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PBR: Cowboy Jenkins now manages the four-legged “athletes”

L.J. Jenkins has fond memories of Albuquerque and, in particular, the Pit.

Jenkins, who attended Texico High School, rode to Ty Murray Invitational titles in 2008 and 2011 before he was 25 years old.

Now almost 30, Jenkins is out of the bull-riding game, but he’s still heavily involved in the sport.

Jenkins has a handful of “athletes” on hand for the 21st edition of the Ty Murray, which began Friday and continues through Sunday at the Pit.

A professional bull rider on the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series for nine years, Jenkins suffered a broken neck two years ago during a PBR stop in Idaho that abruptly ended his career.

“I’ve had broken bones all over, but nothing to where it could have almost killed me,” Jenkins said before Friday night’s opening round. “I never would have thought that I would get hurt bad enough that I had to quit; where I didn’t have a choice, and the doctor said I was done.”

At 27 years old, Jenkins’ professional riding career was over, but he wasn’t nearly through with the bull-riding business.

Jenkins won nearly $1.8 million over his professional career, and he smartly put money aside, buying a 600-acre ranch in Oklahoma. He began to build his own stable of bulls, making for a smooth transition to stock contracting.

“I was starting to get burned out,” Jenkins said. “I had been thinking about stock contracting, so when I did get hurt, I was already set up.”

Kaique Pacheco holds on while riding Naughty List during Friday’s action at the Pit. Naughty List was contracted to the Ty Murray Inviational by Texico native and former rider L.J. Jenkins. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Kaique Pacheco holds on while riding Naughty List during Friday’s action at the Pit. Naughty List was contracted to the Ty Murray Inviational by Texico native and former rider L.J. Jenkins. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

One member of Jenkins’ stable, Naughty List, made Friday night’s card drawing one of the top riders in 2017, Kaique Pacheco.

Jenkins said he is more nervous for his bulls than he ever was as a rider.

“I controlled my own destiny, but these are wild animals,” he said. “All I can do is do my best to prepare them and hope they do well.”

TOP CONTRACTOR: The business of raising high-caliber bulls is just as fierce as the competition between riders. And among stock contractors, North Dakota native Chad Berger is at the elite level.

Last year, Berger won his sixth stock contractor of the year award, and he nearly captured the top bull award. Pearl Harbor, under Berger’s charge the past two seasons, tied for top bull honors in 2016 but lost in a tiebreaker.

Pearl Harbor, a bull Berger purchased from another stock contractor, is the runaway front-runner in 2017. He has the top three scores this year, and is working on a perfect season, for not one professional rider has lasted the full eight seconds.

“He’s just a phenomenal athlete,” Berger said. “He’s matured, he’s so athletic, and his mind is right. … he’s that once-in-a-lifetime kind of bull. He’s like Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan (in basketball).”

Berger said the acquisition of Pearl Harbor is part of his business model. You can raise your own high-level stock, but you need to augment the stable of talent by purchasing up-and-comers.

Berger had his eye on Pearl Harbor for two years before he acquired the highly coveted bull.

“I wanted to own him pretty bad,” Berger said. “It was hard for the owners to part with him, so when they priced him, I just took him.”

Pearl Harbor is one of nine bulls Berger brought to the Ty Murray that will likely see action this weekend.

OPENING NIGHT: Stormy Wing of Dalhart, Texas leads after the first round of the Ty Murray after scoring 88.5 points aboard Switch Hitter. Claudio Montanha Jr. of Brazil is in second, scoring 87.75. … Brazilian Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 PBR champion, edged closer to 600 career rides, scoring 86.25 with his successful navigation of Parachute. According to the PBR website, Marchi entered the Ty Murray with 594 rides over his 13-year PBR career. … PBR officials estimated Friday’s paid attendance was nearly 8,000. … The second round of the Ty Murray begins Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

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