VICENTE BARRERA (26th: 35 corridas) Two injuries in quick succession at the start of 2000 effectively removed Barrera from the reckoning for the whole of that temporada, but he promised to return in 2001 with as singular an approach as ever. I was pleased to have the opportunity to see him at Aranda de Duero and was delighted to witness one of Vicentes classic displays. He is a matador who often responds well to pressure, and, having lost an apendice with his swordwork after a fine faena standing on one spot to his opening El Torreón bull and just witnessed a magnificent performance from Joselito, it was now or never time for the valenciano. The capework was kept to a minimum just a brief quite of verónicas and media but the faena was superb. He began with four estatuarios, then moved to the centre of the ring for tandas of derechazos and naturales, just turning on the exit leg each time to position himself for the next pass. After producing two circulares, Vicente got down on his knees for muletazos and manoletinas, the crowd proclaiming "Torero! Torero!". He still needed two attempts with the sword, but the animals two ears were deservedly his. It will be hard for Barrera to regain his previous position in the escalafón (changing his management from the Lozanos to Justo Ojeda will probably not help), but do not doubt he remains a matador with a great deal to say.
JOSÉ LUIS MORENO (27th: 33 corridas) With ears cut at Valencia, Córdoba and Madrid (at one of Las Ventass August corridas), this was one of Morenos better temporadas, although the number of contracts remained static. At Barcarrota, he gave his opening Sepúlveda toro some decent verónicas before watching it savage the picadors horse in a huge derribo, the bull rolling the caballo as it lay on the ground and inflicting a cornada in its right flank. Dedicating to the plaza, José Luis produced a good faena, with stylish passes to the centre of the ring and some fine muletazos on both hands. A solid estocada brought a deserved ear. His other faena was a case of más a menos and any chance of a second trophy was lost with two entries with the sword and three descabellos. He still strikes me as someone who, with a bit more effort and risk-taking, could achieve more than he does.
ÓSCAR HIGARES (29th: 31 corridas) Also on with the Sepúlvedas at Barcarrota, Óscar killed his first animal from half a mile away after an initial no-go faena. Although he began well with his second, producing some fine verónicas and opening muletazos, the toro soon exhibited a reluctance to charge to the red cloth and Higares seemed to make a meal of things before downing it with two pinchazos and a half-sword. Higares has been around a while now without ever tasting real success, so perhaps its not surprising that a touch of cynicism is beginning to creep into his toreo.
DAVID LUGUILLANO (31st: 30 corridas) A photographers dream, Luguillano is a torero Im always pleased to come across. We met up at Palencia again this year. Facing a quick-turning Puerto de San Lorenzo sobrero to start with, David did well with capotazos, dedicated to the crowd and produced a good faena, although not always a particularly aesthetic one, moving his feet round to accommodate the bull and citing for manoletinas on his knees at the end, but then not performing them. There were some good derechazos though, and he persisted with a series on the left despite receiving a huge warning. Four swordthrusts cost him any chance of a trophy, while his second showing was a poor performance, allowing his Buenavista bull five puyazos before engaging in a scrappy faena and more prolonged swordwork. Admired in San Isidro, where he was given a vuelta, but left out of his home feria at Valladolid in September, for Luguillano 2001 was simply a case of more plugging away.
RAFAEL DE JULIA (33rd: 29 corridas) How de Julia ended up triunfador of the San Isidro Feria, cutting two ears in only his third engagement of the season, I do not know, but this and further successes at Aranjuez and Valencia (where he cut three ears from the San Jaime Celestino Cuadri encierro) certainly helped him secure contracts in the major plazas in the latter half of the temporada. I disagreed with the critics saw at Santander, when, in my view, he performed poorly with his opening Montalvo and then tried to secure a second faena from an animal with nothing in it at all. In my last corrida of the year, at San Agustín de Guadalix, Rafael was exasperating once again. He couldnt be blamed for the terrible condition of his first Francisco Galache bull, an animal which pawed the ground constantly, wandered off and hooked badly, although all four estocadas were given whilst running to the side. His second, falling toro was best on its left horn, but de Julia gave up on naturales after a desarme at the first attempt. Instead, we had a boring faena of single derechazos; Rafael appeared to believe he was peforming toreo con temple, but the fact of the matter was his opponent was barely moving. Time will tell whether the lad from Torrejón de Ardoz has it in him to become a figura or not.
MANOLO SÁNCHEZ (34th: 27 corridas) Here is someone who has let fame pass him by. Now apparently content to be a local hero in Castille (although he did cut an ear in the summer in Madrid), Manolo appeared in front of a partisan crowd at Tordesillas to face bulls from Samuel Flores. His capework to both animals was pathetic, and his faena to the first very poor lots of backward slides of the feet and little style, culminating in pendulos and two estocadas, the first of these skewering the bull from side to side. Things improved with the muletazos to his second toro. Commencing with typical Manolo Sánchez doblones, his head bent, the vallisetano went on to produce good derechazos. The naturales were fine too, although it took some time for the torero to summon sufficient confidence to dispense with the helping sword. A media estocada al encuentro and descabello brought a generous two ears.
JOSÉ IGNACIO UCEDA LEAL (38th: 23 corridas) Experiencing a sharp fall in contracts after featuring in 52 corridas the year before, Uceda Leal also appears to have missed the boat to success. With just 15 ears and a tail cut this season, he would also appear not to have been on the best of form. At Barcarrota, José produced some promising capework to his first Sepúlveda, but the faena was patchy and the matador opted not to pursue things with the left hand. His second bull, tired and constantly walking come the faena, gave Leal no opportunity to improve things.
ANIBAL RUIZ (39th: 21 corridas) My first-ever viewing of the manchego came at Piedrabuena and the lads tremendismo was like a throwback to the sixties! Shortly into his opening faena, he produced some series of naturales con temple, showing that he knows his stuff, but then resorted to kneeling exhibitionism and desplantes (turning on the taps being a particular favourite). His capework was the highlight of his work with his second Laurentino Carrascosa three larga cambiadas de rodillas (both the second and third being rather inadvisable), verónicas, a chicuelina and revolera to start with and a fine set of walking chicuelinas to take the bull to the picador. The toro was tired come the faena, though, so this time the muleta play was boring. One sound and one off-centre sword delivered two ears per bull. In opting for the tremendista approach, it seems to me that Ruiz has consigned himself to precisely the season he had this year 20-odd corridas in minor rings around his local area of La Mancha.
JUAN MORA (42nd: 20 corridas) When we opted for San Agustín de Guadalix for our last corrida, we had no idea whom the cartel might feature (Jesús Millán, the only fixture we knew of, having been injured just days before). So it was a real pleasure to discover the programme was headed by Juan Mora. With his contracts down by a third compared to 2000, after San Isidro it was not until Valladolid in September that Juan, entering as a substitute for an injured colleague, found himself in a leading feria and no surprise that he pulled out the stops and went out on shoulders. Surprisingly wearing a creamy yellow traje at San Agustín, Mora produced beautiful capework to both Galache opponents; extracted a reasonable first faena despite the animal refusing to lower its head; and treated us to lovely series in the second faena with plenty of trademark JM remates and recursos. An adorno with his head near the bulls horns nearly went very badly wrong, but there was no mistaking the closing estocada to secure his second oreja of the afternoon. Three contracts later, he received his terrible cornada at Jaén which very nearly robbed us of one of the most stylish of todays toreros. At this late stage in his career, it remains to be seen what impact such a close encounter with death will have had.
MIGUEL RODRÍGUEZ (44th: 18 corridas) This veteran modesto had a good season by his standards, taking two vueltas in Las Ventas and cutting ears in two-thirds of his corridas. At Medina del Campo, on with Pepín Liria and El Califa against dreadful Pinto Barreiros bulls, it was Miguel who ended up triunfador. After a prolonged and difficult tercio de banderillas to his first animal, I was surprised Rodríguez opted to dedicate it to the crowd, but this one did run well in the faena and was given some excellent linked derechazos and eventually good naturales as well. There were some lovely pases de pecho too, Miguel bringing the bull round across his body, although, following two attempts with the sword, I felt the two ears awarded were exceedingly generous. The banderillas were no better to his second toro an animal which exhibited growing sentido in the faena. A good sword was followed by a minority petition and another oreja.
EL FUNDI (48th: 15 corridas) Juan Prados may well have been disappointed with his temporada, for, although ears were cut on all but four afternoons, after failing to succeed against the Miuras at Sevilla, he found himself pretty much confined to contracts in the Madrid region. At Tordesillas, he won the crowd with a tercio de banderillas which included a pair al molinero and another against the barrera. His Samuel Flores opponent proved tricky in the faena, sometimes charging smoothly and sometimes hooking, but El Fundi managed some lovely naturales ayudados and a classic estocada a slow entry to the hilt to win dos orejas. His other bull was dreadful constantly stumbling, impossible on the right and dangerous on the left. Faced with this material, the madrileño didnt bother to go over the horns for the kill; two metisacas from the side and the ordeal was over.
ANTONIO BRICIO (55th: 12 corridas) I groaned when I saw Bricios name on the aviso at Tordesillas, for he was to replace the torero I most wanted to see on this cartel (Ignacio Garibay); the fellow Mexican had, I felt, only finished top of Spains novillero escalafón last year because of his Tauromex backing. Little did I know it, but before me was one of those delightful afternoons when ones poor expectations are utterly confounded. His first Flores bull stayed close to the capote once it was presented and Bricio did well to cape it out to the centre of the plaza where he brought off verónicas and a media to olés from the crowd. The quite had to be aborted, but the animal had been good in the horse and it was clear that here was a toro of quality. The faena began with the muleta catching on the bulls horns, but Antonio learnt from this and his passes grew more templados, producing good series on each hand. A molinete was the best and closest of several this afternoon. He intelligently closed with doblones before delivering a sound estocada. The female president in the ring that day was intent on awarding ears quickly; the first was given as Bricio took his leave of her and a generous second apendice followed shortly after. The Mexicans second bull was a huge beast. Once again, his capework drew cheers from the crowd and this time the faena was a superb one. Beginning in the middle of the arena with two péndulo passes and a fine de pecho, Antonio went on to give excellent derechazos and naturales and some scintillating circulares. Clearly enjoying the encounter, Bricio blew a kiss at his toro after a desplante, then closed with a molinete and lasernista and a great estocada. This time, the two ears and a tail awarded were absolutely deserved. A matador Id be very happy to see again.
IVÁN VICENTE (66th: 10 corridas) Vicente took the alternativa at Soria in June at the hands of Armillita and was the substitute for the injured Jesús Millán at San Agustín de Guadalix, having triumphed the day before in the same arena. He must have had friends in the plaza, for he ended up triunfador today too, with three over-generous ears to his credit. On his first bull, Iván managed some promising cape and good series of derechazos, but was unable to produce anything of similar quality with the left hand. His second Francisco Galache was a fast-turning animal and the wind was up now too, but Vicente persevered with the faena, bringing off some stylish passes. His swordwork needs to improve, but he has a good concept of toreo and it will be interesting to see what kind of foothold the youngster manages to acquire as a matador de toros over the next couple of seasons.
JAIME CASTELLANOS (185th: 1 corrida) The pretty bar-museo underneath the stands at Alcázar de San Juan was buzzing on the morning of 7th September as, later that afternoon, local man Jaime Castellanos was due to take the alternativa from Finito de Córdoba, with El Juli as testigo. The 22-year-old had been appearing in novilladas con picadores since 1997, obtaining six contracts the previous season; hardly anyone had any illusions that here was a future figura, but the event was worth celebrating in any case. Apart from stepping on his capote at the end of a revolvera, Jaime kept his cool with his opening Sancho Dávila toro, but couldnt sustain things with the left, suffered a desarme and closed with a half-sword. A minority petition and the occasion itself secured him an ear. His last animal was the worst of the day and Castellanos suffered a calvary at the end with a pinchazo, media estocada and no less than 11 descabellos, but earlier on hed met the bull with the most artistic verónicas of the afternoon, which just goes to show how full of surprises los toros can be. More predictable was that this turned out to be his only corrida of the year.
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