LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Here are three things we learned from the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals this weekend at the KFC Yum! Center.
HOLMES LEADS THE WAY FOR WORLD FINALS QUALIFIERS
How confident was Neil Holmes that he was going to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals?
Well, confident enough that he bought his airplane ticket for Las Vegas last week.
Holmes won’t have to eat the cost of a wasted ticket as the 29-year-old went 2-for-3 (172 points) and finished highest in the event average among non-Top 35 bull riders in the world standings to earn the first of thre World Finals qualification spots up for grabs in the event average results.
The Houston, Texas, bull rider clinched the berth with an 86.75-point ride on Back In Black in the championship round to finish in seventh place overall.
“I had already bought my ticket a week ago so I was counting on this,” Holmes said. “Man, that was great for my career and my confidence. I am glad it worked out.”
Holmes rode Direct Deposit for 86.25 points in Round 2 to earn a spot in the championship round after being bucked off by Gas Pedal in 1.88 seconds on Friday night.
2015 will be his first World Finals appearance.
Joining Holmes as the other World Finals qualifiers via the event average were Derek Kolbaba and Luis Blanco.
Kolbaba finished eighth in the event average (170.5 points) after placing second in Round 2 with an 86.75-point ride on The Marlin and 11th in Round 1 with an 83.5-point effort on Heads Up.
The 19-year-old from Walla Walla, Washington, nearly won the BlueDEF Finals event before bucking off Cowtown Slinger in 7.9 seconds.
“I didn’t really think about it too much, but then I got here and it was explained what is all up for grabs here and there was a chance to go to the big show. It is awesome to get a chance to go to the Finals and show them what I am made of and compete against the best riders and bulls in the world.”
Blanco finished 11th in the event average after wisely, even if a little risky in the heat of the moment, turning down a re-ride option in the first round on Friday night.
Blanco’s 76-point ride on Super Trooper in Round 1 and his 84.25-point ride in Round 2 was enough to give him the third-highest event average (160.25) total among non-Top 35 riders.
“Well, I am very surprised right now because I bucked off my last one,” Blanco said. “I knew I had a chance to win and get to the World Finals. It was hard thinking about (that re-ride) in the moment because you want to win the round, but if you ride two bulls you could place in the average. Thank God it worked.”
Also making his way to the World Finals was Michael Lane, who concluded the season fourth in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour standings.
Lane earned the automatic bid by being the highest-ranked rider in the BlueDEF standings (fourth) that had not already qualified for World Finals.
Gage Gay – the 2015 BlueDEF Champion – and No. 2 Kaique Pacheco were already ranked inside the Top 35, while No. 3 Neil Holmes earned his way to Las Vegas via the event average.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Lane said. “Time to go home this week and work hard to make it count.”
Here is how the bubble riders finished up in the world standings: No. 33 Alexandre Cardozo, No. 34 Bonner Bolton, No. 35 Douglas Duncan and No. 36 Lachlan Richardson.
No. 38 David Mason and No. 41 Tyler Harr were the two most notable riders whose push to qualify for the World Finals came up short. Both riders will have to wait and see if any injuries open the door for them to compete in Las Vegas.
PATON EARNS INTERNATIONAL INVITE QUALIFIER
After two years of finishing runner-up in the race for the PBR Australia championship, Justin Paton is able to say he is going to the World Finals for the first time in his career.
Paton was competing at the BlueDEF Finals as an alternate because of 2015 PBR Australian Champion Fraser Babbington’s visa issues and his 84-point ride on Ranger in Round 2 was good enough to help him earn the international qualifier spot for the World Finals.
Fellow international invites Alejandro Gamboa Calvo (PBR Mexico) and Shay Marks (PBR Canada) both finished 0-for-2 in Louisville.
2015 PBR Brazil Champion Luciano de Castro was unable to compete because of visa issues.
Paton finished 1-for-2 and the 23-year-old could not be happier to get a chance at competing at the World Finals like his idols Troy Dunn, Brendon Clark and Ben Jones have done in their respective careers.
“I am pretty stoked,” Paton said. “This is just what I was aiming for. To come here and achieve that is great. I have come here as the reserve champion in the champion’s position and I have fought my way to get in.
“Hopefully this is the first of many.”
GAY COMES FROM BEHIND TO WIN BLUEDEF TITLE
Amidst all of the chaos that occurred for the race to qualify for the World Finals, Gage Gay went 3-for-3 to win $75,000 in a memorable come-from-behind performance.
Gay wound up winning the BlueDEF Finals event average with 261 points for $25,000 when he rode Legal Tender for 88.5 points for the high-marked ride of the weekend.
The 21-year-old then earned 360 points toward the BlueDEF standings – 200 from winning the event average – to clinch the $50,000 championship away from Pacheco, who only turned 21 years old last month.
“This is the biggest check I ever won in one day,” Gay said. “I am pretty happy. It hasn’t all set in yet, but when I start spending it, it will.”
Gay went even farther, calling it the biggest ride of his career.
“My mouth was so dry,” Gay said. “I couldn’t spit. I was so nervous. It was crazy. I mean riding for the biggest check I ever rode for in one ride was a lot of weight on my shoulders.”
Gay came into the day 135 points behind Pacheco – the most dominant rider during the BDVT regular season – and knew he needed to ride both of his bulls if he wanted to have any chance at winning the $50,000 championship.
He began the night with an 86.25-point ride on RMEF Team Elk for a third-place finish in Round 2 after previously riding Traveling Jones for 86.25 points and a second-place finish in Round 1 on Friday.
The door remained opened for Gay to make his comeback after Pacheco failed to qualify for the championship round with his 83.5-point ride on Big John.
More costly for Pacheco was his 7.75-second buckoff on Repo in Round 1.
Rounding out the Top 5 was Cody Nance (3-for-3, 255.5), Joao Ricardo Vieira (3-for-3, 255.5), Brady Sims (3-for-3, 253.25) and Mike Lee (3-for-3, 247.5).
The 3-for-3 weekend was a big one for Vieira.
The 31-year-old now moves back into the No. 2 world ranking ahead of Pacheco leading in to the upcoming World Finals on Oct. 21-25.
Vieira gained 82.5 points on J.B. Mauney and trails the world leader by 1,315 points.
Mauney finished 2-for-3 and earned 72.5 points toward the standings, officially eliminating No. 5 J.W. Harris from the world title race.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROUND 1 OF THE BLUEDEF FINALS (10-10-2015)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the BlueDEF Finals at the KFC Yum! Center.
VALDIVIEZO EYEING FIRST WORLD FINALS APPEARANCE
Jorge Valdiviezo moved to San Antonio, Texas, late last year to chase his professional bull riding dream and give his family a better opportunity.
The 26-year-old from La Mision, Mexico, is now one step closer toward achieving a professional milestone.
Valdiviezo rode Escape Artist for 85.25 points to tie with Brady Sims for third place in the round and is in position to earn his first career bid to World Finals.
Seeing as Robson Palermo and Gage Gay are already in the Top 35 of the world standings, Valdiviezo would be the first rider based on the event average standings to earn one of three automatic bids to the World Finals.
“This is a great moment for my family and my country,” Valdiviezo said. “Not a lot of riders can ride with this league. I feel great to ride this bull. If I win now, I have an opportunity to ride in the World Finals. That is my dream.”
Valdiviezo is a decorated champion in Mexico. He has won four national titles, as well as the 2014 PBR Mexico championship.
He also expressed his gratitude for the PBR sports medicine team helping him prepare to ride with a right ankle injury that he sustained at a bull riding in San Antonio a few weeks ago.
“Sports medicine helped me to do this,” he said. “My ankle feels great, but I still feel pain. Maybe it is sprained or dislocated. I don’t like going to the hospital. I just take my time at home and rest.”
The next two riders leading the way for the two other automatic bids are Dakota Louis and Derek Kolbaba.
Louis is sitting in a tie for seventh place with his 84.25-point ride on Chubs, while Kolbaba is 11th with 83.5 points on Heads Up.
Other riders currently outside of the Top 35 with a qualified ride are Roscoe Jarboe (82 points on Gomer Pile), Josh Birks (81 points on Little Stinger) and Luis Blanco (76 points on Super Trooper).
PALERMO CLINCHES BERTH FOR WORLD FINALS
Palermo was not thrilled this week that he had to go to the BlueDEF Finals if he hoped to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the ninth time in his career.
He was sore and beat up from the BFTS regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona, and just wanted to stay home and rest.
Palermo can now breathe easy thanks to his Round 1 winning ride on Grandpa Joe (87.25 points).
The three-time World Finals event winner earned 80 points toward the world standings to move from 33th in the world to 30th and clinch a berth for the marquee PBR event on Oct. 21-25 in Las Vegas.
“It looks like I got it,” Palermo said. “I got 80 points and made a little more points with that score. I am so happy. I didn’t want to come. I was so sore at home. Yesterday I got up and I told my wife I didn’t want to come. She said, ‘No, you need to go.’”
Palermo made big work on Grandpa Joe after earning a re-ride during his 48.75-point ride on Sometimes.
“This time is all about points,” he said. “I was down in points and I really needed points and a score. Thanks to God I got a good score.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Gay (86.25 points on Traveling Jones), Valdiviezo, Sims (85.25 points on Beer Nuts) and Douglas Duncan (84.75 points on After Party).
Joao Ricardo Vieira was the only rider in the Top 5 of the world standings to earn a qualified ride. The No. 3 bull rider in the world rode Little Waspy for 82.5 points.
Vieira is 12th heading into Saturday night’s second round.
World leader J.B. Mauney was bucked off by Back in Black in 3.23 seconds.
After all of the ups and downs this season, including being cut from the BFTS, Palermo is able to now focus on enjoying the rest of the weekend and possibly winning the $25,000 BlueDEF event title or the $50,000 bonus that awaits the BlueDEF champion.
Palermo trails BlueDEF leader Kaique Pacheco, who was bucked off by Repo in 7.75 seconds, by only 145 points heading into Saturday night’s second round.
"Oh, that would be awesome," Palermo said. "I have been down so much this year. It has been really depressing. I have had to do so much to be in the Top 35 this year. My mind is good and everything is starting to come back.
"I hope to do the same thing tomorrow and win the Finals."
SIMS AND DUNCAN TRYING TO HOLD ONTO FINAL SPOTS
Sims didn’t find out until Tuesday that he was being awarded an alternate spot to compete at the BlueDEF Finals.
Sims, who entered the weekend 34th in the world standings, didn’t waste any time trying to use the opportunity to keep hold of one of the final World Finals qualification spots up for grabs.
His 85.25-point ride on Beer Nuts helped him earn 25 points toward the world standings.
Sims previously rode Beer Nuts for 81 points at the Bismarck, North Dakota, 2014 Touring Pro Division event.
“I wasn’t expecting that out of that bull either,” Sims said. “Last time I got on him he kicked out hard and made one round left and we just went straight down the pen and circled to the left. I knew he is very steep and really tries to jerk on you. The whole ride I was like stay out over him and move with him. Whenever he kicked out, he made a real big fake left and once he hit right he just picked me right back up.”
Sims now leads No. 37 Michael Lane – the first rider not holding a qualification spot in the standings – by 134.17 points.
“It was a spur of the moment deal and it was a blessing in disguise,” Sims said. “I was kicking myself in the butt. I didn’t think I was coming here. I figured I would let fate decide it and then fate came knocking on the door, and it was like ‘Hey do you want to come to Louisville.’ I was like let’s do it.”
Lane had a very tough break in his pursuit of his first World Finals appearance when he was ruled to have bucked off Joe The Grinder in 7.94 seconds.
Meanwhile, Duncan helped his push toward qualifying for the Finals with his fifth-place finish in the round.
Duncan and After Party nearly collided with the bucking chutes during the ride as After Party spun extra closely toward the blue bucking chutes.
“That little black bull, he kind of had me working quite a bit,” Duncan said. “It never looks like what it feels like when I watch it back. He is one when you take your wrap everything just feels right. I hate to sound cocky, but I knew that bull was going to be rode before I nodded my head.”
He earned 15 points to the world standings to extend his lead on Lane to 82.92 points.
“I just try not to put pressure on myself,” Duncan said. “I am whooping and hollering in the bucking chute and I got Stormy (Wing) giving me a hard time. It brings me back down to home base and why you do it in the first place – for the love of the game.
“I don’t know. I guess The Built Ford Tough, you can sometimes put to much pressure on yourself to do good and for whatever reason I always seem to do good when I come back down to these deals. I need to carry this momentum into the big shows.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
BLUEDEF FINALS DRAW NOTE (10-7-2015)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Things have not gone at all how Joao Ricardo Vieira envisioned them when he entered the Battle at the Beau Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) event in August as the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings.
Vieira has since gone 6-for-20, lost his 1,007.5-point lead atop the world standings and been battered and beaten in the arena.
Last weekend was the latest dark cloud moment for the 30-year-old after Buck Even stomped on his left thigh and knee in Tucson, Arizona, to knock him out of the BFTS regular-season finale.
Vieira was diagnosed with a thigh bruise and a sprained MCL by Dr. Tandy Freeman in Tucson.
Vieira has confirmed with the PBR competition department that he will be competing at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals on Friday and Saturday night as he tries to gain ground on world leader J.B. Mauney.
Vieira heads into the KFC Yum! Center 1,397.5 points behind Mauney in the world standings – a 2,405-point swing from when the BFTS resumed in Biloxi.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year is very much alive in the world title race, but his riding of late, as well as his health, has put him at a distinct disadvantage compared to Mauney and No. 2 Kaique Pacheco.
Regardless, Vieira could potentially earn points in Louisville and close the gap on Mauney, who also is competing in Louisville.
Vieira has drawn Little Waspy in Round 1, while Mauney will face Back in Black.
Pacheco takes on Repo.
Other world title contenders competing in Louisville include No. 4 Matt Triplett and No. 5 J.W. Harris.
Both riders could potentially be eliminated if Mauney earns 101 more world points than them this weekend.
While the race at the top of the standings remains entrenched with those five riders, the race to qualify at the bottom of the standings is much closer.
Lachlan Richardson enters the weekend holding the final qualification spot for the World Finals in the world standings (No. 36) and is competing in Louisville as the sixth alternate after various riders chose to not compete at the BlueDEF Finals.
It is a major break for the 22-year-old who is trying to qualify for his fourth consecutive World Finals.
Richardson leads No. 37 Michael Lane by only 49.17 points – the difference of only finishing second in a round at the BlueDEF Finals.
Meanwhile, No. 38 Dave Mason is only 72.5 points behind Richardson, and No. 39 Luis Blanco sits just 122.5 points out of the No. 36 position.
Things are just as tight above Richardson in the standings.
No. 33 Robson Palermo leads Richardson by 65 points, and No. 34 Brady Sims and No. 35 Douglas Duncan are only five and 46.25 points, respectively, behind Palermo.
There are a total of 1,150 points toward the world standings are available in Louisville.
The first-place finisher in a round receives 80 points. Riders placing second through fifth receive points on a graduated scale (50, 30, 20, 15).
The first-place finisher in the event average receives 200 points. Riders placing second through 10th receive points on a graduated scale (125, 75, 50, 40, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5).
There are also five qualification spots up for grabs in Louisville – three to the Top-3 finishers in the event average, one for the 2015 BlueDEF Velocity Tour champion and one for the top-finishing international invite.
PACHECO TRYING TO KEEP PACE WITH MAUNEY
TUCSON, Ariz. – Here are three things we learned from the Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride, presented by Jack Daniel’s, Built Ford Tough Series event at the Tucson Convention Center this weekend.
Pacheco earns first career 90-point ride on BFTS
Rookie Kaique Pacheco is doing all he can to try and keep pace with world leader J.B. Mauney and stay alive in the 2015 world title race.
Pacheco nearly earned his third win of the 2015 season when he rode Compact for 90 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night.
It is the first 90-point ride of Pacheco’s BFTS career.
“It takes hard work,” Pacheco said with the help of Robson Palermo translating. “I have been riding good, but I never had 90 points. I am so happy. I knew I was going to pick him because I rode him for 88 points in Denver (Touring Pro Finals). This time, I rode him for 90.”
However, it was the master of the art of 90 points – Mauney – stealing the show from Pacheco later in the championship round with the 62nd 90-point ride of his 10-year BFTS career.
Mauney went on to ride Mr. Bull for 90 points to split the round with Pacheco and snatch the event win from the star-studded rookie.
Rounding out the Top 5 in the championship round was Ryan Dirteater (88 points on I’m a Gangster Too), Mike Lee (86.5 points on Mr. Clark) and Aaron Roy (83 points on Rooster).
Pacheco (3-for-3) finished second in the event overall with 320 points.
Therefore, Pacheco heads into next weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals in Louisville, Kentucky, 1,250 points behind Mauney.
Both riders are planning on competing in Louisville.
Pacheco, who is currently No. 1 in the BlueDEF standings, understands how important the Velocity Finals will be as he tries to chip away at Mauney’s lead.
A rider can earn potentially a maximum of 440 points toward the world standings at the BlueDEF Finals.
“It is very important over there,” Pacheco said. “If you win first place you can get more points to get close. It is important.”
Mauney extends world lead with fourth victory of 2015
Mauney won’t come out and directly say that he smells blood in the water, but the current world leader is certainly riding like a shark with one purpose and one mission.
Mauney went 3-for-3 to win his fourth event of the season and extend his world lead to over 1,200 points on the rest of the field.
The mission for Mauney is very simple: Win his second career gold buckle.
The gameplan is even simpler: Have fun and keep riding his bulls.
That mentality now has him up on Pacheco by 1,250 points, as well as world No. 3 Joao Ricardo Vieira by 1,397.5 points.
Vieira bruised his left thigh and sprained his left knee (grade 2 MCL) when he was stepped on by Buck Even following his 67.75-point ride in Round 2. He was unable to attempt his re-ride bull and left the arena with a brace on his knee.
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Vieira is probable for the World Finals. Vieira told PBR.com he is unsure if he will be able to compete in Louisville.
Mauney also has a commanding lead on No. 4 Matt Triplett (2,100) and No. 5 J.W. Harris (2,175).
The most amount of points a rider can earn toward the world standings at the Built Ford World Finals is 2,200.
Triplett went 0-for-2 in Tucson, while Harris finished 1-for-3 and picked up only 10 points toward the world standings.
Mauney rode HD for 88 points to win Round 2 earlier on Saturday night. He rode Pandora for 85.25 points on Friday night in Round 1 and has ridden six consecutive bulls in the past two weeks, which ties his season-high.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy had previously ridden Mr. Bull for 88 points during last year’s World Finals.
“He threw me off the first time I ever got on him, and the second time I rode him in Vegas,” Mauney said. “I pretty much knew what he was going to do. He was right around to the left and I kind of got over in there and as soon as I did, he hit his head on the corner post and I knew he was going to go back the other way.
“I was a little late and luckily I cut him off and got caught back up to him. That is what it all boils down to. You make it happen, you don’t let it happen. If I wouldn’t have made the moves I did, he would have thrown me off surely when he went back the other way because I was in no position to back the other way. Never, never quit.”
He concludes the BFTS regular season with a BFTS-best 14 round wins, four event wins and a 58.06 percent (36-for-62) riding average.
Mauney also will head into the World Finals as the No. 1 rider for the first time in his career.
“This is the first I ever went into the Finals sitting first,” Mauney said. “I have always been the one chasing and now I am the chasee I guess. Everybody is chasing me.”
Richardson makes the most of final opportunity; update on bubble riders
Lachlan Richardson arrived at the Tucson Convention Center well aware of the fact that he was likely not qualifying for the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals unless multiple riders ahead of him in the world standings decide to opt out of next weekend’s optional event.
Therefore, the 22-year-old understood he had to step up this weekend if he wanted to do all he could to potentially qualify for the World Finals for a fourth consecutive season.
Things didn’t start well for Richardson when he bucked off Outside The Box (5.3 seconds) in Round 1 on Friday night, but he rebounded on Saturday with an 86.25-point ride on Chocolate Thunder to finish the round tied for second-place with Cody Nance (86.25 points on Mortimer).
The ride netted him 55 points toward the world standings and his 1-for-3 performance helped him pick up 65 points overall.
Most of all, Richardson put himself into the final spot for qualifying for the World Finals – 36th in the world standings – heading into next weekend’s BlueDEF Finals.
He entered the event in 37th.
“That was real big,” Richardson said. “That was the attitude I needed to go at it with. I know I have been in this same position before, which annoys me more because I should be in a better spot this time of year. I can’t change it now, but stay on.”
His performance drops Michael Lane (0-for-2) into the 37th position in the world standings.
However, Lane will definitely be competing in Louisville and only trails Richardson by 49.17 points.
“All I can do now is let the rest happen as it will,” Richardson said.
No. 38 Dave Mason (-72.5), No. 39 Luis Blanco (-122.5), No. 40 Tyler Harr (-130) and Neil Holmes (-142.5) are also on the outside of the World Finals picture leading into next week’s BlueDEF Finals.
All four riders went a combined 0-for-8.
No. 33 Robson Palermo was so dedicated to earning a qualified ride that he sustained a concussion in Round 2 hanging on for the 8 seconds.
Palermo’s hardnosed effort aboard Big Papa Pump earned him an 84.75-point ride and a tie for fourth place in Round 2.
The three-time World Finals event winner walked away from Tucson with 45 points toward the world standings and leads Lane by 114.17 points.
“I don’t know. I hit hard on the ground,” Palermo said. “I came back here to the locker room and I didn’t pass the (concussion) test. I didn’t know, but my wife told me I made 45 points. It is good. I am glad I rode that bull. I didn’t know anything about the bull. I asked some guys and nobody knew. He went left and turned to the right and I rode him, but my dismount was not so good.”
Palermo said that as long as he passes his concussion test this week, he will ride in Louisville and attempt to clinch a bid to the World Finals.
No. 35 Douglas Duncan (1-for-3) rode Easy Money for 83 points in Round 2, but was bucked off by Stanley FatMax (3.11 seconds) in the championship round.
He earned no points toward the world standings.
In addition to Vieira and Palermo, three other riders did not compete in the championship round according to Dr. Tandy Freeman: Bonner Bolton (sore right elbow and shoulder, riding arm), Reese Cates (sore right arm, riding arm) and Fabiano Vieira (sore left leg).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
3 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM ROUND 1 IN TUCSON (10-2-2015)
TUCSON, Ariz. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride, presented by Jack Daniel’s, Built Ford Tough Series event at the Tucson Convention Center.
MAUNEY, PACHECO, HARRIS NOTCH RIDES IN ROUND 1
World leader J.B. Mauney rode Pandora – his Round 1 re-ride bull – for 85.25 points, but it was his reaction following his previous ride on Big Naughty that left a slight concern in Round 1.
Mauney was seen grasping at his left elbow, which is his riding arm, before handling Pandora with relative ease.
The current world leader said the elbow was no big deal, but he did reveal following Round 1 that his elbow had swelled up on him when he got home to North Carolina following last weekend’s Allentown Invitation in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Mauney decided to ride without his normal elbow brace in Allentown and is doing the same in Tucson.
“I took that brace off last week, and when I made that horrible dismount (after riding Cash Ya Out for 89 points), I got home Sunday and it was swelled up bad. We iced it all week and kept compression sleeves on. It feels good.”
Mauney explained his decision to ride without his normal elbow brace was because he felt he could ride bulls away from his hands better without it.
“Them bulls away from my hand, I felt like I couldn’t give them all the arm I needed if I was a little late, so I just took it off,” he said.
He has now ridden 15-of-21 bulls (71.43 percent) since Aug. 1.
According to Mauney, his swelling in the elbow went down by Tuesday. He had some swelling in his hand until about Thursday when he left for Tucson.
Mauney rode with a cold, compression sleeve underneath his riding shirt Friday night and has kept cold sleeves on his arm throughout the week.
Not much changed in his pursuit of a second world title as he tied for sixth in the round and failed to extend his lead atop the world standings.
However, No. 3 Kaique Pacheco and No. 5 J.W. Harris – the only two other riders in the Top 5 to record qualified rides – are hot on his heels heading into Round 2.
Harris is currently sitting ninth in the event following his 83.5-point ride on his re-ride bull War Party.
Following the ride, Harris made sure to go shake the hand of 2004 PBR Ring of Honor inductee Charlie Sampson, who was sitting in the front row.
“I have known Charlie for a while,” Harris said. “I got to meet him out at the NFR and, shoot, it is just cool seeing guys like that in the stands watching and stuff. It is always good to talk to them guys because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are at in bull riding. I didn’t see him until halfway through the bull riding and I had to make it a point to go shake his hand.”
Harris has now ridden six of his last eight bulls for a 75 percent riding average.
Pacheco is sitting 11th in the event courtesy of an 82.5-point ride on JJ’s Dream.
It was a strong bounce back for the 21-year-old rookie who went rideless (0-for-3) in Allentown last week. The 0-for-3 performance was his first since April in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I was very upset about last week,” Pacheco said with the help of Renato Nunes translating. “I didn’t do my job and I bucked off. Here, I had a lot more focus because I didn’t want to make the same bad mistake.
“I am glad to do good here.”
BOLTON WINS ROUND 1 IN RETURN TO ACTION
Bonner Bolton had missed the last six BFTS events because of surgery on Aug. 18 to fix his broken right clavicle (riding arm) that he injured in Biloxi, Mississippi, a little less than two months ago.
At the time of the injury, Bolton, who had a plate and six screws inserted into his clavicle by Dr. Tandy Freeman, believed he would likely fall out of the Top 35 of the world standings and miss out on his opportunity to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the first time in his career.
Instead, Bolton returned to competition ranked 35th in the world and took a major step forward in not only his recovery process, but also for qualifying for the World Finals.
Bolton rode Painkiller for 87.5 points to win Round 1 and earn 100 points toward the world standings.
“Well, it was a little sketchy because I kept losing my seat,” Bolton said. “I just kept trying and kept going at it and gave it all I had. I kept telling myself in the bucking chute to take it to this sucker and give it all you got and see what happens.”
His third round win in 2015 helps him move from 35th in the world standings to 32nd.
Bolton said his clavicle felt OK for his first bull back. He didn’t attempt any practice bulls this week once he was cleared to return by Dr. Tandy Freeman.
He was cleared to begin full training two weeks ago and spent the full 14 days swimming, bike riding and doing various activities to strengthen his arm and improve his conditioning for his return.
Bolton knew he didn’t have any time to start slow when he returned to the BFTS if he hoped to qualify for the Finals
“Man, I was watching myself move down week after week,” Bolton said. “I knew as soon as I got back to getting back to doing something about it, I wanted too.”
Rounding out the Top 5 was Stormy Wing (87 points on Mortimer), Alexandre Cardozo (86.75 points on Boo-Ray), Cooper Davis (86.75 points on Woody) and Renato Nunes (86.25 points on Flab Slab).
Wing earned 60 points toward the world standings, while Cardozo and Davis picked up 45 points for splitting third and fourth in the round.
Nunes was awarded 30 world points for the fifth-place finish.
Cardozo moves from 32nd in the world standings to 31st.
It has been an amazing turn of events for Cardozo in the last two weeks. After heading into Allentown 1-for-28 in his BFTS career, the 22-year-old has gone 3-for-4 to move from 41st in the world to 31st.
BUBBLE RIDERS CONTINUE TO STAY JAM PACKED
Other than Bolton and Cardozo, none of the riders on the BFTS bubble competing in Tucson were able to make the 8-second mark on Friday night.
No. 34 Robson Palermo (2.31 seconds on Smoke Wagon), No. 35 Douglas Duncan (1.9 seconds on For Play), No. 36 Michael Lane (1.94 seconds on Jiggs), No. 37 Lachlan Richardson (5.3 seconds on Outside the Box), No. 38 Dave Mason (2.9 seconds on Muddy Smile), No. 39 Luis Blanco (7.85 seconds on Circus Mouse), No. 40 Tyler Harr (5.25 seconds on Rum Stinger) and No. 41 Neil Holmes (4.99 seconds on Rooster) all failed to make the 8-second whistle.
Therefore, the pressure on them will be at its highest during the final night of the BFTS regular-season on Saturday night.
Only 162.5 points separates Palermo from Holmes, but only 93.33 points separates Holmes from Lane, who holds the last qualification spot for World Finals.
A simple round win in Round 2 by any of the riders below Lane could potentially knock him out of the last qualification spot heading into next weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals.
The BlueDEF Finals is the last opportunity for riders to earn points toward the 2015 world standings before the World Finals.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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