TURLOCK -- Bull rider Travis Jensen knew he could count on the Stanislaus County Fair to turn his summer around.
For the third time in four years, the Lodi native won the bull riding competition in the FoodMaxx Arena on Thursday. It hasn't been a winning season for Jensen, 19, who couldn't remember winning since the California Cowboy Pro Rodeo Association's first event in March.
"It took me awhile to get that out of the way," Jensen said. "It felt like it was a good ride."
Jensen's score of 87 points edged Turlock's Bobby Roberts (83). The fellow junior rodeo stars were the only two to score in the 80s. Only six of the 15 riders were able to hang on for more than eight seconds and post scores.
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The only local winner was Turlock's Blake Hirdes, who split with Roy Branco in the calf roping event with a time of 8.8 seconds.
Bull rider Justin Riley accompanied Jensen on crutches, having broken his left leg in two places riding in May. Riley said Jensen, who has been riding since he was 12, is naturally talented.
"Just knowing him, I knew he won before it was over," Riley said. "He was showing off."
Bull riders are not required to spur their animals the way bronc riders are, but Jensen dug in to make his steer spin and earn a higher score. Winning at the fair, with the neon-lit rides and screaming passengers in the background, hasn't gotten old for Jensen.
"The bigger the crowd, the more you want to do well," Jensen said. "The atmosphere around it is what makes it a big deal."
Larry Ferreira of Fort Jones didn't get the benefit of the bright lights and packed grandstands when he won the steer wrestling event during the day.
Worried that he'd get a slow steer since he was the last to compete, Ferreira was pleased with his 4.4-second run.
"The steer was outstanding," Ferreira said. "They were all fresh. I sat there and watched everyone go out and knew what I had to do."
Ferreira's time from the day session stood despite the evening's top performance from Oakdale's Ryle Smith, who finished third in 4.9 seconds behind Billy Holland's 4.8.
Holland and Ferreira are at the top of the CCPRA standings. Ferreira said he usually finishes in the top three, and was within $600 of catching him in the standings entering the event.
Ferreira gained about $200 on Holland by finishing ahead of him Thursday.
Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.