretty Boy for the required 8 seconds in the opening round. The 86 points were enough to put him in the lead after a round in which only five of 30 had successful rides.

But Pretty Boy got the last laugh.

Smith was hung up on the bull following his ride and Pretty Bull used the opportunity to get his type of revenge.

The bull stepped on Smith’s right leg, leaving an abrasion on the calf and possibly breaking Smith’s foot.

Smith was helped out of the arena by medical personnel and was unable to return for the second, or short go, later in the evening.

By the time the action had finished for the night, Smith was still hanging around.

Smith limped his way through the south corridor of the civic center and made his way up the stairs to one of the locker rooms.

“I’m to the point where I’m deciding if it’s broken enough to go to the hospital or not,” he said as other riders changed clothes and prepared to leave the arena. “It’s just all swelled up. If it’s not broken, they’re not going to do anything for it.”

Smith said he would make a decision later in the evening on whether to go to the hospital but he had other things to do first.

“After I get a bite to eat and have myself a beer, if it still feels broken…I’ve been broken enough times.”

This wasn’t the first time that Smith has been hurt. A broken right foot, if that’s what he has, seems minor by comparison.

“I’ve broken my arms a bunch of times, said the 23-year-old native of Shawmut. “I’ve broken all of my ribs on this (right) side of my body but three. I wish I knew how many there were, but all but three.

I’ve had a few shoulder surgeries and a bunch of other stuff. I had a torn liver one time.”

Such is the life of a bull rider.

If there was a bright side to Smith’s night, it came from his successful ride aboard Pretty Boy.

“It’s not near as bad because I made some money,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about being poor and hurt. It sucks because it’s the finals and I came in high enough that if I did good, I could end up winning the whole deal.

Clay Applegate can relate. The resident of Deer Lodge broke his collarbone on Labor Day and has been working hard to get back to the top of his game.

He returned to that level aboard Nutcracker in the long go (opening round) earning a score of 84.

“I’ve only been on five bulls before this because I had a broken collarbone,” Applegate said. “So I’ve been building up to this.

“I’ve been riding pretty terrible so that first one felt good. I would have rather rode that second one too.”

Applegate explained that coming back from an injury is a process which takes time but the body quickly adapts.

“It takes a couple of bulls just to get the feeling and get the timing back,” he said. “It’s not too bad. It’s mostly muscle-memory. It comes back with a good ride.

When you’re staying on a couple and getting warmed up, your confidence is high. When you’re falling down a lot, you’re fighting in your head a lot. As long as you’re not fighting your head, you’re set.”

Applegate’s second ride of the night didn’t go as well, as Applegate was sent flying to the ground shortly after the chute opened.

“He’s bucked me off three times now and I haven’t ridden him,” Applegate said of Clown Eater. “I like getting on him. He’s a fun bull.

“If you get the chance, it’s fun to get on them again unless they’re big, scary and treacherous.

Clowneater. It’s a good thing I ain’t a clown.”

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