PUEBLO, Colo. – Kaique Pacheco glanced down at his third 2016 event-winning belt buckle Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and didn’t really crack much of a smile.
The 2015 Rookie of the Year intently listened as the questions began to roll in about his pursuit of the only buckle he really truly wants right now.
Pacheco stoically answered questions about setting a new career-high for qualified rides (38) and explained how winning Charlotte was no different than winning Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Last Cowboy Standing earlier in the season.
To him, his four qualified rides and third victory were just stepping stones toward being crowned the 2016 World Champion.
Pacheco has enjoyed indulging on some appetizers on the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series schedule, but he is saving room for the five-star, $1 million prize that he wants to devour come the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6.
“To me all of the events are important to ride,” Pacheco said with the help of Robson Palermo translating. “Now, it is more important because it is getting close to the Finals. It is really important this event for me. I have won it two times, especially now getting close to the Finals.”
The No. 1 bull rider in the world standings didn’t want to celebrate much at all about his PBR-high tying third event win.
Pacheco didn’t think much at all about extending his world lead to 590.33 points on No. 2 Cooper Davis or about coming from behind on Saturday night to upset J.B. Mauney in his home state.
He now leads Mauney, who sustained a broken rib in Charlotte, by 860.33 points.
Instead, he was already focused about the next Built Ford Tough Series event on the schedule – the Rumble in the Rockies on Sept. 24-25.
“I have been riding good,” Pacheco said calmly. “I just keep going. This makes me stronger and I go forward next weekend.”
Pacheco was two hours away from celebrating his 22nd birthday during his Bill Belichick-like post-event interview when he once again just shrugged when asked if he had any special birthday plans.
Palermo then joked, “Maybe I will change it up and get him McDonalds.”
Pacheco’s stoic glare finally disappeared.
He laughed and nudged Palermo’s arm for making up an answer for him.
Maybe Pacheco isn’t so machine-like after all outside of 8 seconds.
Otherwise you wouldn’t know any better based on the way he is walking and riding.
Nine-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Ty Murray said Pacheco’s unwavering focus is a major part of his current success.
It is an added benefit to his machine-like work ethic.
“He is epic,” Murray said. “He’s like a machine. He is not just a machine in the way he rides. He is a machine in the way he is approaching this game. He is marching towards it.”
In Charlotte, Pacheco was an 8-second craftsman. It didn’t matter one bit which way a bull spun, kicked, bucked, dropped or moved.
Pacheco began the weekend with 85 points on I’m Trouble in Round 1 for a sixth-place round finish (10 world points) and 85.5 points on Slick Rick in Round 2 for an eighth-place round finish. He then sealed the victory (510 world points) with an 88.5-point ride to also win the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Pacheco was always one step ahead of his bovine opponents in Charlotte. It was almost as if the fortune teller knew where the bull was going before the bull did himself.
“He doesn’t make moves like, ‘I need to be somewhere over there,’” Murray explained. “He goes, ‘I need to be right here and I need to be right here. Oh, I need to be right here now.’
“He makes these real crisp and precise movements that put him exactly where he should be. Not only does that help him stay on bulls, but you have to remember you are judged on your form and control.”
The 22-year-old averaged 86.33 points per ride – his highest average for a three-round event this season.
Palermo said that three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and himself were talking on Saturday morning about how good Pacheco appeared to be seeing things in the arena.
“We talk about how he has been riding great,” Palermo said. “He is moving and making the bull look so easy. Today, I said, ‘Look at him. He is riding perfect.’
“He looks like he does not care. He is sitting on the couch watching TV on the bull. He is perfect. He has been 100 percent perfect.”
Palermo and Murray agreed that not much has changed with Pacheco since he first won Charlotte in 2015.
However, Palermo does believe that Pacheco understands what is at stake during the final five events of the 2016 season a little bit more than last year, which was his first season on tour.
“Well, his focus is still the same, but I think he is more concentrated,” Palermo said. “He has ridden more short-round bulls. He is moving. He has been working really hard on his legs, his arms. I have been talking about the way he is riding. It is so easy. The way the bull moves and the way he sits on the front of the bull. Anyway the bull go – left or right – he is there.”
Pacheco is tied with Joao Ricardo Vieira and J.B. Mauney for the second-most qualified rides (7) in the championship round. Eduardo Aparecido leads the PBR with eight.
Murray continues to be impressed with the poise Pacheco is riding with.
He didn’t overthink the opportunity in front of him in Charlotte with Davis out because of a broken clavicle and he didn’t blink an eye as Mauney made impactful ride after impactful ride in the first two rounds.
“What matters is you have to stay in the moment and you have to keep your focus on one bull and one jump at a time and make sure you are maximizing what you can do every jump,” Murray said. “I think that is what he does. That is what is impressive. It can be a thing where you don’t want to be, ‘This is my chance.’ You have to keep doing it the way you do it. That is what I see with Kaique. You don’t ever see him be really high or really low. He just marches toward what he has to do like that machine. It is fun to watch.”
Pacheco is trying to become just the second rider in PBR history to win the World Championship a year after being named the organization’s top rookie. Alves accomplished the feat in 2011.
“I just want to ride my bulls and see what happens,” Pacheco said when asked about pulling off the accomplishment.”
Last year, Mauney won the world title with only 39 qualified rides on the BFTS.
Pacheco is on pace to finish the regular season with 48 qualified rides. He will likely surpass 50 qualified rides during the World Finals if he continues to cover his bulls at a 50-percent clip.
If he were to post at least 50 qualified rides, Pacheco would join Alves, Marchi and Valdiron de Oliveira as the only riders in the last five seasons to reach the milestone.
“Everybody tries to ride the most bulls,” Pacheco said. “I just think about that and try to keep this (momentum) going forward.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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