BEHIND THE CHUTES: Harris/Jones returning in Colorado Springs

Ben Jones and J.W. Harris are fighting through neck injuries. Photos by Andy Watson / BullStockMedia.com.

Highlights

  • Two Top-15 bull riders in the world standings are set to return to action at this weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • No. 10 J.W. Harris and No. 11 Ben Jones are both in the draw after missing the Des Moines Invitational with herniated discs in their necks.
  • Both riders are slated to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle as well on Saturday night.

In This Article

PUEBLO, Colo. – Two Top-15 bull riders in the world standings are set to return to action at this weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

According to the PBR competition committee, No. 10 J.W. Harris and No. 11 Ben Jones are both in the draw after missing the Des Moines Invitational with herniated discs in their necks.

Both riders are slated to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle as well on Saturday night. The matchups for the 15/15 Bucking Battle will not be announced until the Rumble in the Rockies kickoff party on Saturday afternoon.

Jones informed PBR.com on Wednesday that he has been advised to undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his neck, but he is hoping to wait until after Last Cowboy Standing, the feature event of Cowboy Spring Break on May 22-23 in Las Vegas.

“I have a herniated disc in my neck and it’s pinching down on my nerves and down my left arm,” Jones said. “They wanted me to do (surgery) this week, but I am not keen on surgery. I would be out for eight to nine weeks.”

The 36-year-old believes he may have sustained the injury in St. Louis against Who Dey, but isn’t sure.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Jones had re-aggravated a pre-existing neck injury in the second round of competition in Billings, Montana, when he was bucked off by Funkytown in 2.4 seconds.

Jones explained that he doesn’t feel much pain in his free arm, instead it is a weird, uncomfortable feeling.

“It is weird,” Jones said. “It is freaking been a dead feeling down your arm. You just can’t do stuff with it like you used to. It is just a weird feeling to tell you the truth. You feel good, you just can’t do stuff. I am not sore like I broke a leg or anything.”

Jones has been off to his best start in three years and is on pace for his best finish in the world standings since concluding 2012 18th in the world. He has gone 14-for-38 (36.84 percent) with four Top-10 finishes.

Jones said he is going to test things out in Colorado Springs and see if he can compete at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas, or any other Touring Pro Division events before Last Cowboy Standing.

Jones has bucked off four consecutive bulls. He takes on Vegas Outlaw (2-0, BFTS) in the first round and Western Hauler (16-9, BFTS) in the second round at The Broadmoor World Arena.

Harris has been undergoing therapy on his riding arm after dealing with numbness in his riding hand that caused him to miss the Des Moines Invitational. The 28-year-old has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck and believes the injury occurred in Seattle when he was bucked off in 2.44 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

“No surgery yet,” Harris said. “(I’ll) just rehab and see what happens.”

The four-time PRCA champion will attempt to break out of his 0-for-8 slump when he faces Pile Driver (3-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Blame It On Mexico (2-1, BFTS) in Round 2. Blame It On Mexico bucked off Kaique Pacheco in 2.29 seconds last weekend in Des Moines.

In other injury news, there are six riders inside the Top 30 of the world standings officially out for Colorado Springs: No. 7 Silvano Alves (fractured hip), No. 18 Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff), No. 19 L.J. Jenkins (broken neck-C1), No. 20 Tanner Byrne (undisclosed injury), No. 21 Kasey Hayes (compression fractures-L1,2,3)- and No. 22 Renato Nunes (abdominal laceration).

Billy Robinson is returning to competition for the first time since tearing his left PCL in Sacramento, California, on Jan. 30. He has drawn Handsome Jeff (0-0, BFTS ) in Round 1 and Page Break in Round 2. Robinson will have three exemptions before being subject to the BFTS cutline. He enters the weekend 427.5 points behind No. 30 Bonner Bolton and 170 points behind No. 41 Alexandre Cardozo – the last alternate rider in the draw this weekend.

Cardozo is one of four alternates in the Colorado Springs draw with Cody Tyler White (-22.5 points back of No. 35 Robson Palermo), Bryan Titman (-32.5 points) and Lachlan Richardson (-57.5 points).

Markus Mariluch has three more exemptions left before being subject to the cut and he has yet to earn any points toward the world standings. He has gone 1-for-10 since debuting in Seattle.

Mariluch will look to turn things around against Flyin Crazy (5-2, BFTS) and Celling Bioscience’s Jukebox Hero (4-11, BFTS).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: DES MOINES, DAY 2 (4-26-15)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Here are three things we learned at the Des Moines Invitational this weekend inside the Wells Fargo Arena.

Davis wins Built Ford Tough Championship Round by turning down re-ride

For the second night in a row, a low score and turning down a re-ride paid off for a rider.

No way did Cooper Davis think his 71.5-point ride on Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey would hold up as the championship round winning-ride, but after seeing Cody Nance win $21,000 with a 76.5-point ride in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday night he decided to roll the dice.

The gamble worked out as the other 10 riders in the championship round all bucked off their respective bulls to conclude a weekend in which there were a total of only 14 qualified rides.

“I wasn’t a whole bunch of points, but they got me in and I couldn’t be happier,” Davis said. “That bull is kind of hard to get out on and kind of wants to leave a guy sitting on his butt out of there. I made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Once I got around there I felt comfortable the whole time. When he jumped out of it, I was just trying to keep (ahold) of it.”

Sunday was Davis’ first championship round victory of his BFTS career and earned him 100 points toward the world standings to go along with a $11,900 paycheck.

“Nance won a bunch of money last night and got all of the points,” Davis added. “It is a business decision. You can either go at it and take a chance at losing all of those points you are guaranteed to have or you can make a business decision (and keep the score). My wrist is a little sore right now, so I kept the points.”

Davis finished the event 2-for-3 and placed a career-best second overall with 320 points. He earned 180 of his points by finishing third in the event average behind winner J.B. Mauney and Robson Aragao – the only three men to record two qualified rides.

Earlier in the day, Davis rode Alternator for 84.5 points to finish Round 2 in fourth place and earn 40 points toward the world standings.

Davis began the weekend ranked 25th in the world standings and leaves Des Moines as the No. 16th bull rider in the world. He also trails Kaique Pacheco by 882.5 points in the Rookie of the Year race and has earned points in six consecutive BFTS events.

“I am comfortable right now and it is a long rest of the year,” Davis said. “We are only halfway through it. If I keep riding like I am right now and stay comfortable and healthy, I don’t see a problem with it coming down to the Finals.”

Mauney uses Round 2-winning ride to win Des Moines Invitational

J.B. Mauney didn’t wait long to try and dive back into the 2015 world title race.

The 28-year-old, making his first appearance since suffering a torn left ACL in Fresno, California, rode Crooked Face for 89.5 points to win Round 2 of the Des Moines Invitational and propel himself to an eventual event win for the first time since March 2014.

“That is exactly what I needed,” Mauney said. “It gets your confidence back mostly. It is like riding a bicycle, you never forgot how to do it, but your head plays a big part. I knew I would get a few under my belt and I would get back to feeling good again. That was all I needed.”

Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 2 was Aaron Roy (85.75 points on Double Shot), Stormy Wing (84.75 points on Damn Right), Davis (84.5 points on Alternator) and Robson Aragao (84.25 points on Say I Won’t Playboy).

Roy earned 60 points toward the world standings, while Wing (50), Davis (40) and Aragao (30) also earned points via their round placement.

Mauney earned 100 of his 560 event-winning points for placing first in Round 2 and the 89.5-point ride score helped push him into the lead in the event average following his 86-point ride on Celling Bioscience’s Jukebox Hero for a second-place finish in Round 1. Mauney’s first-round ride also gave him 60 points toward the world standings.

Aragao bucked off Stuntin Like My Daddy in 7.66 seconds in the second to final out of the weekend to clinch Mauney the victory before the 2013 World Champion even nodded his head aboard Modified Clyde.

Mauney wishes he could have concluded his event win with a qualified ride, but he ended up being thrown by Modified Clyde in 3.24 seconds.

The win moves Mauney from 12th in the world standings to 8th. He was able to gain 560 points on Joao Ricardo Vieira after the world leader went 0-for-2 for the first time since the Chicago Invitational in January.

Mauney trails Vieira by 1,102.5 points heading into the Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Aragao (300 points) finished in third place for a career-high finish, while Nathan Schaper (205) and Aaron Roy (125) placed fourth and fifth.

Wing succeeds with Brazilian-style bull rope

Stormy Wing returned to competition this weekend after missing the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational in Billings, Montana, because of a sprained left MCL and travel issues.

Wing decided to switch things up in Des Moines and attempt to ride with a Brazilian bull rope.

The switch paid off in Round 2 when the 25-year-old rode Damn Right for 84.75 points to finish Round 2 in third place.

“It felt really good actually,” Wing said. “It felt like I was able to take the power away from them. After studying and watching a lot of film and talking to guys about my riding style and body stature I figured it could make a difference and so far it is.”

Wing had bucked off five consecutive bulls before Round 2, including Deep Water in 7.14 seconds on Saturday night.

“It is not all the difference,” Wing added. “It is a lot me, but, for the most part, I feel great and am getting a little confidence. I am going to try and feed off it.”

Wing earned a total of 70 points in Des Moines and finished the event in seventh place – his fourth Top-10 of the year.

Injury Updates

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Guilherme Marchi did not compete on the final day of action in Des Moines after spraining his right ankle when he was stepped on by Fire Bender in Round 1 on Saturday night. The No. 5 bull rider in the world standings also separated his right shoulder (AC joint sprain) when he hit the ground as he was thrown from Pistol Pete during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Marchi, who is probable for Colorado Springs, added on Sunday that he feels like he may have aggravated the PCL injury in his right knee that gave him problems last season.

“My first bull stepped on my ankle last night and my shoulder is so sore too,” Marchi said. “My PCL in my right knee is starting to bother me again. I need to go check on that, but I feel good. I need to take the week off and rest and see if I will be ready for next weekend.”

Robson Palermo twisted his right knee in the bucking chute prior to attempting to ride Easy Lover. He aggravated an old ACL tear and was unable to get out on the bull. He is questionable for Colorado Springs.

Markus Mariluch is also questionable for the Rumble in the Rockies after spraining his right elbow (UCL, riding arm) during his 5.21-second buckoff on Delta Force in the second round.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

NUNES AND HAYES OUT FOR SIX WEEKS (4-26-15)

DES MOINES, Iowa – 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes and 10-year veteran Kasey Hayes are the latest two riders inside the Top 35 of the world standings to suffer significant injuries on the Built Ford Tough Series.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Nunes underwent emergency surgery for an abdominal laceration (left inguinal ring) last night at a local hospital after being gored by Lieutenant Dan in Round 1.

“He will be fine,” Freeman said. “It is just going to take a while for things to heal. Basically, his injury occurred in the same location where adult males get hernias. So they had to put some stitches in to repair something similar to a hernia. The horn didn’t get into his abdominal cavity, but it was close.”

Nunes will be out for six weeks and is expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday.

The 33-year-old is currently the 21st ranked rider in the world standings before the start of the final day of action of the Des Moines Invitational. He has ridden 16-of-45 (35.66 percent) and posted seven Top-10 finishes.

Later in the evening, Hayes sustained compression fractures of three lumbar vertebrae (L1,2,3) when he was folded up underneath Cowboy’s Dance Hall’s Panda Trax during the 15/15 Bucking Battle after being bucked off in 3.56 seconds.

“His mechanism of injury, getting folded up like he did, that is how those can occur,” Freeman said. “None of them are of any structural significance. He will probably get an MRI this week to make sure he doesn’t have any ligament or disc injury, but these are stable fracture patterns and they will heal. Likely in six weeks he will be able to come back.”

Hayes will also be out for six weeks. The 29-year-old is 20th in the world standings and has three Top-10 finishes to go along with a 27.91 percent riding average this season.

"I'm just really sore," Hayes said. "They say it was a stable fracture and it could heal on its own."

While not nearly as serious, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi was also ruled out for Round 2 in Des Moines after spraining his right ankle when he was stepped on by Fire Bender in Round 1 on Saturday night. The No. 5 bull rider in the world separated his right shoulder (AC joint sprain) when he hit the ground as he was thrown from Pistol Pete during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Marchi has ridden 26-of-52 bulls attempted this season and is tied for the BFTS-lead in event wins (2).

He is listed as probable for next weekend's Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

There are now eight riders inside the Top 35 of the world standings out because of injury.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: DES MOINES, DAY 1 (4-25-15)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Here are three things we learned following Round 1 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle at the Des Moines Invitational at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday night.

Air Time and Boot Jack lead bull parade

The Top 35 bull riders in the world were no match for the rankest bulls on Saturday night.

Jared Allen's Air Time and Boot Jack may have tied for the highest bull score (45.25 points), but the bulls were dominant as an overall group.

The bulls limited the riders to just seven qualified rides in the first round and 15/15 Bucking Battle combined, and stock contractor Chad Berger believes a lot of it had to do with this weekend being the 16th stop on the Built Ford Tough Series and fourth straight event with a 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“All of these guys are pretty sore and tired” Berger said. “The bulls definitely have an advantage. There are some great riders here that are pretty beat up. They are all trying to ride through the pain.”

Berger’s bull Boot Jack, who is a son of three-time World Champion Bull Little Yellow Jacket, downed Kaique Pacheco in 2.1 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“He was the best bull out tonight,” Berger said. He really bucked. I was real proud of him. Air Time had a good day too.”

Berger credited all of the bulls for putting forth a strong effort.

“The ground isn’t the best here, but them short-round bulls are special and seem to battle through them kind of things,” Berger said. “The bulls were pretty impressive overall.”

Air Time received his 45.25-point bull score by eliminating J.B. Mauney in 3.52 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle after wearing the 2013 World Champion down inside the bucking chute.

Mauney, who is riding with a torn left ACL, was jerked forward inside the chute by Air Time and had to re-pull his bull rope on three occasions. After the first incident, Mauney grabbed at his knee before getting situated again on Air Time.

He eventually got out on the Jared Allen’s Pro Bull team athlete, but was unable to reach 8 seconds.

“J.B. jumped in there expecting him to go left and so (Air Time) went right,” stock contractor Matt Scharping said. “Besides his stumble, he was rank.”

Nance wins 15/15 Bucking Battle

Cody Nance didn’t expect that keeping his 76.5-point score on Yo Yo in the 15/15 Bucking Battle would net him $21,000, 150 points toward the world standings and the first 15/15 Bucking Battle victory of his career.

Yet sometimes you just get lucky like that.

“I didn’t know,” Nance said. “It was just a blessing. God has done crazier things. I just, I don’t know. With this caliber of bulls, there is always a chance that something like that could happen. You just have to hope that good things are to come. If you don’t have hope, it is hard to expect anything good I guess.

Nance said that in the moment he wasn’t too concerned about taking the re-ride option because he simply just wanted to place in the Top 5 of the round.

“It was something I felt good about,” Nance said. “I am not going for average points in the 15/15 round, so I figured the odds were pretty good. You got a score and are one out of 15.”

The ride is also just his second qualified ride since Fresno.

“I have been in this 15/15 round three weeks in a row as an alternate,” Nance said. “Maybe now I will actually be in the Top 15. It just feels good to finally break through that barrier.”

Nance’s score is the lowest qualified ride to ever win a 15/15 Bucking Battle in PBR history – the previous low was Matt Triplett’s 87-point ride on Oklahoma Bell at last year’s Bulls on the Beach event in Huntington Beach, California.

Schaper wins fourth BFTS round of 2015

Nathan Schaper was able to notch his fourth round win of the season – the second most on the BFTS – to move to fourth in the world standings.

Schaper won Round 1 with an 86.25-point ride on Air Bender and earned 100 points toward the world standings.

“I have been on that bull before,” Schaper said. “I was happy to have him. I really like that bull a lot. He feels good. You can’t ask for anything better. He is just honest.”

Schaper previously rode Air Bender for 85.25 points at the Monster Energy Buckoff at The Garden in January.

The 24-year-old had ridden six consecutive bulls before being bucked off by David’s Dream in 3.29 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle. Schaper is riding at a career-best clip of 49.02 percent.

Schaper takes on Aunt Mimi in Round 2 and trails world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 865 points.

Vieira, who is still battling a rib injury, was bucked off by Cash Ya Out in 3.04 seconds in Round 1 after accepting his re-ride option following a 64-point ride on Super Cella. He later bucked off Barracuda in 4.3 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Injury updates

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Renato Nunes sustained an abdominal laceration when he was gored after being bucked off by Lieutenant Dan in 2.81 seconds. He was transported to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment. Nunes is doubtful for Round 2.

Kasey Hayes injured his lower back when Panda Trax fell on him during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

According to Freeman, he went to the hospital for X-rays and to repair a fracture. He is doubtful for Round 2.

Ryan Dirteater has been ruled out for Round 2 on Sunday after injuring his right ankle Friday night at a non-PBR event in Oklahoma. He is questionable for Colorado Springs. Dirteater was bucked off by Chantilly Lace in 6.96 seconds.

There were 10 riders ruled out of competition by Freeman: Silvano Alves (broken left hip); L.J. Jenkins (broken neck- C1); Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction); Ty Pozzobon (concussion); Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture); Billy Robinson (left PCL tear), Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff), Sean Willingham (broken neck- C7); Ben Jones (herniated disc in his neck C6-C7) and J.W. Harris (herniated disc in his neck – C6-C7).

Eduardo Aparecido (bruised left hip) and Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain), Stormy Wing (sprained left MCL) and Robson Palermo (unstable left shoulder) were competing with documented injuries.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

HARRIS OUT FOR DES MOINES INVITATIONAL (4-23-15)

PUEBLO, Colo. – 2014 Rookie of the Year J.W. Harris has been ruled out for the Des Moines Invitational this weekend because of a herniated disc (C6-7) in his neck, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.

Harris has been dealing with numbness in his riding hand and met with Freeman earlier this week for additional analysis.

The No. 9 bull rider in the world standings said this weekend that he believed the injury to his riding arm occurred in Seattle against Smooth Operator when he was bucked off in 2.44 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

“My right hand and my arm is just going numb and I can’t explain it other than it just goes numb,” Harris said. “It doesn’t hurt. I feel like a big sissy because nothing is hurting. It is just numb and feels like it weighs 100 pounds.

“It is just one of those deals where it got progressively worse.”

Harris has gone 0-for-5 since then, lasting just 4.33 seconds per ride attempt. Overall, Harris is 16-for-46 (34.48 percent) this season and won his first career event in Kansas City, Missouri, in February.

According to Freeman, the four-time PRCA champion is probable for the Rumble in the Rockies on May 2-3 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Harris confirmed on Thursday that he expects to ride in Colorado Springs and was looking into some options to help rehab the injury this week.

The 28-year-old was replaced by Tanner Byrne in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, which takes place on Saturday night following Round 1 and can be seen on CBS network television Sunday at 2 p.m. ET

Byrne will face Cooper Tires Semper Fi in the 15/15.

Ben Jones opted out of the 15/15 Bucking Battle with his pre-existing neck injury and has been replaced by Kasey Hayes.

Hayes will take on Panda Trax, who bucked him off in 2.9 seconds at the 2014 Iron Cowboy.

Below are a list of this weekend’s matchups:
Cody Nance vs. Yo Yo
Stetson Lawrence vs. Lane’s Magic Train
Shane Proctor vs. Spotted Demon
Mike Lee vs. Mississippi Hippy
J.B. Mauney vs. Air Time
Fabiano Vieira vs. Who Dey
Kasey Hayes vs. Panda Trax
Tanner Byrne vs. Cooper Tires Semper Fi
Reese Cates vs. Little Joe
Nathan Schaper vs. David’s Dream
Kaique Pacheco vs. Boot Jack
Guilherme Marchi vs. Pistol Pete
Valdiron de Oliveira vs. Cooper Tires Brown Sugar
Matt Triplett vs. Diesel
Joao Ricardo Vieira vs. Barracuda

Nance, Lee, Schaper and Lawrence have rematches against their respective bulls, and all five riders have failed to hit the 8-second mark on their opponent.

Including Harris and Jones, there are now five riders inside the Top 30 out because of injury: Alves (fractured left hip), Chase Outlaw (rotator cuff surgery) and L.J. Jenkins (fractured neck).

Therefore, Claudio Criostomo (36th in the world standings), Bryan Titman (No. 38), Alexandre Cardozo (No. 39) and Tyler Harr (No. 39) are in the draw as this weekend’s alternates.

No. 37 Sean Willingham would have been eligible, but he is out with a broken neck (C7 right facet).

Crisostomo begins the weekend 123.75 points behind Douglas Duncan for the No. 30 spot in the world standings. He will face High as a Kite (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1.

Titman is 138.75 points behind and has drawn Buck Even (1-1, BFTS), while Cardozo is 173.75 points behind and faces Crystal Pistol (9-4, BFTS). Harr (-173.75) takes on Pretty Reckless (1-2, BFTS).

Saturday will be Buck Even’s season-debut since Triplett had ridden him for 85.25 points last year in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Duncan will try to build off his Round 2 win last weekend in Billings when he tries to kick off his weekend in Des Moines with a ride aboard Stiff Arm.

No. 31-35 is just as tight in the world standings: Dave Mason (-43.75 points behind Duncan), Rubens Barbosa (-62.5), Robson Aragao (-106.25), Robson Palermo (-106.25) and Aaron Roy (-118.75) can easily crack the Top 30 with a good weekend.

There is less than 100 points separating No. 33 Aragao from No. 43 Austin Meier.

Jorge Valdiviezo is in the draw as a BlueDEF Velocity Tour winner after he split the win in Jacksonville, Florida, with Mason Lowe last month.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: BILLINGS, DAY 3 (4-19-15)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Here are three things we learned following the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, this weekend at Rimrock Auto Arena.

Hayes wins Round 3 on his son’s birthday

Kasey Hayes rode Mac-Nett’s Southern Wine for 88.75 points to win Round 3, and the 30-year-old bull rider dedicated the round-winning ride to his son, Kash, who was home celebrating his 5th birthday on Sunday.

Hayes and his wife, Leah, had a family party for Kash earlier this week before Hayes flew to Billings.

Kasey earned 100 points for the round win and finished eighth overall in the event with 110 points after bucking off Jeremiah in 3.25 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Hayes performance in Billings moves him to 20th in the world standings.

Prior to getting on Southern Wine, Hayes received some advice from 2003 Ring of Honor inductee Cody Custer about his free arm positioning.

Hayes credited Custer with helping him find a way to hit the 8-second mark.

“Cody Custer told me to hold my (free) hand in a different spot coming out of that right-hand delivery,” Hayes said. “I think it did help. Instead of reaching way forward and pulling up, I kind of pulled forward and kind of put my hand back and let it pull me to where I was square with him leaving.”

Rounding out the Top 5 in the round was Mike Lee (87.5 points on Smoke Show), Renato Nunes (87 points on Gentleman Jim), Brady Sims (86.75 points on Americana) and Mason Lowe (86.75 points on You’re a Daisy If You Do).

Lee earned 60 points toward the world standings for placing second, while Nunes picked up 50 points for third. Sims, who has ridden Americana three times on the BFTS and four times overall, and Lowe split fourth and fifth place for 35 points.

Hayes was also glad to rebound from his 6.49-second buckoff against Sweet Pro’s Long John during Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“I guess I had been riding so poorly that I needed to show out on one,” Hayes said. “It was just one of those deals where everyone was telling me, ‘You made an awesome rank ride and you were almost there.’ I was like, ‘Well, almost only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades and it really don’t cut it to almost make a great ride.’

“It is one of those deals where you don’t want to almost make a great ride. You want to make a great ride.”

Palermo earns important championship round win on Fire & Smoke

Robson Palermo picked up a crucial 100 points for winning the championship round with his 88.25-point ride aboard Fire & Smoke.

Palermo, who began the weekend ranked 45th in the world standings, earned a total of 120 points toward the world standings by going 2-for-4 and finishing seventh in the event average (20 points).

The 32-year-old leaves Billings tied for 33rd in the world standings with Robson Aragao and is in a position to potentially earn an alternate spot for next weekend’s BFTS event in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I am happy to come over here and ride these bulls again,” Palermo said. “My goal is to get back here on tour and ride like that. I want to stay on here.”

Palermo was bucked off by Nefarious in 7.48 seconds in the third round and didn’t qualify for the championship round originally, but injuries to Douglas Duncan (aggravation of an old thumb injury on his riding hand) and Guilherme Marchi (sore riding wrist) opened the door for Palermo to get in with his 85.75-point ride on Smoked Out from Round 1.

Palermo had the last pick in the draft and was excited to see that the other 14 riders in the round all passed on an opportunity to face Fire & Smoke.

“When I saw Fire & Smoke, I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Palermo said. “He is not easy to ride, that bull is hard to ride. He moves forward and I think that is why a lot of people don’t like him. Sometimes he moves really forward and he will drop you hard on the ground, but I rode him good. I used my knee a lot and used my upper body and moved a lot to get a score.”

Palermo edged out Nathan Schaper (87.5 points on King Buck), Aaron Roy (87 points on Chocolate Thunder), Gage Gay (86.5 points on Fire Rock) and Kaique Pacheco (85.25 points on Calypso) in the championship round.

Schaper earned 60 points toward the world standings, Roy with 50, Gay with 40 and Pacheco with 30. 

Coincidentally, Billings was the site last year where Palermo dislocated his right shoulder against David’s Dream, which led to a second consecutive season with shoulder surgery and led to him barely qualifying for the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“I come over here and didn’t worry about it,” Palermo said. “I just am happy to be all around my friends. I was really happy to see everyone and hang out.”

Schaper’s win defeats the cold

Nathan Schaper’s new favorite cold remedy is a good dose of winning.

Schaper, who hasn’t been able to shake a cold for the past two weeks, tied a career-high by going 4-for-4 this weekend in Billings to earn the second BFTS victory of his career.

The 24-year-old sealed the victory with his 87.5-point ride on King Buck to win the event average and 400 of the 460 points toward the world standings he earned.

King Buck has been ridden in five consecutive outs.

“I‘ve had a cold,” Schaper said. “I have been doing everything I can to not do anything but get on my bull at the last minute. I have been tired all week. I’ve had to keep telling myself to keep on pushing through it, but it is only 8 seconds. I have been sitting in the room all day. I think I can get through a couple of hours of bull riding.”

Schaper began his weekend with an 83.25-point ride on Toby in Round 1. He then rode Westley’s Pet for 84.5 points in the second round on Saturday and then Slash for 85.25 points on Sunday to head into the championship round leading the event average.

“It is all kind of a blur,” Schaper said. “You just keep on trying to do the basics. I have been feeling so good on top of the bulls. I have been up on my legs and not getting back.”

Rounding out the Top 5 in the event was Gay (300 points), Pacheco (270), Renato Nunes (215) and Roy (155). 

The Grassy Butte, North Dakota, bull rider previously rode four bulls in a single event when he won the BFTS event in Oklahoma City last season.

The victory moves Schaper from 10th in the world standings to seventh.

He heads to Des Moines, Iowa, trailing world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 965 points.

Injury updates

Six riders were out for the final day of action in Billings because of injuries from Saturday night. 

Fabiano Vieira (groin), Valdiron de Oliveira (left MCL), Ben Jones (neck), J.W. Harris (riding hand), Sean Willingham (C7 fracture in his neck) and Eduardo Aparecido (concussion, facial lacerations and left hip injury).

Aparecido was up walking around behind the chutes on Sunday following his vicious wreck during Saturday night's 15/15 Bucking Battle that aired on CBS national television on Sunday.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: BILLINGS, DAY 2 (4-18-15)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Here are three things we learned from Round 2 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle at the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, on Saturday night.

Long John shows off his athletic ability against Kasey Hayes

Sweet Pro’s Long John exited the bucking chute with graceful strides towards the center of Rimrock Auto Arena during the 15/15 Bucking Battle, but once he turned back toward the chutes, the D&H Cattle Company bovine erupted with a series of powerful kicks and hang time that was a showcase of the 1,900-pound bull’s power and athleticism.

Yet, it was almost not enough to buck off Kasey Hayes before Long John was able to loosen the Liberal, Kansas, bull rider’s grip on his bull rope and fling him helplessly into the air at the 6.49-second mark for a 46.75-point bull score.

“I am sure glad to see that spring,” H.D. Page said. “We laid that bull off after the Finals and fed him. He just really stated maturing and becoming a bull. I bet he put on about 200 pounds, and I bet he was tipping over a ton. Since the last couple of weeks, he has dropped and gotten back down to fighting weight. He now has a little extra spring in his step.”

That kind of athletic ability led to a season-high marking for Long John, as well as the second-highest of his two-year BFTS career.

Page believed that Long John’s out in Billings on Saturday was similar to his 47.25-point showing against J.W. Harris at last year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Long John leads the 2015 Built Ford Tough Series with four bull scores of 46 or more points.

Page plans on probably next bucking Long John in two weeks at the Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I would like to buck him every day,” Page said. “I am as big a fan as anyone and love to see bulls buck. I would buy a ticket tomorrow to see him buck, but I think tonight was good enough. When one puts out that much effort, even though I don’t think he is hurt or sore, I just don’t want to take a chance.”

Not only has Long John earned himself some time off, he is going to get rewarded with a visit to some cows.

“I really want to get him turned out on some cows,” Page said. “He will appreciate it, but I need some calves coming out of him.”

Vieira continues to extend lead; Marchi trying to keep pace

Joao Ricardo Vieira earned another 82.5 points toward his pursuit of his first career world title when he finished second in the 15/15 Bucking Battle with an 88.75-point effort on I’m A Gangster Too.

Vieira was able to handle I’m A Gangster Too despite his rib injury, and he wound up tying with Shane Proctor, who rode Beaver Creek Beau for 88.75 points, for second-place.

The world leader is now 407.5 points ahead of Matt Triplett after the No. 2 bull rider in the world bucked off Mac-Nett’s Southern Wine (2.43 seconds) in Round 2 and Wicked (2.8 seconds) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Triplett attempted Southern Wine with a knee brace to protect his torn MCL before attempting to ride Wicked with just a taped knee.

Vieira also rode Helter Skelter for 83 points earlier in the evening to finish Round 2 in seventh place. Even though he didn’t earn world points for his round-finish, the ride does put him first in the event average heading into the final day of action on Sunday.

RELATED: Check out the draw for Round 3

If Vieira, who has ridden four in a row, can continue his hot streak, he would earn 400 points for winning the event average and double up his world lead.

2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi is trying to keep pace with Vieira.

Marchi placed third in Round 2 with an 85.75-point ride on Guns & Donuts to earn 50 points in the world standings and become the No. 4 bull rider in the world.

However, his most impressive performance of the evening was not reflected on the scoreboard.

Marchi became the first rider to make 8 seconds on Smooth Operator in 18 outs when he rode the bull for 83.5 points. It was a weaker-than-normal out for Chad Berger’s bull, and Marchi had to nod for the gate with the chute clock down to 1 second after Smooth Operator began to squat down inside the chute.

“That bull is hard in the bucking chute and they put me on the clock,” Marchi said. “I tried to do my best. When you get on the rank bulls you try to do your best. I do my job and covered my bull. I am happy, but I am sorry for Chad because that bull didn’t buck real good today.”

Smooth Operator was only marked 41 points – a career-low – but it didn’t stop Marchi for being proud of the accomplishment. He knows how good Smooth Operator normally is.

“I am happy for everything,” Marchi added. “I am feeling so strong and confident that I can get on any bull right now. I am here to try my best and try and win this title.”

*Fellow World Champion Bull contender Mick E Mouse was called for a foul during his out with Nathan Schaper during the 15/15 Bucking Battle when he lost his balance and dropped his back legs onto the dirt.

Cates wins 15/15 Bucking Battle and moves to No. 6 in the world standings

Reese Cates was the No. 3 bull rider in the world standings the last time he earned over 100 points at a BFTS event this season when he finished fourth in Kansas City, Missouri, almost two months ago.

Since then, Cates had only earned 60 points in the following five BFTS he competed in, tore the biceps in his riding arm and dropped to eighth in the world standings.

Cates kicked all of that to the side on Saturday by riding Boot Jack for 90.5 points to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle and earn 150 points toward the world standings.

“The first jump out that bull kind of backs up and tries to pull you down and then the rest of the ride is in and out,” Cates said. “It was a fight to the finish. I don’t know what it looked like, but I was trying my butt off and it worked out.”

Cates was originally nervous when he saw he drew Boot Jack because not many right-handed riders had been able to warm him up, but once he talked with Cody Nance he began to feel better about the matchup.

“He said that bull feels a lot like the bull they call The Game from back in the day,” Cates said. “Me and that bull got along really well when other right-handed guys didn’t. As soon as he told me that, I knew it was on and it worked out good.”

The win moves Cates from eighth in the world standings to sixth. The ride is also his first 90-point ride in nearly four years. The 2008 Rookie of the Year last reached the 90-point threshold on April 30, 2011, when he rode Cooper Tires Wild Out for 90 points in Seattle.  

“Any time you are 90 it is awesome, but it is more getting one rode that means more to me than anything,” he said. “There are a lot of points in this round and I am glad everything worked out for me.”

It is the second week in a row that Cates has bounced back in the 15/15 after bucking off in the previous round. He rode Chocolate Thunder for 87.75 points in the Nampa, Idaho, 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“Any time I get bucked off in the first round it just gives me a fire to do good in the second round or in the 15/15,” Cates said. “Same thing happened last week, I got bucked off and came back and made a good ride in the 15/15.”

The 26-year-old had made it clear since returning in Nampa last week that he wasn’t concerned about coming back from surgery on his torn biceps, yet his ride aboard Boot Jack may silence any critics that were unsure of if he was 100 percent.

“I am not concerned about that whatsoever anymore,” Cates said. “I hadn’t been since my first two bulls in Nampa last week. It feels good. It is not something that scares me anymore. It used to any time an injury popped up I thought it was the end of the world.

“Look at my best friend and traveling partner, Chase Outlaw. He is at home right now and he is in high spirits, and when he comes back he will be riding better than he ever has too. It is all about how you handle that. I am not scared of that anymore. I have had to sit out my fair share and I am just having fun.” 

 Injury Updates

Dr. Tandy Freeman and the PBR sports medicine team were a busy group on Saturday night.

Four riders withdrew from the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday because of injuries.

First, Fabiano Vieira was replaced by Aparecido after being diagnosed with a strained right groin after he was bucked off by Barracuda in 2.71 seconds during Round 1 on Friday night.

Then Valdiron de Oliveira withdrew because of a sprained left MCL that he suffered in Round 1 after being stepped on following his 53-point ride on King George. Oliveira had tried to ride Wild For The Night in the second round, but he was bucked off in 5.05 seconds and complained of pain in his knee.

He was replaced by Hayes.

Ben Jones did not compete in the 15/15 after aggravating a pre-existing neck injury during his 2.4-second buckoff against Funkytown in Round 2 and was replaced by Mason Lowe.

J.W. Harris withdrew from the 15/15 because of numbness in his riding hand after being thrown from Bobby in the second round in 2.72 seconds.

However, some confusion over whether or not Harris would get on led to Ryan Dirteater scrambling just at the start of the 15/15 Bucking Battle to get ready in time to take on Cooper Tires Brown Sugar.

Aparecido had to be carried out of the arena following a wreck with Little Red Jacket that left the third-year BFTS rider with a concussion, lacerated chin and a left hip injury.  

It was learned early on Sunday morning that X-rays at a local hospital revealed that Sean Willingham fractured his neck (C7 right facet) when he landed hard on his head during his 5.28-second buckoff against Cowboy Up.

According to Freeman, Willingham will be out for a minimum of eight weeks.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: BILLINGS, DAY 1 (4-17-15)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Billings, Montana, on Friday night.

Joao Ricardo Vieira extends world lead despite rib injury

Even an injury to his ribs can’t seem to slow down Joao Ricardo Vieira.

The No. 1 bull rider in the world continued his hot streak on Friday by riding Nearly Departed for 86 points to finish Round 1 in fifth-place and earn 30 points toward the world standings.

Vieira was the only rider within the Top 10 of the world standings to place within the Top 5, and he now leads No. 2 Matt Triplett by 325 points.

The 30-year-old immediately headed to the PBR sports medicine room after his ride to get ice wrapped around his ribs, which were sore throughout week following the BFTS event in Nampa, Idaho, where he injured them inside the bucking chute.

“I feel so-so,” Vieira said. “It’s pulling when I move my (free) arm. It’s OK. I’ll ride tomorrow.”

Vieira has now ridden nine of his last 13 since the Ty Murray Invitational. His last seven qualified rides have placed him within the Top 5 of a round and he has averaged 87.89 points per ride.

Triplett was bucked off by Heaven’s Basement in 6.24 seconds, but didn’t appear to be affected by his torn left MCL.

Valdiron de Oliveira rode King George for 53 points, but it wasn’t without consequence. The No. 3 bull rider in the world turned down his re-ride option and had to be assisted to the sports medicine room where Dr. Tandy Freeman diagnosed him with a sprained left knee.

Oliveira spent roughly 15 minutes following the event icing the injury.

Nunes wins first BFTS round since September 2014

Renato Nunes admitted that he was nervous about facing Shaft in the first round inside Rimrock Auto Arena before he nodded his head for the gate.

The 2010 World Champion had seen the bovine athlete buck off all 13 of his previous BFTS foes, and 22 overall, and wasn’t quite sure what had made him so apparently hard to ride.

“I had seen he had bucked off a lot of Brazilians – a lot of left-handed – and I was nervous,” Nunes said following his Round 1-winning 89.75 points aboard Shaft.

Nunes became the first rider to make the 8-second mark on Shaft with a vintage Nunes’ performance that gave a glimpse of his World Champion talent.

The 33-year-old threw his free arm with ease and was able to readjust when necessary.

“I really like him, but it wasn’t easy,” he said. “I didn’t really have control for all 8 seconds and I got in a little trouble.”

It is Nunes’ first BFTS round victory since winning the second round in Laughlin, Nevada, last September with an 89.5-point ride aboard Flyin Crazy.

Nunes moves from 27th in the world standings to 23rd because of the 100 points he earned for the win.

Brady Sims placed second in the round and earned 60 points to the standings with an 87.5-point ride on Gentleman Jim. Stetson Lawrence picked up 50 points with a third-place finish aboard Flip Out (86.5 points).

Shane Proctor rode Tahonta’s Magic for 86.25 points to place fourth and earn 40 points.

Nunes said Friday night’s ride was important to him after he bucked off Crack The Whip in 3.02 seconds last week during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Nampa, Idaho.

“I am going to feel good tomorrow because I rode one for 89 today,” Nunes concluded. “This helps a lot because last week if I would have stayed on, I should have won. I got bucked off and I was so upset.

“To get back this weekend and ride for 89, I feel much better.”

Palermo notches a ride in return to BFTS

It’s been two months since Robson Palermo was cut from the BFTS and in one of the feel good moments of Round 1 the three-time World Finals event winner made the 8-second mark.

Palermo rode Smoked Out for 85.75 points to finish Round 1 in sixth place, yet just being back on the BFTS for at least one weekend was a moment that Palermo cherished.

“I am really happy,” Palermo said. “I have been out for so long and to come back here and ride one, especially turning back to the right (was good). I have been getting on lots of bulls in the Touring Pro (Division) turning to the right and kind of have been building up my confidence back.”

Immediately following his 8-second ride, Palermo was congratulated by a bunch of riders – including his good friend Guilherme Marchi – as well as the Dickies® Bullfighters and Flint Rasmussen.

“Oh my gosh, everybody congratulated me, especially Guilherme” Palermo said. “He is a real good friend. I was really happy and proud when I jumped off the bull and everybody was like ahhhh!”

Palermo has been riddled with injuries for the last few seasons and this season was no different following a bad wreck at the ABBI Spring Fling event in Stephenville, Texas, two weeks ago.

Palermo’s left shoulder was stepped on during the event and the force of the impact bent one of two screws that was inserted by Dr. James Andrews during a 2013 surgery.

Palermo is now riding with a shoulder brace and extra tape to help keep his riding arm in position so that no further damage is caused during a potential buckoff.

“I had a bad wreck two weeks ago,” Palermo said. “I have two screws in my shoulder and one screw is bent and it has been causing problems. They say I need to fix it, but I talked to Tandy and said let’s go and try something different. I wear a brace and I have them tape up everything so my arm doesn’t go far. I need to be careful when I jump off now.”

Unfortunately for Palermo, he did not earn any points toward the world standings and still trails No. 30 Rubens Barbosa, who was bucked off by Raven Flyer in 4.98 seconds, by 163.75 points.

Palermo will head into his Round 2 matchup with You’re a Daisy If You Do sitting in sixth place in the event average.

Regardless, Palermo is happy to be back on the BFTS with his buddies this weekend.

“To be here with all of my friends and hanging out – I have missed it a lot.”

Injury Updates

Eight riders were listed as officially out of competition by Dr. Tandy Freeman: Silvano Alves (broken left hip); L.J. Jenkins (broken neck- C1); J.B. Mauney (left knee);Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction); Ty Pozzobon (concussion); Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture); Billy Robinson (left PCL tear) and Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff).

Eduardo Aparecido (sprained left shoulder, free arm) and Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain) were the only two riders competing with documented injuries, per Freeman.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

RICHARDSON REPLACES WING IN BILLINGS DRAW (4-17-15)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Travel issues are leading to some shuffling for this weekend’s Stanley Performance in Action Invitational at RimRock Auto Arena.

Stormy Wing was unable to make it out of Amarillo, Texas, on Friday morning because of weather-related travel issues and instead of arriving on Saturday, the Dalhart, Texas, bull rider is taking the weekend off to rest his sprained left MCL.

According to the PBR competition department, Lachlan Richardson has replaced Wing in the draw this weekend. It will be an opportunity for the bull rider tied for 38th in the world with Tyler Harr to try and make up ground in the standings after originally thinking he was cut for the weekend.

Richardson trails No. 30 Rubens Barbosa for the last guaranteed spot in BFTS draws by 121.25 points.

The 22-year-old takes on Proper Ripped (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Slinger Jr (4-0, BFTS) in Round 2.

Barbosa has drawn Raven Flyer (22-2, BFTS) and Cash Ya Out (4-6, BFTS).

Wing was not the only rider to experience travel issues as of Friday morning. Ryan Dirteater is going to miss Round 1 and get a zero because of flight issues in Oklahoma City and Denver.

Dirteater is expected to make it to Billings for his second-round matchup against Little Brother (0-0, BFTS).

Richardson is one of eight alternates: Douglas Duncan (-22.5 points back of Barbosa); Robson Aragao (-43.75); Claudio Crisostomo (-61.25); Sean Willingham (-66.25); Bryan Titman (-76.25); Gage Gay (-106.25) and Tyler Harr (-121.25).

RELATED: Round 1 draw for Billings

Robson Palermo is returning this weekend after spending the last two months competing on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division. Palermo is in the draw because of his BlueDEF Velocity Tour event win in Wheeling, West Virginia, last month.

He is tied for 45th in the world standings with Marco Eguchi and trails Barbosa by 163.75 points.

Palermo will try to make 8 seconds on Smoked Out (0-0, BFTS) and You’re A Daisy If You Do (4-1, BFTS).

World leader Joao Ricardo Vieira will attempt to build on his 295-point lead in a first-round matchup against Nearly Departed (0-0, BFTS). He will then face Helter Skelter (0-2, BFTS) on Saturday night.

Reese Cates has the only rematch in Round 1 and takes on Good Cop after being bucked off by the bovine in 7.5 seconds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

There will be three rematches in Round 2: Douglas Duncan vs. Donardo, Fabiano Vieira vs. Cowboy Up and Kasey Hayes vs. Dollar Hunt.

Hayes is the only rider to have successfully ridden his rematch bull. The Liberal, Kansas, native rode Dollar Hunt for 82.5 points in Pueblo, Colorado, at the 2012 BFTS event. He was bucked off by Dollar Hunt in 2.56 seconds at the Ariat Invitational (Oakland, California) in 2013.

There are four riders within the Top 30 of world standings out because of injuries: Silvano Alves (fractured hip); J.B. Mauney (torn ACL); Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff) and L.J. Jenkins (broken neck, C1).

TRIPLETT RETURNING FOR HOME-STATE EVENT (4-14-15)

PUEBLO, Colo. – It hadn’t even been 24 hours after he had torn his MCL that Matt Triplett sat in the locker room inside the WisePies Arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he said that he would be back in time for the Built Ford Tough Series event in Billings, Montana.

It didn’t matter that his crutches were propped up against his chair and that in the moment there was fear he may need surgery.

Triplett was prepared to do anything possible to try and return in time.

Now, Triplett is set to return to action four weeks after tearing his MCL this coming Friday at the Stanley Performance in Action Invitational in Billings, Montana. 

The No. 2 bull rider in the world has been rehabbing at the Michael Johnson Performance facility in McKinney, Texas, and is waiting to receive a left knee brace that he will compete with Friday.

“It is going great,” Triplett said. “They really worked it good and things are feeling a lot better.”

Triplett has never ridden with a brace before.

The Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider is excited to be able to compete in his home state event for the second time after finishing in third place last year.

“I just love the atmosphere in Billings,” Triplett said. “The fans that come out to it make it a lot easier for us to make better bull rides. It is kind of like the Ty Murray Invitational, everybody knows what is going on. There is a bull riding world in Montana so it is cool to have that fan base where they know what is going on and they get really excited when you make a great bull ride. That motivates most of the riders.”

Triplett trails world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 295 points heading into this weekend’s event. He will also compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday night against Wicked (14-3, BFTS).

The 15/15 Bucking Battle can be seen Sunday on CBS network television at 2 p.m. ET.

Here are the matchups for this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle

Cody Nance vs. Walk Off

Stetson Lawrence vs. Percolator

Shane Proctor vs. Beaver Creek Beau 

Mike Lee vs. Spotted Demon

Fabiano Vieira vs. Little Red Jacket

Nathan Schaper vs. Mick E Mouse

Ben Jones vs. Stone Sober

Reese Cates vs. Boot Jack

Kaique Pacheco vs. Jeremiah

J.W. Harris vs. Cooper Tires Brown Sugar

Guilherme Marchi vs. Smooth Operator

Tanner Byrne vs. American Sniper

Valdiron de Oliveira Sweet Pro’s Long John

Matt Triplett vs. Wicked

Joao Ricardo Vieira vs. I’m A Gangster Too

Wicked is 5-0 this season and recently bucked off Nathan Schaper in 7.99 seconds in the Nampa, Idaho, 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Triplett admitted it was hard to helplessly watch Vieira overtake his spot atop the world standings.

“That is kind of why I took last weekend off,” Triplett said. “I knew I wasn’t quite ready to come back and perform like I had at the beginning of the year and I wanted to make sure everything was right before I came back. In the beginning I wasn’t going to be back in Billings, but after the MRI and everything I was really shooting for Nampa. I could have rode in Nampa, but I went and talked to Tandy (Freeman) and he said it would be a good idea to give it one more week. I am expecting to come back and do as well as I can and stay on every bull that I can.”

Triplett acknowledged he is roughly at 75-80 percent, but he is still ready to try and hunt down the No. 1 ranking in the world standings one bull at a time.

“Coming in not being number one gives me a little bit more of a motivational advantage,” Triplett said. “I am really hungry right now, having to take (two events) off. Really, I can’t wait to get back on bulls right now.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: NAMPA, day 2 (4-12-15)

NAMPA, Idaho – Here are three things we learned from this weekend’s DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational at the Ford Idaho Center.

Joao Ricardo Vieira extends world lead on day of opportunity

A day after going 0-for-2 in the first round and 15/15 Bucking Battle, world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira rebounded by going 2-for-2 on Sunday afternoon to pick up 290 points toward the world standings and extend his lead on Matt Triplett to 295 points.  

“The points and (my performance) in the event is very good, but it is a long season,” Vieira said.

Vieira earned 60 points for placing second in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with a tough 88-point ride aboard Americana that left the 30-year-old gasping for air.

The world leader revealed that in Round 1 he suffered an injury to his right ribs when Rusty slammed him against the inside of the bucking chute.

“I was short of breath because of my ribs,” Vieira said. “I hurt them yesterday.”

Vieira decided to ride Sunday instead of sitting out the final day of competition.

It proved to be extremely valuable with No. 2 Triplett (torn MCL), No. 3 Valdiron de Oliveira (flu-like symptoms) and No. 4 Silvano Alves (left hip injury) not competing because of injuries.

Vieira rode Springer Mountain in Round 2 for 84.75 points to finish third in the round and earn 50 points toward the world standings. The ride was also enough to get him into the championship round, where he selected Americana with the 10th pick in the draft.

The 2013 Rookie of the Year finished the weekend third in the event average for an additional 180 points that placed him third overall.

The 290 total points Vieira earned not only helped him open up his lead on Triplett, but he, Guilherme Marchi (590) and Reese Cates (60) were the only riders inside the Top 10 of the world standings to earn any world points in either the DeWalt Guaranteed Tough Invitational or the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Marchi wins his second BFTS event of 2015 with help of instant replay

Marchi used a challenge during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round to help get an opportunity to win his second BFTS event this season.

Marchi originally bucked off Crystal Can Do in 6.98 seconds, but the 32-year-old believed that the bovine athlete had hipped himself leaving the bucking chute.

Therefore, Marchi hit the challenge button next to the out gate and waited for a decision.

“I thought I would get one because I felt the bull kind of lose balance,” Marchi said. “I knew the re-ride bull was a real good bull, so I said I am going to try and I will see if they will give it to me. It worked out today.”

Upon further review, Marchi was awarded a re-ride and he was given a gift of a re-ride bull in King Buck.

Marchi rode King Buck, who he previously rode for 87 points at the Ty Murray Invitational last month, for 89.25 points to jump ahead of Mason Lowe in the event average and eventually win his second event of the season.

“I feel so proud,” Marchi said. “I dedicate a lot of time at home to my family and I take off last week and I think that worked for me. I got to rest a little bit.”

Marchi was the only rider to cover all three of his bulls after riding Gnarly Head for 84.5 points in Round 1 on Saturday night and Buffalo Jump for 70 points in Round 2 on Saturday. Marchi turned down an option at a re-ride in the second round.

Nampa is the 22nd victory of his 12-year career.

The 2008 World Champion is now the No. 5 bull rider in the world standings and trails Vieira by 795 points after beginning the weekend in ninth.

“I am proud to win this event,” Marchi concluded. “It is hard to explain to you guys how much fun it is to win events in America against all of the best bull riders in the world.”

21-year-old Lowe wins first BFTS round of career

Lowe began the weekend as an alternate rider in Nampa and was the No. 38 bull rider in the world standings.

The 21-year-old used a 2-for-3 performance, and his first BFTS round victory, to leave the Ford Idaho Center ranked 22nd in the world standings and have a guaranteed spot in the draw for next weekend’s event in Billings, Montana.

It is why even though Lowe was truly upset about missing out on his first career victory after bucking off Little Red Jacket in 4.51 seconds during the championship round, he still understood how important this weekend was in regards to the big picture.

“There is still next time,” Lowe said. “I was a little upset after I got off, but in the end you just blow it off and go into next week. I was kind of waiting on a call every week and now I have a spot on tour. Hopefully, it will all work out and I will stay on there.”

Lowe earned 100 of his 375 total points toward the world standings with a career-high 87.5-point ride on Big Sky to win the second round.

“Shoot, I am feeling good,” Lowe said. “I kind of got a rough out there and he started kind of balling up in the front. As soon as I came out there, I just had to gather him up and keep going with it.”

Lowe had previously earned 35 points in Round 1 for his 86-point ride on Bootdaddy.com that put him in a tie for fourth place with Douglas Duncan.

The Exeter, Missouri, bull rider earned 240 points for finishing second in the event average and finished a career-high second overall.

Rounding out the Top 5 behind Marchi, Lowe and Vieira was Tanner Byrne (165 points) and Kasey Hayes (145 points).

Injury Updates

While there were no further official injury updates from Dr. Tandy Freeman regarding L.J. Jenkins and his C-1 fracture in the first round on Saturday night, Jenkins did post a message on his Facebook account updating family, friends and fans of his status:

“Just want to say thank you for all of the comments and concerns,” Jenkins wrote. “All of the support means the world to me. I'm now on the road to recovery and finally made it to the hotel room. I'm not going to rush a return, but I'll hopefully be back for Tulsa. Gotta give big thanks to the best girl in the world Christen (Jenkins’ fiancé) for being by my side the whole time. I love U!”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: NAMPA, DAY 1 (4-11-15)

NAMPA, Idaho – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle of the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational on Saturday night at the Ford Idaho Center.

I’m a Gangster Too erupts for 46.5 points & Mick E Mouse extends buckoff streak

I’m a Gangster Too has been one of the reliable workhorses on the Built Ford Tough Series and Jeff Robinson’s bovine athlete put forth one of his greatest efforts in the past two years  during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

I’m a Gangster Too bucked off Eduardo Aparecido in 1.83 seconds for a high-marked bull score of 46.5 points.

It is I’m a Gangster Too’s highest score since being marked 47 points at the BFTS event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in October 2013 when he bucked off Valdiron de Oliveira in 1.81 seconds.

I’m a Gangster Too has bucked off Aparecido in two consecutive events.

Mick E Mouse posted the next highest bull score with a 45.25-point marking with his 34th consecutive buckoff in a row when he ripped Shane Proctor down over his front end in 1.6 seconds.

“He beat me out of there and he is too strong to be getting beat out of there like that,” Proctor said. “You really have to ride the front on those big bulls and take the power away. He is an amazing bull and just poor performance on my part.”

Proctor said Mick E Mouse felt much stronger than when he was bucked off by Marlene Henry’s bull at the 2013 BFTS event in Billings, Montana.

“He is an extraordinary bull, and he is going to do extraordinary things,” Proctor concluded.

Mike Lee uses season-high 92-point ride to win 15/15 Bucking Battle

Mike Lee only took up boxing for one or two years, but he still uses some of the techniques he learned as a kid from those classes.

It is one of the reasons why Lee always appears to look so loose and cool in the bucking chutes and can be heard letting out short bursts of air before nodding for the gate.

“I used to box a little bit when I was a kid,” Lee said. “If you hold your breath, you are really slow and your punches don’t hurt at all. Same thing with bull riding. If you hold your breath and you have your muscles flexed – you can’t be. You have to have fast muscle twitches.”

Lee was able to use his fast reaction time to avoid being stunned by Percolator in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and readjusted mid-ride to make the 8-second mark.

The end result was a 92-point ride – Lee’s first 90-point ride since riding Meathook for 90.25 points in 2013 at the Biloxi, Mississippi, event – and a victory in the 15/15 Bucking Battle Saturday night.

“That bull was pretty bucky, especially right there at first,” Lee said. “Man, it felt good once I got adjusted. He pulled me down right there at the get-go and I got my hips underneath me and got my butt down. I just started giving it my all after that.”

Lee earns 150 points toward the world standings to move into 13th-place in the world.

Percolator was marked 45 points, which gives him four consecutive outs with a 45-point or higher bull score.

Guilherme Marchi placed second with an 89-point ride on Calypso to earn 90 points toward the world standings, and Fabiano Vieira rode American Sniper for 88.25 points to place third and pick up 75 points.

Reese Cates rode Chocolate Thunder for 87.75 points to place fourth and earn 60 points toward the world standings.

Cates was the only rider in the Top 7 of the world standings to earn any points in either the first round or the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

It was also his first qualified ride since returning from a torn right biceps (riding arm) that led him to miss the Seattle Invitational.

He was bucked off by Mental Revenge in 2.88 seconds in Round 1.

“It is good,” Cates said. “I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous on that first one. No, that is not an excuse for getting bucked off though. I had a great bull. I was upset with myself. I went and got a new bull rope – that other one kind of slipped on me.

“It was not too bad for a brand new rope. I think I will keep on using it.”

Duncan continuing fervent rush to crack Top 30

Douglas Duncan is up to 30th in the world standings after making his third qualified ride in four attempts over the course of the past two BFTS events.

Two weeks after going 2-for-3 at the Seattle Invitational, Duncan finished tied with Mason Lowe for fourth place in Nampa by riding Buffalo Jump for 86 points.

“That little bull kind of bounced out of there and once he went back left into my hand I knew I had it,” Duncan said.

The 27-year-old earned 35 points toward the world standings.

Duncan understands he can’t get complacent about getting one 8-second ride down after only earning a total of 45 points in Seattle.

“I need to forget about today and show up with the same attitude tomorrow,” Duncan said.  

The 35 points that Lowe earned helped the rookie move from 38th in the world standings to 35th.

Lowe, who been dealing with a groin injury this year, rode Bootdaddy.com for 86 points.

“He went right and came around, and I always like when they go away from my hand and into them,” Lowe said.

It is the first qualified ride of the season for Lowe, who is competing in the sixth BFTS event of his career.

“It takes some weight off my shoulders,” Lowe said. “I come up here and went to two of them and kept falling off.”

Injury Updates

Defending World Champion Silvano Alves was unable to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and has been ruled out for the remainder of the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational with a left hip injury, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.

Alves sustained the injury when he was hit by Legal Tender at the 3.88-second mark.

L.J. Jenkins also was unable to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and is out for the weekend following a broken neck (without evidence of a spinal cord injury) following his 4.52-second buckoff against Strong Heart.

Jenkins fractured his C-1 vertebra and has been transferred to St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise for treatment.

According to Freeman, there were six riders competing with injuries in Round 1: Jenkins (unstable right shoulder); Eduardo Aparecido (sprained left shoulder, free arm); Ryan Dirteater (unstable left knee); Dave Mason (sprained left riding hand); Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain) and Stormy Wing (sprained left MCL).

Eight riders were listed as officially out of competition: Triplett (left knee, MCL); J.B. Mauney (left knee);Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction); Ty Pozzobon (concussion); Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture); Billy Robinson (left PCL tear); Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff) and Ben Jones (cervical strain).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

GAY GETS ANOTHER CHANCE AT BFTS (4-9-2015)

PUEBLO, Colo. – Gage Gay continues to take advantage of his opportunities at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour level.

For the second time this season, Gay won a BlueDEF Velocity Tour event to earn an alternate spot on the BFTS after being cut from the PBR’s primary tour in February.

Gay won the BlueDEF event in Omaha, Nebraska, two weeks ago to earn an alternate spot for this weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series DeWalt Guaranteed Tough Invitational in Nampa, Idaho.

The 20-year-old rode Kimball’s Corner for 89 points and Arrow Truck Sales Hot Iron for 85 points in Omaha to clinch an automatic berth for a BFTS event.

Gay is currently 35th in the world standings, but he is only 62.5 points out of the 30th position. 

Gay has drawn Toby (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1.

Robson Aragao heads into the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational currently holding the No. 30 and last guaranteed spot in a BFTS draw over Lowe by 95 points.

Aragao will face I’m Next (0-0, BFTS) on Saturday night.

There are six additional alternates in this week’s draw beyond Gay and Mason Lowe chasing a Top-30 spot and a potential BFTS victory.

No. 31 Claudio Crisostomo (-17.5 points), No. 32 Sean Willingham (-22), No. 33 Douglas Duncan (-23.75) No. 34 Bryan Titman (-42.5 points), No. 35 Lachlan Richardson (-77.5) and No. 36 Alexandre Cardozo (-92.5).

In other words, the bottom half of the standings continues to be as close as the first few weeks of the season.

RELATED: Draw for Round 1 of the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational

Aaron Roy is competing in Nampa courtesy of his fourth injury exemption. He has one more exemption following this weekend before being subject to the BFTS cutline.

The 27-year-old is 52nd in the world standings and is 167.5 points behind Aragao.

Roy faces Long Haired Outlaw (1-1, BFTS) in Round 1.

Markus Mariluch, who went 0-for-2 in Seattle, will take on Say I Won’t Playboy (9-3, BFTS) as he tries to register his first qualified ride of 2015 since returning from his 2014 torn biceps. Nampa is the second of his eight guaranteed BFTS events.

Reese Cates (torn biceps) and Cody Nance (pelvis sprain) are returning from their respective injuries.

Cates missed just one event (Seattle Invitational), and he will look to end a streak of eight overall buckoffs when he takes on Strung Out (0-0, BFTS).

Nance returns after missing the last two BFTS events and he will go head-to-head with Slash (0-0, BFTS). Prior to taking the last four weeks off, the Paris, Tennessee, bull rider had ridden three of his last four.

RELATED: World No. 2 Matt Triplett out for Nampa

There are two rematches in the first round on Saturday night: Brady Sims vs. Hang Time (12-1, BFTS) and Kasey Hayes vs. Cowtown Slinger.

Hang Time bucked off Sims in 4.35 seconds at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals, while Cowtown Slinger (18-11, BFTS) dumped Hayes in 7.29 seconds at the 2014 Ty Murray Invitational.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

TOP 5 RIDES OF 2015 (4-4-2015)

PUEBLO, Colo. – With the Built Ford Tough Series on its first break since the beginning of the 2015 season, let’s take a look at the Top-5 rides through the first three months of the year.

1. Joao Ricardo Vieira rides Walk Off for 92.25 points

Joao Ricardo Vieira won his fourth round of the 2015 BFTS last week in Seattle by riding Walk Off for 92.25 points.

The round win helped propel Vieira into the No. 1 spot in the world standings for the first time since seeing his world lead disappear during the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Since beginning Iron Cowboy as the 26th rider in the world standings, Vieira has gone on to earn 1,945 points at BFTS events to move into the No. 1 spot.

RELATED: Joao Ricardo Vieira feels like true Iron Cowboy

He is second on the BFTS with 24 qualified rides and has a career-best 58.54 riding percentage through the first 13 BFTS.

The ride came one week after Vieira rode Jeff Robinson’s bovine athlete for 88 points at the Ty Murray Invitational.

The 2013 Rookie of the Year holds two of the four qualified rides Walk Off has surrendered in 35 outs. 

2. Matt Triplett rides Delco for 90.75 points

Matt Triplett is tied for the BFTS-lead for round wins (five) and he got his first of the season back in Chicago when he covered Delco for 90.75 points to win Round 2.

Triplett had previously ridden the bull for 89 points at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“I got along good with that bull at the Finals and I knew usually when I draw bulls that I have already rode, I overthink it or I go at it not as hard as I usually do, but my attitude this year is totally changed,” Triplett said in January. “I am not even looking at what I got. I waited until I got here until I knew what I had, and I just have to go at them every single jump and try my best.

“I ride a lot to the front end of my rope and really drive forward and that bull has a lot of rear and a lot of kick. So he just fits me really good, because I got way out over bulls and that is what it takes to ride the rank ones.”

Triplett finished the event in fifth place and it was one of seven consecutive Top-10 finishes to begin the season.

The 23-year-old missed the Seattle Invitational due to a torn MCL in his left knee as Vieira surpassed him in the standings. He had been the world leader for eight weeks.

The No. 2 bull rider in the world has gone 20-for-38 (52.63 percent) this year and is tied with Reese Cates for the BFTS-lead in wins (2). 

3. Chase Outlaw rides Crack The Whip for 90.75 points

Chase Outlaw was the No. 9 bull rider in the world when he sustained a torn right rotator cuff at the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City in February.

Outlaw was on his way to a career-year and had gone 11-for-24 and had won the 15/15 Bucking Battle in St. Louis with an 89.25-point ride on Crack The Whip.

However, his best ride of the year came on Crack The Whip in New York at the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden when he covered the bull for 90.75 points, which tied his career-high.

“I said, ‘If I had him when he cracked out there and went left, I would start whooping and I wouldn’t quit,'” Outlaw said in New York. “He likes to drop everybody in there or right around there. I figured if I started spurring right around there and stay aggressive and don’t quit.”

4. Guilherme Marchi rides Calypso for 90.5 points

It is hard to believe that it had been over a year since Guilherme Marchi surpassed the 90-point thereshold at a BFTS event until last week in Seattle.

Marchi rode Calypso for 90.5 points to finish second in the championship round behind Vieira and notch the 51st 90-point ride of his career.

“That is a really good bull,” Marchi said. “He was right there into my hand. I was so happy to cover him. He was very strong and was moving forward a little bit. I cover him pretty good. It worked for me.”

Marchi’s last 90-point ride came on Feb. 8, 2014 in Anaheim, California, when he rode KISS Animalize for 90 points.

The 2008 World Champion is second to J.B. Mauney among active riders for career 90-point rides.

The 32-year-old is ninth in the world standings and has gone 20-for-42 (47.62 percent). Marchi has finished within the Top-10 of the world standings 10 consecutive years.

5. Joao Ricardo Vieira rides Bruiser for 90.5 points

While Iron Cowboy was the event that Vieira’s season turned around, it may have been his 90.5-point ride on Bruiser that truly sparked the massive march Vieira has been on since stepping foot inside AT&T Stadium.

Vieira hadn’t flashed the kind of confidence post-ride that he did when he won Round 2 of Iron Cowboy by riding Bruiser for his first 90-point ride since covering Smackdown for 90.75 points in St. Louis on Feb. 16, 2014.

“I was not riding very well and now I draw good bulls,” Vieira said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating in February. “It is good to win this weekend again because I rode all of my bulls. I feel like the Iron Cowboy. It is in the heart of all the riders to be the Iron Cowboy champion.”

Vieira had previously ridden Bruiser for 88.75 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

The BFTS returns next weekend in Nampa, Idaho, with the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational on April 11-12. 

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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