Fabiano Vieira continues to ascend the world standings.
The 29-year-old was the only rider to go 5-for-5 this weekend to win the second Built Ford Tough Series event of his career.
Vieira remained in sixth place in the standings, but he and the three riders just ahead of him - Robson Palermo, 3, Austin Meier, 4, and Guilherme Marchi, 5 - are all within 700 points of each other. Marchi, who broke five ribs and lacerated his lung in Wichita, Kan., is not expected to compete again until the PBR World Finals, while Palermo is questionable for next week's event in Columbus, Ohio, because of a torn rotator cuff.
Midway through the event this weekend, Vieira said, "I don't know what's going to happen at the Finals."
In the meantime, he's atop the Power Rankings.
Since returning from the summer break, Vieira has recorded five Top 5 finishes, including two wins. His first career BFTS win was in Tulsa, Okla., in August.
In 21 events, only once has he gone 0-for-the-weekend. Despite missing seven BFTS events early in the season, he's tied for third with Meier for the most qualified rides (44), and only Silvano Alves has a higher riding percentage. Alves has covered 66.7 percent of his bulls, while Vieira is at 64.7 percent.
As Vieira tightened the race among the third, fourth, fifth and sixth-ranked riders in the world, there was little change with the Top 2.
No. 1 Alves rode his first-round bull for 85.25 points, then bucked off his next two. No. 2 Valdiron de Oliveira, who had moved to within 1,431.5 points of Alves, fell 1.75 points back after bucking off his first two before covering his fourth-round bull for 83.5 points to close out his weekend.
Afterward, a disappointed Alves said, "I bucked off my bull, but I'm still healthy."
Alves felt his second buckoff was a lost opportunity to extend his lead.
In Hartford, Douglas Duncan covered Chocolate Thunder in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round for the high-marked ride of the weekend - 90.75 points - to take a 12-point lead over Vieira, who then had no choice but to ride Who Dat for the event win.
He made it look easy, scoring 90 points for the win. Afterward, he deflected the attention by saying, "I would like to congratulate Douglas Duncan."
NEWS & NOTES
HIPPY: It's been a tale of two halves for 24-year-old Douglas Duncan.
Despite opening the 2011 season with two Top 10 finishes, he was 0-for-the-weekend eight times in the first 12 events. Since then, he's been shut out only once in the past 13 regularly formatted BFTS events. He's had eight Top 10 finishes, half of which have been in the Top 5.
He's accomplished that with an injured hip. He rode four of five bulls this weekend, and when asked about his injury, said, "If I decided not to get (surgery) done, then I shouldn't complain. Nobody wants to hear about my problems."
After his 90.75-pointer in the final round, he noticeably limped from the arena.
He later admitted, "Sometimes, the way a bull bucks and the way I ride them, it'll make my hip hurt, and that's one that I dang sure felt about halfway through the ride."
He's currently ranked 12th in the world standings, and joked that he has no choice but to keep his hand closed, because "my banker keeps calling."
LOSTROH BACK IN FORM: Until last Monday, Kody Lostroh's goal was to return in time for the World Finals, but after attempting seven practice bulls in two weeks, he decided to enter the Hartford event to give himself two weeks of preparation for the Finals, which pays $250,000 to the winner of the average.
He said his rehabilitation after injuring his left knee in Billings, Mont., has gone well, and that he feels "as strong as ever."
Two weeks ago he got on three practice bulls one day and two more the next before getting on two last week. He bucked off one and then spurred the last one for what he said would have been 86 or 87 points at an event. He added, "Sometimes you have to convince yourself that you're still good, but when you're making the whistle, it's easier to convince yourself that you're good."
If he needed any more confidence, he got in Hartford.
Lostroh was three-for-five and finished third in the average. It was his first Top 5 finish since back-to-back weeks in Albuquerque, N.M., and Kansas City, Mo. However, he was roughed up Sunday afternoon and told interviewer Leah Garcia he didn't know which way to run for safety.
He then joked, "My hand comes out at the most inopportune times."
INJURY REPORT: An MRI has confirmed that Robson Palermo is competing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Palermo competed in Hartford and said he going to compete at the World Finals before having it surgically repaired in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 2. It could take as long as four months to heal.
No decision has made yet about this week's final BFTS event in Columbus, Ohio.
Palermo, who is ranked third in the world standings, said although he knew five bulls in three days would be painful, he wanted an opportunity to keep pace with Alves. He was one-for-four in Connecticut. When asked to rate the level of pain after his third buckoff, he said, "I think 10."
Several other riders, including Harve Stewart, Pistol Robinson, Cody Nance and Rubens Barsosa were injured this weekend.
Stewart tore the ACL in his right knee on his re-ride bull in Round 2. Although he drafted a bull for Round 4, he did not finish the weekend, and is expected to sit out this week's event in Columbus. Dr. Tandy Freeman explained to him that in order for him to fall outside of the Top 40 of the qualifier standings, six riders ranked below him would have to win more than $30,000 between them.
While mathematically possible, that's not likely, and Freeman told him it was in his best interest to wait until the Finals.
Robinson bruised the brachialis and triceps muscles on his left arm when he was stepped on after bucking off in Round 2. Although he didn't have enough strength in his riding arm to pull his pants on, he still wanted to get on his bull in Round 4. After spending much of Sunday in the training room, he eventually doctored out of the final day of competition.
Nance injured his left shoulder, and according to Freeman, suffered an AC sprain and possible clavicle fracture. He was listed as questionable and did try to compete Sunday.
Barbosa strained his neck when he landed on his head as he was thrown from his championship-round bull. He is listed as probable for Columbus.
KOON MAY HAVE MADE IT: Justin Koon said, "All I've ever wanted to do was go somewhere and do something." This weekend, he made the two most important rides of his professional bull riding career so far.
He was two-for-four on the weekend, but the $5,300 he won was enough to move him from 41st to 38th in the qualifier standings. There is now a cushion of about $4,500 separating him from the World Finals cutoff.
With one BFTS remaining to qualify, Jason O'Hearn slipped one spot outside the Top 40, and Brendon Clark went from 39th to 40th with less than $500 separating the two riders.
Koon arrived in Hartford having bucked off 22 consecutive bulls, and having gone 0-for-the-weekend at nine BFTS events in a row. After riding his second bull and qualifying for the championship round this weekend, he said, "I knew I needed to ride that bull, and I've been bucking off at the whistle, real close, and I just needed to keep my hand shut."
He said he's been fighting his head and calling himself his own worst enemy, and that he simply needed to get out of his own way. However, according to Freeman, Friday night he tore the cartilage in his right knee.
The injury didn't stop the Arkansas native from saying, "There ain't nowhere but up now."
SOLID BULL: J.B. Mauney named one of his bulls Super Solid, and with good reason. Lostroh covered him in Round 2 for 87.25 points to split the round win with Palermo. "Yeah," Lostroh said, when asked by Garcia if he knew it was Mauney's bull, "that is kind of cool."
Mauney actually sold the bull to Wolf Creek Cattle Company a few days prior to the event.
Last week, Reese Arnold helped Mauney out by hauling a few of his bulls to Charlotte, N.C., for an early-morning TV shoot. After hearing about Super Solid, he inquired about buying the bull.
Arnold, who is currently living in Texas and relocating to Oklahoma, picked the bull up on his way to Connecticut. Mauney had already contacted PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert about bucking him in Hartford.
Arnold said, "I would rather bring 10 bulls guys want to get on than 100 they don't."
MUSICAL BULLFIGHTERS: On Thursday, Dickies DuraBullfighter Jesse Byrne's original flight out of Calgary, Alberta, was canceled. Canadians were preparing for today's Thanksgiving celebration, and all other flights were overbooked. Airline officials told Byrne he would have to fly standby, and that he would be lucky to make it to Hartford on Saturday night.
Joe Baumgartner was called into action, and purchased a first-class ticket - the only one available - on a last-minute cross-country flight Friday morning. However, his plane experienced mechanical issues and the flight was canceled. This time, Lyndell Runion was called.
The Oklahoma bullfighter made it to Connecticut in time for Saturday's and Sunday's action, while Shorty Gorham and Frank Newsom handled the duties on Friday night. It was the second time this year Runion, a protégé of Newsom's, had an opportunity to work a BFTS event.
UNEXPLAINED: Friday night, Ryan McConnel got up after being bucked off Child of Mine and immediately realized the left ring finger on his riding glove had been torn off. It was a clean tear at the base of the finger - as if someone had clipped it with a pair of scissors - yet there were no visible marks on his finger. Believe it … or not!
THE WORLDWIDE LEADER: The ESPN campus is located just 20 miles from Hartford, so it was no surprise to see several ESPN personalities and producers at this weekend's event. SportsCenter host Mike Hill was out Friday night. He said that after tweeting about coming to the event, he received a phone call from erstwhile bull rider Chad Ochocinco, who guaranteed he would enjoy himself.
Saturday night, Michelle Beadle was in the stands. Beadle, who now co-hosts "Sports Nation" with Colin Cowherd, was once the dirt-level reporter for the PBR broadcasts. Several other ESPN representatives were on hand, including a reporter for "ESPN.com Page 2."
-by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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