Behind the Chutes: Seattle, day 2

Valdiron de Oliveira is all smiles after being crowned the Seattle PBR champion. Photo By: Andy Watson/BullStockMedia.com

Highlights

  • Joao Ricardo Vieira overtook Matt Triplett for the No. 1 spot in the world standings.
  • Vieira posted a 92.25-point ride on Walk Off to win the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
  • Event winner Valdiron de Oliveira moved to No. 3 int eh world standings with the event win.

In This Article

SEATTLE – Here are three things we learned following the Seattle Invitational this weekend at KeyArena.

Victory pushups for Oliveira

Valdiron de Oliveira jumped onto the dirt inside KeyArena, looked toward PBR Entertainer Flint Rasmussen and began doing pushups in unison with Rasmussen after an instant replay showed that he had not slapped Big Cool in the championship round and he had earned his first event win since the Battle at the Beau in Biloxi, Mississippi, last October.

He may be 35 years old, but Oliveira can still rip off a set of pushups with his eyes closed, and he proved in Seattle that this veteran BFTS rider still has what it takes to compete with the young guns on the PBR circuit.

Oliveira was awarded 86.75 points for 8 seconds of work on Big Cool.

“Well, I had seen this bull the first day and Cooper (Davis) scored 89 points on him,” Oliveira said. “He is a good bull. I asked the contractor (if I should pick him) and he told me ‘I don’t know because the bull may turn back to the left and turn the other way at 5 or 6 seconds.’ I said, ‘That is alright, I wanted to pick this bull.’”

Big Cool did indeed turn back on Oliveira and brought the Brazilian bull rider close to the bucking chutes in a last ditch effort to try and get him off his back to no avail.

“I come this morning and all day in my mind I was thinking if I make the short go, I am picking this bull,” Oliveira added.

Oliveira used a pair of 86.75-point rides in Round 1 (Long Haired Outlaw) and Round 2 (Say I Won’t Playboy) to be able to select Big Cool in the championship round draft. 

Davis had ridden Big Cool to win Round 1 on Friday.

Oliveira earned a total of 510 points to win the event and moved up to third in the world standings after beginning the weekend in seventh. Oliveira received 400 points for winning the event average, 60 points for finishing second in Round 2 and 50 point for placing third in Round 1.

L.J. Jenkins (300), Vieira (240), Silvano Alves (220) and Nathan Schaper (155) rounded out the Top 5.

“I am very happy this year because I am not too young anymore,” Oliveira said. “I am almost 36 years old, but I feel like I am young. I am very happy because I ride very, good and I stay focused.”

Vieira wins best championship round of 2015, takes over world lead

There is a new No. 1 bull rider in the world following an exciting Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night in the Evergreen State.

Joao Ricardo Vieira bounced back from his 3.85-second buckoff against Cowboy Up in the second round to ride Walk Off for an event-best and season-high 92.25 points to win a championship round featuring eight qualified rides – which is tied for the most at a BFTS event this season.

Vieira was credited with 100 points for the championship round win and he finished fourth overall in the event average for an additional 105 points.

Therefore, Vieira will head into the Built Ford Tough Series bye week with a five-point lead on Matt Triplett, who missed Seattle with a torn left MCL, after earning a total of 390 points.

Vieira’s five-point lead is the fewest by any world leader this season and ends Triplett’s eight-week reign atop the standings.

RELATED: Vieira wins 15/15 Bucking Battle in Seattle  

Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride tipped his hat to the new world leader. 

“You know what, I am always hammering about how Joao doesn’t ride bulls very good to the right, but you give credit where credit is due,” McBride said. “He rides bulls outstanding to the left and if you are going to have trouble with bulls that go one way, when you get them that go your way you take advantage of it. He did.”

Even though Vieira bucked off Cowboy Up away from his hand, McBride still thinks the 30-year-old can make the proper adjustments with practice.

“I think he will get it figured out in the other direction,” he added. “He is going in the right direction any way because he knows there is a problem. He has admitted that. He has pinpointed what the problem is. That guy is a real contender.”

The championship round featured a variety of highlight moments beyond Vieira or Valdiron de Oliviera riding Big Cool for 86.75 points to win the event title.

Guilherme Marchi finished second in the round with a 90.5-point ride on Calypso, gaining 60 points toward the world standings, and Shane Proctor became the second rider to conquer Beaver Creek Beau by making the 8-second mark for 89.75 points and a third-place finish. Proctor earned 50 points toward the standings.

“This is as good a championship round that we have seen in several years I feel like and it comes at a hard point in the season,” McBride said. “We are talking about guys being banged up. They are sore, they are tired. They want to go home. They did not show it. They stepped up to the plate.”

Beyond all of the qualified rides, the biggest moment may have been Smooth Operator once again making J.W. Harris look like a rag doll when he bucked off the 2014 PBR Rookie of the Year in just 2.44 seconds.

It was the second time in less than 24 hours that the two World Champion contenders collided after meeting during the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night.

Smooth Operator was marked 46.5 points on Saturday night after being awarded 46 points Friday for his 3.33-second buckoff of Harris.

“I’m going to say he could have been 47 and he is that rank,” Berger said. “I love that bull. He manhandled him today and he made a statement in Washington.”

Schaper takes Round 2 title

Nathan Schaper was able to make a last second adjustment against Cash Ya Out to win Round 2 with an 88.75-point ride after the bull tried re-directing on the 24-year-old bull rider from Grassy Butte, North Dakota.

“It was just complete reaction when he went back the other way and I picked him right up again,” Schaper said. “That is when you feel good. When you are reacting and it just happens so good.”

Schaper explained that he went into the bull ride knowing that he had to sit up more than normal after previously getting on Cash Ya Out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last weekend.

“If they are going to suck back a little bit, you need to sit up right out of there a little more instead of going forward so much,” Schaper added. “I had a little bit of a plan to just sit up and stick my chest out a little bit.”

It is the second-highest scored ride for Schaper this season behind his 89-point ride on Long John in Kansas City, Missouri.

The 110 total points he earned overall puts him 10th in the world standings heading into the off week.

“I like being scored that high,” Schaper said with a smile. “It is always good being 88, 89, 90 in the long round. He is a bigger bull and I am bigger too. When I ride a little bull sometimes I am not many points I don’t think because my size takes a lot of weight from them compared to a little guy, so it always helps getting on a bigger bull.”

Injury updates

Rubens Barbosa did not compete in the championship round because of temporary numbness in both arms and legs after landing hard when he was thrown from Snake Face in 6.12 seconds during the second round.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, he is questionable for Nampa, Idaho, pending additional evaluation.        

Ben Jones also did not compete in the championship round because of a cervical strain sustained when he landed on the side of his head during his Round 2 buckoff against Do Wacka Do.

He is probable for Nampa.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: SEATTLE, DAY 1 (3-28-15)

SEATTLE – Here are three things we learned following Round 1 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle at the Seattle Invitational on Friday night at KeyArena.

Alternates earn crucial points

Being close to the Built Ford Tough Series cutline is no fun task for any rider and Rubens Barbosa and Douglas Duncan took steps to get further away from it during Round 1.

Barbosa placed second in the round with an 87.5-point ride on Guns and Donuts to earn 60 points toward the world standings and move from 31st in the world to 28th.

Duncan finished tied for fourth in Round 1 with his 86.5-point ride on Moose Jaw, picking up 35 points toward the standings.

“I did need it,” Duncan said. “It hadn’t been going my way lately. I hadn’t spurred one in a while, so it felt good.”

Five of Duncan’s buckoffs this season have come at 6 seconds or later, which is one-fourth of his 20 total buckoffs. 

The ride also snaps his streak of seven consecutive buckoffs.

“I try to win every time, but a bunch of dumb stuff has been happening,” Duncan said. “I slapped a couple of bulls and rode quite a bit and haven’t closed the deal.”

Those kind of close-calls only have added to his frustration.

“I know what I am capable of and I feel like I am a World Champion-caliber bull rider and shouldn’t be anywhere near the cutline, so it just gets frustrating,” Duncan said. “I was tired of answering questions about why I haven’t done good and why I haven’t done this.

“I just had it on my mind today. I didn’t care what I had drawn. I didn’t even look until right before I came out here. It didn’t matter what they ran underneath me. I was confident.”

Cooper Davis spurring for success; wins Round 1 with career-high ride

Cooper Davis knows he needs to stay aggressive and not clamp down when he is trying to earn a qualified ride on the BFTS.

Sometimes he just needs to cut it loose and try and spur his opposing bull.

Case and point on Friday night in Round 1 when the 21-year-old rookie bull rider began his weekend with a career-high, 89-point ride on Big Cool to win his first career BFTS round.

“Everything is going the way it needs to go and I feel comfortable,” Davis said. “I have been on that bull before. I got on him at Calgary last year and he threw me off at 5 seconds. I knew he would get stronger coming up through there so I just kept going to him and it all worked out.”

Davis started to feel comfortable around the 5-second mark and then turned to spurring Big Cool.

J.W. (Harris) said I just needed to start kicking loose and that is what I did,” Davis said. “It kind of reminded me that’s how I ride and I have more fun doing it that way. I am not really clamping down too much. That is where I kind of get into a bind. Sometimes I will clamp down and not make the moves I need to.

“If I am kicking loose then I am doing everything right and feel a lot more comfortable that way.”

Davis has gone 4-for-8 since beginning the 2015 season 0-for-11.

The 100 points he earned for winning the round moves him from 26th in the world standings to 23rd.  

“After it is all said and done, those 100 points help out a lot and I am off the cutline,” Davis said. “It is all about having fun now and it is uphill from here.”

Now that Davis has a BFTS round win under his belt, what is the next goal?

“I am shooting for an event win here,” Davis replied. “I have a good bull for tomorrow (Woody), and, if I do my part, hopefully I will have a good pick in the short round and stay on him and come out with a win.”

It was over before the 8-second mark even arrived

Chad Berger knew right when Cooper Tires Brown Sugar went left into Joao Ricardo Vieira’s hand that his bull was in trouble against the No. 2 bull rider in the world.

Brown Sugar played right into Joao Ricardo Vieira’s wheelhouse, and Vieira made easy work of him for 89.75 points to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night.

“Joao made a very nice ride on Brown Sugar,” Berger said. “Joao is as good as anybody into his hand and Brown Sugar made a mistake. If he had any chance of bucking him off he had to go right, and then Joao still has good enough timing where it would have been a task for Brown Sugar. That was the only way he was going to buck him off tonight. He decided to go into Joao’s hand and I just knew there was no chance as long as he stayed to the left."

It was the only qualified ride in the 15/15 and the win helped Vieira shed an additional 150 points off Matt Triplett’s world lead.

“He was a good bull,” Vieira said. “Chad Berger is the best contractor and he chatted with me. It was a good ride to win the 15/15.”

The bulls went 14-1 in the 15/15 Bucking Battle – their greatest showing so far in three Bucking Battle’s this season. Five of the riders (Ryan Dirteater, Guilherme Marchi, Valdiron de Oliveira and Silvano Alves) competing made it past the 5-second mark, only to then fall short of the 8-second whistle.

Vieira rode Bottle Rocket for 86.5 points earlier in the evening to finish Round 1 tied for fourth place with Duncan and earn 35 points toward the standings.

The 30-year-old heads into his Round 2 matchup against Cowboy Up only 200 points back of world leader Matt Triplett after beginning the weekend trailing by 385 points.

Triplett was out due to his torn left MCL, but he was in attendance to watch his three bulls (King George, Tornado Alley and Off The Rez) buck in Round 1.

Smooth Operator, another of Berger’s bulls, bucked off J.W. Harris in 3.33 seconds and was the high-marked bull of the 15/15 Bucking Battle with 46 points.

“He is very deceiving,” Harris said. “He looks like he is really hopping and skipping real bad and I was focused on really setting my hips so I had weight on my feet and that was the bad thing to do on him. I did the exact wrong thing on him.”

“I really think he made a bold statement today,” Berger said. “He is the real deal.”

Smooth Operator improves to a perfect 15-0 on the BFTS and the 46-point marking is a career high.

Smooth Operator will try to cap off his weekend with another impressive out during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night.

“We are going to put him to the test and he is either going to make it or not,” Berger said.

Injury Updates

Tanner Byrne was a late addition to the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night after Stormy Wing failed the PBR Sports Medicine concussion test prior to Round 1.

Byrne was returning to competition from a sprained left thumb (riding hand) and bucked off Uptown Funk in 5.46 seconds during Round 1 and Fire Rock in 3.32 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Markus Mariluch (surgery on his torn right biceps) also returned to action in Seattle, but was bucked off by I Got This in 7.62 seconds during Round 1.  

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

Nine riders were listed as officially out of competition: Triplett (left knee, MCL); Reese Cates (torn right biceps, riding arm) 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 Cody Nance (pelvis sprain).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: PREVIEWING THE SEATTLE DRAW (3-26-15)

SEATTLE – Injuries have begun to pile up through the first 12 Built Ford Tough Series events of 2015 and that has opened up the door for eight alternates to try and crack the Top 30 of the world standings this weekend at the Seattle Invitational.

Rubens Barbosa, Bryan Titman, Robson Aragao, Douglas Duncan, Lachlan Richardson, Alexandre Cardozo, Mason Lowe and Austin Meier are all separated by just 86.25 points in the world standings and will be competing at KeyArena as alternates.

Barbosa (31st) trails No. 30 Sean Willingham by 3.75 points, while Meier (39th) sits 110 points behind Willingham.

Willingham takes on BFTS-debut bull Crazy Bull in Round 1 and Cowtown Slinger (17-11, BFTS) in Round 2 as he tries to stay within the Top 30.

Cowtown Slinger has been ridden in four of his past six outs. He bucked off Ivan Sells last week in 3.85 seconds.

RELATED: Matt Triplett to avoid surgery on torn MCL

Markus Mariluch will be making his 2015 debut after undergoing season-ending surgery on his torn right biceps last September. With his 22nd finish in the 2014 world standings, Mariluch will be guaranteed eight BFTS events before being subject to relegation to the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division.

Mariluch has drawn I Got This (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and More Big Bucks (4-7, BFTS) in Round 2. Nathan Schaper had ridden More Big Bucks for 83.75 points last weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tanner Byrne, the No. 21 bull rider in the world standings, is returning to the BFTS after taking a week off to rest his injured riding thumb. The decision to skip the Ty Murray Invitational cost Byrne a chance to compete in this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle, but the caution should help Byrne have ample opportunities at KeyArena to make up ground.

Byrne will first take on Uptown Funk (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 on Friday night and then Rock River Red (21-5, BFTS) in Round 2 Saturday. Rock River Red has been ridden in two of his past three outs, including an 84.5-point ride by Matt Triplett.

Aaron Roy is also back for Seattle after missing the Ty Murray Invitational because of personal reasons. Roy faces One Bad Cat (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Foooe Shoooow (2-1, BFTS) in Round 2. Valdiron de Oliveira rode the bovine for 80.25 points in Kansas City, Missouri, this season.

Joao Ricardo Vieira enters Seattle just 385 points behind Triplett, who is out with a torn left MCL, and will try to gain ground in the world title race when he attempts to ride Bottle Rocket (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Cowboy Up (3-3, BFTS) in Round 2. Oliveira rode Cowboy Up for 86 points to finish Round 2 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in fourth place.

RELATED: Seattle 15/15 Bucking Battle kicks off push to Last Cowboy Standing

The only rematch in Round 1 is Schaper against Red Hawk. Schaper bucked off Red Hawk in 5.97 seconds during Round 3 of the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

There are seven rematches in Round 2: Duncan vs. Dr. Love; Guilherme Marchi vs. Joe The Grinder; Mike Lee vs. Breakdown; Schaper vs. Cash Ya Out; Silvano Alves vs. Barstool Mountain; Stetson Lawrence vs. Vetex’s Get Smacked and Stormy Wing vs. Nefarious.

Marchi (86.25 points), Lee (87.25) and Alves (84.75) won their previous matchups.

Click HERE for all of the Round 1 matchups

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: ALBUQUERQUE, DAY 3 (3-22-15)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Reese Cates will be out for the next three weeks with a torn right biceps after getting an MRI and having the results reviewed by Dr. Tandy Freeman on Monday.

The No. 6 bull rider in the world standings says he does not need surgery, and he will undergo physical therapy for the next three weeks before potentially returning in time for the DEWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational in Nampa, Idaho, on April 11-12.

“He said there are two different tendons and the one that I tore was probably slightly torn before the weekend from the practice pen and in Round 1 it went ahead and tore the rest of the way,” Cates said. “He said it kind of heals itself and doesn’t require surgery. I will do physical therapy for two and half, three weeks, and let the swelling go out of it.

“I am thankful the way it tore and the place it tore is a deal where I will be able to come back in three weeks. I am looking forward to that.” 

Cates was officially diagnosed with a right long head biceps musculotendinous junction tear.

He first suffered the partial tear last week attempting to ride practice bulls in Arkansas with Tyler Harr.

“We were getting on some practice bulls and they were kind of young and not really chute broke,” Cates said. “It happened right when I was about to nod my head on one and he kind of bucked in there and whenever he did, I wasn’t expecting it and it was a deal where I wasn’t completely up on my rope ready to go and my arm took the full force of it.”

It is believed Cates then tore the tendon the rest of the way when he rode Kung Fu Fighter for 78 points in Round 1 before accepting his re-ride option on More Big Bucks. He was bucked off by More Big Bucks in 3.6 seconds. 

Cates has been off to his best start since winning the 2008 Rookie of the Year title and is tied for the BFTS lead with two wins (Baltimore and Sacramento). He has gone 10-for-30 (33.33 percent) and trails world leader Matt Triplett by 912.5 points.

The 26-year-old remains upbeat about the injury.

“It is definitely a blessing for it to only be something that doesn’t require surgery,” Cates said. “It is still unfortunate that I am going to have to miss an event in Seattle where there is a 15/15 and double points available, but at least I am still going to be able to finish the first half.

“I am definitely thankful for that.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: ALBUQUERQUE, DAY 3 (3-23-15)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Here are three things we learned from the Ty Murray Invitational at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit, on Sunday afternoon.

Oliveira wins Round 3 and moves to within 1,000 points of No. 1 ranking

Valdiron de Oliveira knew he had to change his mindset coming into the final day of action at the Ty Murray Invitational seeing as he had only one score – the lowest in the event (65.5 points on Beer Belly) – on the board.

Therefore, Oliveira understood that for him to have any chance of getting into the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, he would have to ride Little Red Jacket in Round 3 for a second qualified ride.

He did just that and more.

Oliveira earned his third round win of the 2015 BFTS by riding Little Red Jacket for 89.25 points to pick up 100 of the 110 points he earned this weekend toward the world standings.

“Well, today I told my wife (Andrea) in my room that I need to change my mind because I was mad that I didn’t get on the re-ride the first day and bucked off (Esteban II in the second round),” Oliveira said. “I wanted to attack and I needed to ride tonight.”

Oliveira was bucked off by Buck Dynasty (45-point bull score) in 2.46 seconds during the championship round.

The round win eventually helped the 35-year-old tie for sixth place in the event with Kaique Pacheco. Oliveira earned 10 points for placing 14th in the event average and the 110 points he earned this weekend has put him to within 936.67 points of the No. 1 spot in the world standings.

“I feel great,” said Oliveira, who had applied some Icy Hot to his shoulder prior to the event. “I feel alright and I feel much stronger. I didn’t have a good pick in the championship round, but it is OK. I am focused on riding all of the bulls right now.”

Percolator wins high-marked bull title in his second consecutive out

It was a weekend featuring the big guns of the PBR’s rank bull pen, yet it was Jeff Robinson’s Percolator stealing the show away from World Champion Bull contenders Mick E Mouse, Long John and Smooth Operator.

Percolator bucked off Stormy Wing in 4.54 seconds and was awarded a season-best, 46-point bull score to earn top bull honors in his second consecutive out.

“The last two events he has been to, he has been good,” Robinson said. “He just bucks every time. Coming into this event, with all of Chad (Berger’s) bulls here, Long John, Mick E Mouse – he is not supposed to win on paper, but that is why they don’t play it on paper.”

The bovine athlete didn’t buck in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last weekend, but two weeks ago in Fresno, California, Percolator was the high-marked bull with a 45.25-point outing against Brady Sims. Percolator dumped Sims in 5.32 seconds.

The 46 points Percolator earned in Albuquerque were the most the bull has been awarded since scoring 46.25 points when J.B. Mauney rode him for 94 points during the championship round of the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“They have rode him a time or two this year,” Robinson said. “Coming out of the winter, he gets a little heavy, but that bull showed he is tough. He was in the top three or four bulls last year in Las Vegas. That bull can do it whether they ride him or don’t ride him.”

One bull that remains to be unridden is Mick E Mouse.

Marlene Henry’s bovine athlete posted the second-highest bull score of the evening (45.5 points) in a marquee matchup against J.W. Harris.

Harris had all intentions of selecting Mick E Mouse on Sunday during the championship-round draft and he did so with the fifth selection.

After that, it was all Mick E Mouse.

Mick E Mouse downed Harris in 2.97 seconds for his 33rd consecutive buckoff on the BFTS and third against Harris.

“The last two times I have gotten on him, he has just gotten my free arm up and behind me,” Harris said. “He is just raising me back. Usually I don’t do that, but for some reason the past two times I have done that. He felt good. I just was raised up and had my free arm up and behind me.”

Jones earns first BFTS win since Aug. 15, 2010

It had been almost five years since Ben Jones was victorious on the Built Ford Tough Series until he put forth one of the best efforts in his 10-year BFTS career on Sunday in the championship round.

Despite being the oldest rider currently on the BFTS, Jones showed the ability to tame the previously unridden Beaver Creek Beau for 90.25 points to win the championship round and the overall event title in Albuquerque.

“I don’t know, it still hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Jones said. “I had really been fighting my head the last few weeks and I got a good ride at the end of last week. It was time to step up and win one.”

Jones was able to handle every single jump, twist and redirection from Chad Berger’s bull as the 9,847 fans in attendance and all of the riders on the back of the bucking chute roared with each passing second.

He is the first rider to conquer Beaver Creek Beau in 21 outs.

“I have been watching him for two weeks at home and a few people said they thought if I could stay forward he could suit me,” Jones said. “When J.B. (Mauney) was here we were talking and he said, ‘When you are in a bind, don’t stop moving.’ Well, I was in a bind, so I kept moving and it worked out.”

Jones finished the weekend 3-for-4 and earned a total of 550 points toward the world standings to move from 17th to eighth.

Jones earned 100 points for winning the championship round on Beaver Creek Beau, 50 points for placing third in Round 3 with an 87.5-point ride on White Lie and 400 points for winning the event average title with a combined total ride score of 263 points.

Joao Ricardo Vieira was the only other rider to earn a qualified ride in the championship round, picking up 88 points on Walk Off. Vieira earned 60 of the 310 points he earned this weekend toward the world standings for placing second to Jones in the championship round.

Vieira went 3-for-4 and earned 240 points for finishing second in the event average (259.75 points). The 2013 Rookie of the Year also earned 10 points on Friday night by finishing tied for fifth-place in Round 1 with an 86.5-point ride on Red Dingo.

The No. 2-ranked bull rider trails world leader Matt Triplett by just 385 points. 

Coincidentally, Jones’ last BFTS win came on Aug. 15, 2010, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he also posted a 90.25-point ride (Buffalo Hump) in the championship round.

Four-plus years is a long time to go without getting a victory, yet Jones never doubted he would win another BFTS event.

“You know, this is probably the best in my mind I have ever been in my life. My fitness is getting there, but I have a more level head. I think I am going to get a couple more wins because I am on a high and on a roll now.”

Injury updates

Kaique Pacheco qualified for the championship round and was bucked off in 6.08 seconds by Long John after being given the last spot in the round due to Eduardo Aparecido being unable to compete because of an aggravation to his pre-existing left shoulder sprain.

World leader Matt Triplett did not compete due to his torn left MCL/PCL and said that he plans to undergo an MRI on Monday when he returns home to Columbia Falls, Montana.

The 23-year-old then expects to send the results to Dr. Tandy Freeman for further analysis.

Reese Cates, the No. 6 bull rider in the world, hopes to get an MRI done on his strained right biceps in Dallas on Monday with Freeman.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: TRIPLETT INJURES KNEE (3-21-15)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Here are three things we learned following Round 2 of the Ty Murray Invitational at the WisePies Arena, aka The Pit, on Saturday night.

Triplett tears left PCL and MCL in Round 2

World leader Matt Triplett was a dealt a major blow to his hunt for his first career world title when he was kicked in the left leg by Coyote after being thrown from the bull at the 3.69-second mark during the second round.

Triplett immediately grasped at his left knee once he hit the ground and had to be helped out of the arena by the PBR sports medicine staff.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Triplett has torn his left MCL and PCL and will be out for the foreseeable future:

“He was kicked by the bull and he has torn the posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament of his left knee,” Freeman said. “He is not going to be riding tomorrow, and we will be getting an MRI (this week) to confirm everything and make sure he doesn’t have any meniscal damage.

“We will have a long talk about what his options are, but the history with trying to go back with this injury too quickly isn’t very good, so he is likely out until the summer break. But that decision hasn’t been made yet.”

Triplett is tied for the BFTS lead in event wins (two) and round wins (five). The 23-year-old was riding at a career-best, 52.63-percent clip (20-for-38) at the time of the injury.

He leads No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira by 685 points in the world standings.

Harris wins Round 2 and is itching for rematch with Mick E Mouse

J.W. Harris won Round 2 on Saturday night with an 87.25-point ride on Wesley’s Pet to gain another 100 points toward the world standings.

However, the bigger news was that a confident Harris made it clear he has all intentions of selecting the currently undefeated Mick E Mouse (32-0, BFTS) on Sunday afternoon in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round if he has the opportunity to.

“I don’t think it really matters where I am at. I am going to pick him,” Harris said. “I am not going to back down from him.”

If Harris gets his wish, it will be the third time the two have tangled in the PBR arena.

Mick E Mouse blasted Harris in Anaheim, California, this past February in just 2.65 seconds. Marlene Henry’s bovine athlete was marked a BFTS season-high 47 points during that trip and reminded everyone how rank he can be.

Harris nearly rode Mick E Mouse in their first meeting last season in Thackerville, Oklahoma, before being tossed off at the 7.47-second mark.

“He has thrown me off twice, and I really don’t feel like he should have ever thrown me off the two times I got on him. I kind of have a little score to settle with him.”

There may be no better moment than this weekend for Harris to take on Mick E Mouse.

The four-time PRCA champion has averaged 86.68 points per ride in his last 10 qualified rides – all of which have placed him in the Top 5 of every BFTS round during that stretch – and he has been on fire since winning the Kansas City, Missouri, BFTS event four weeks ago for his first career win.

The 2014 PBR Rookie of the Year has gone 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) since beginning the season 5-for-19 (26.32 percent), and he has an overall riding percentage of 42.86 percent in his second year on tour.

Still, Mick E Mouse will be no easy foe as the bovine athlete is averaging a career-high 45.31 points per out.

“Shoot, I am not scared of him,” Harris said. “To me, he is just what you want in the short round. He is going to buck hard and you are going to be 90 on him.”

Harris already succeeded once this weekend in a rematch.

He had previously been bucked off by Wesley’s Pet in St. Louis last month in 2.47 seconds, but he made the proper adjustments on Saturday to come through with a qualified ride this time in Albuquerque.

“He just tries to raise you up,” Harris said. “I focused on staying down because I got on him earlier this year and he made pretty quick work of me. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”

Harris also heads into Sunday No. 1 in the event average in Albuquerque with 173.75 points on two bulls.

With his third round win of the season, Harris now sits 737.5 points back of the world No. 1 ranking.

Robson AragaoRubens Barbosa and 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi finished Round 2 in a three-way tie for second place, each receiving 87-point scores for their rides and 50 points toward the world standings.

The points were especially important for Aragao and Barbosa, who were competing as alternates this weekend.

Barbosa rode Rough’em Up Tuck for his first ride since returning from his broken right ankle and the 50 points jumps him to 30th in the world standings after beginning the night in 32nd.

“It does not hurt,” Barbosa said. “It just hurts when I buck off and land on it. I stay in my house for two weeks and stay off it. I need to come back and ride because I live for this.”

Aragao’s season-high ride on Cash Ya Out bumps him from 38th in the world to 33rd heading into Round 3.

“I am very happy because I don’t come here just to fall off all of the bulls all of the time,” Aragao said. “I come here to win and ride pretty good. I am very happy and I want to stay here. Me and Guilherme are trying hard and we go to the gym together. We are making it fun now.”

The 35-year-old has been struggling to put together the kind of success on the BFTS (3-for-10) he has had on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour, where he has gone 14-for-22 (63.64 percent).

Marchi – the No. 11 bull rider in the world – was extremely proud of Aragao’s success.

“I am more happy for (Aragao),” Marchi said. “That guy is on the bubble all the time and he is such a nice guy.”

There were a total of 14 qualified rides in Round 2, and eight riders head into Round 3 at a perfect 2-for-2. 

Native American invite Sells brings packed house to life

Ivan Sells couldn’t help but embrace the biggest moment of his bull riding career on Saturday night.

After spending most of Friday trying to act like a consummate professional and keep his composure, Sells let his personality shine in Round 2 Saturday when he rode Barstool Mountain for 84.5 points.

A slight smile crossed his face when he looked behind at the bull just after his ride was over as the Albuquerque crowd (11,747), which was the largest group of people Sells has ever ridden in front of, erupted for the full-blooded Navajo and Native American invite.

“I was too excited,” Sells said. “Oh, it was awesome. He was a handful. He kept coming around and after about three rounds I saw everything good. It was just a good bull. They told me a lot about him. He had a lot of timing and came out good.”

Sells’ ride was good enough to tie him for ninth in the second round with Stormy Wing (84.5 points on Hott Fudge).

The ovation only got louder for Sells while he walked up the arena steps toward the locker room, stopping to pose with fans for photos and respond to autograph requests.

“It is breath taking and my heart started beating more,” Sells said. “I am blown away. I am speechless now.”

Injury updates

Reese Cates, the No. 6 bull rider in the world, is also set to undergo an MRI, likely on Monday, to see if he has a bicep tear in his right arm (riding arm) following a practice pen incident last week.

Cates did not compete in Round 2 and expects to miss a few weeks once he receives results from the MRI.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: TY MURRAY INVITATIONAL, DAY 2 (3-20-15)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Ty Murray Invitational on Friday night at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.

Jenkins shows how much he loves Albuquerque

L.J. Jenkins generated the loudest ovation of any rider this season thus far with his 88.75-point ride on Little Red Jacket to finish Round 1 in second place.

The Texico, New Mexico, high school graduate is always a fan favorite at the Ty Murray Invitational and he continues to have a successful history in Albuquerque.

“I love Albuquerque, that is basically it,” Jenkins said. “I always can’t wait to get here. It seems like I always have a slow start (to the season) before I get here. Then I ride good and get the momentum going. Hopefully I can go for another event win this weekend.”

Jenkins has a career riding average of 58.06 percent (18-for-31) at the Ty Murray Invitational and has twice won the event (2011/2008).

The 27-year-old said he had seen Little Red Jacket a couple of times before attempting him on Friday night.

“That is an awesome bull,” Jenkins added. “When I saw the draw, I couldn’t have been happier. I have been excited all week.”

Jenkins earned 60 points for the second-place finish and moves from 25th in the world standings to 23rd.

Michael Gaffney, the 1997 World Champion, was in attendance and called Jenkins’ ride “outstanding.”

“Hell, after that, us New Mexicans will claim him,” Gaffney said. “They get behind their boys. They know that even though he has transplanted over to Oklahoma, he still belongs to them.”

Gaffney is the only other New Mexico native to win a PBR world title – Owen Washburn won the 1996 championship – and he explained that one of his biggest disappointments in his career was never winning an event in Albuquerque.

“That was one of the most disappointing things of all of my years being at this event,” Gaffney said. “I was never able to take home a win or even – from what I remember – have any great round success. Call it trying to hard or trying to make something happen for the home crowd – that is what you want to hear.”

Those loud ovations and fan support is why Jenkins loves coming to Albuquerque every year.

“These are the best bull riding fans out there and they seem to get louder for the New Mexican guys,” he concluded.

A healthier Pacheco wins his fifth round of 2015

Kaique Pacheco busted out of his 1-for-8 slide with a round-winning 89.75 points on Joe The Grinder to earn round points for the first time since winning Round 1 in Kansas City, Missouri, with an 89.75-point ride on Brutus.

“It was a little bit hard tonight,” Pacheco said with the help of Valdiron de Oliveira translating. “He rode good, but the bull pushed forward on my hand and went around a little bit.”

Pacheco believes his recent struggles were a product from when he was slammed to the ground by Smooth Operator in 2.45 seconds during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Kansas City, Missouri. He has spent the past three weeks dealing with soreness from the wreck.

“My body had been so sore, but this week I finally feel much better and was ready to come to work,” Pacheco said. “A couple of weeks ago, I just landed too hard on the ground and my body stayed sore because the ground was so hard.”

Pacheco earns 100 points for the Round 1 win – he is now tied with Matt Triplett for the most BFTS round wins – and returns to the Top 5 (No. 4 overall) of the world standings after having dropped to sixth during his cold streak.

He gains 100 points on Triplett. The world leader rode Rock River Red for 84.5 points, but finished the first round tied for 11th with Claudio Crisostomo (84.5 points on Deja Voodoo).

Eduardo Aparecido earned 50 points for placing third with 87.75 points on Legal Tender, and Cooper Davis picked up 40 points with a career-high 86.75 points aboard Wasted Wages.

Joao Ricardo Vieira, J.W. Harris and Guilherme Marchi earned 10 points apiece for splitting fifth place in the round with 86.5-point rides on Red Dingo, Past Time and Stuntin Like My Daddy, respectively.

Harris nearly didn’t get out on Past Time, but finally was able to nod his head and make the most of the situation despite being held up for a few minutes inside the bucking chute.

Marchi was frustrated following his ride on Stuntin Like My Daddy and felt he deserved a higher score on his re-ride.

The 2008 World Champion was even more frustrated earlier in the night when he had to challenge for the re-ride when Hungry Eyes barreled into the right side of the arena boards.

There were a total of 17 qualified rides in Round 1.

Schaper battles through four bull riding attempts in 15 minutes

If Ford gave out a Built Ford Tough award, then the recipient on Friday night would have to be Nathan Schaper.

The No. 10 bull rider in the world attempted four bulls in roughly a 15-minute timeframe, and things got especially tougher for the Grassy Butte, North Dakota, native when he had to nod his head for three of the final four outs of the night.

Schaper wound up riding Say I Won’t Playboy for 84.75 points to finish Round 1 in 10th place and called it a moral victory while trying to regain his breath.

“I am really tired,” said an exasperated Schaper with sweat dripping down his face. “The rope… he wasn’t even, ah, you just had to throw it on and go. It was…I don’t know. I am glad that was my last one for the night.”

Schaper’s evening began with a re-ride option following his 67.25-point ride on Pile Driver. He was then given two more re-ride options after failed attempts aboard Cash Ya Out and Strong Heart.

The 24-year-old added that he never attempted that many bulls in that short of a time period.

He felt relieved when he realized about half way through the ride on Say I Won’t Playboy that he was in control of the bovine athlete.

“When he turned back there and I gathered him up, I felt pretty good,” Schaper said. “I had fun. Everyone was watching and people were giving me crap. I was starting to think I was weighing them down too much. They kept falling down in the bucking chute too much. I don’t know what was going on. It was just bad luck really.” 

Injury updates

Two of the Top 6 riders in the world standings (Triplett and Reese Cates) were competing with injuries on Friday night, according to Dr. Tandy Freeman.

Triplett was able to record a qualified ride despite a sprained right sernoclavicular joint in his riding arm that he hurt when he hit his shoulder last week in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round during his buckoff against Spotted Demon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Cates was not so successful in Albuquerque. The No. 6 bull rider in the world was in clear pain following his 78-point ride on Kung Fu Fighter, but he still decided to accept his re-ride option on More Big Bucks, who bucked him off in 3.6 seconds.

There were seven additional riders competing with injuries in Round 1: Jenkins (unstable right shoulder); Aparecido (sprained left shoulder, free arm); Douglas Duncan (right shoulder contusion, free arm); Ryan Dirteater (unstable left knee); Dave Mason (sprained left riding hand); Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain) and Stormy Wing (sprained left MCL).

Nine riders were listed as officially out of competition: J.B. Mauney (left knee); Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction); Ty Pozzobon (concussion); Markus Mariluch (bicep tear); Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture); Billy Robinson (left PCL tear); Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff); Cody Nance (pelvis sprain) and Tanner Byrne (sprained left thumb, riding hand).

Rubens Barbosa (right ankle), Kasey Hayes (concussion), Wing (right leg contusion) and Aparecido (sprained left shoulder, free arm) also returned to competition this weekend.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

GROUP OF RIDERS TO MISS ALBUQUERQUE (3-18-15)

PUEBLO, Colo. – Cody Nance, Tanner Byrne and Aaron Roy have all been ruled out for the Ty Murray Invitational.

Byrne (thumb) and Roy (personal reasons) are expected to return next week for the Seattle Invitational, while Nance is likely out until April 11 for the DEWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational in Nampa, Idaho.

Nance is ranked 13th in the world standings and was riding at a career-best rate of 43.33 percent (13-for-30) prior to missing the second round in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a pelvic contusion/sprain.

The injury occurred during his 74-point ride on Yak Attack in Fresno, California. Regardless of the injury, Nance finished third for a season-best finish in Fresno and earned 220 points toward the world standings.

The Paris, Tennessee, bull rider explained Saturday that his pelvis had been bothering him for some time now and PBR sports medicine recommended he take some time off to strengthen and rehab his hips.

“I managed to get through the ride (3.67-second buckoff on Cowtown Rock) last night, but it hurt a lot worse than last Sunday. It hurts to squeeze and that is a big issue riding bulls. That is how we hang on to our bulls. I will get this worked out and I will be stronger.”

Byrne said his sprained thumb is similar to the one that Douglas Duncan had to have surgery on last year, but that he didn’t suffer a tear. The No. 20 bull rider in world is using the weekend off to avoid further injury.

“Didn’t tear it off, so I don’t want to overdo it and tear it like his,” Byrne said. “I’ll give it the weekend and see how it goes. I can’t hang on to my rope right now, so no point in getting on this weekend.”

Roy is unable to compete in Albuquerque because of a prior commitment, but he is not injured and will be good to go in Seattle.

The three riders being out, as well as injuries to J.B. Mauney and Chase Outlaw, has opened up five alternate positions in the draw for Lachlan Richardson (35), Cody Tyler White (35), Robson Aragao (38), Luis Blanco (40) and Tyler Harr (41).

Richardson enters the weekend as the top alternate and is ranked 35th in the world standings with 190 points. He is one of six riders within 55 points of the No. 30 position held by Bryan Titman.

The 22-year-old has drawn Springsteen (5-1, BFTS) for Round 1 on Friday night. Matt Triplett became the first rider to make 8 seconds on the bull in his BFTS career two weeks ago in Fresno when he covered him for 86.25 points.

White gets his third shot at recording his first qualified ride of the season when he takes on Say I Won’t Playboy (8-1, BFTS). Say I Won’t Playboy has bucked off five straight riders since Zane Lambert rode him for 84.75 points in Sacramento, California.

Aragao takes on Cowboy’s Dancehall Blonde Bomber (9-11, BFTS). Rubens Barbosa, who is returning to the BFTS after missing two weeks because of a broken ankle, rode Blonde Bomber for 87.5 points to tie for the Round 1 win at Iron Cowboy.

Barbosa faces Easy Money (0-2, BFTS) on Friday night. Easy Money has been ridden by Triplett (86.25 points) and Neil Holmes (85.25 points).

Blanco has Oscar P (8-0, BFTS) and Harr has Black Soul (2-0, BFTS).

Stormy Wing (bruised right calf) and Eduardo Aparecido (sprained left shoulder) are returning to action in Albuquerque after missing the Built Ford Tough Championship Round last weekend.

Wing will face Cookie Monster, who Richardson rode for 83.25 points in his debut, and Aparecido will take on Legal Tender (1-1, BFTS).

Kasey Hayes has drawn Born Sinner (8-2, BFTS), but he will first have to pass the PBR concussion test before competing.

Gage Gay (42) is back on the BFTS for at least one weekend because of his BlueDEF Velocity Tour win in Hampton, Virginia. Gay begins the Ty Murray Invitational 90 points back of Titman.

Ivan Sells is this year’s Native American invite in Albuquerque and the 2014 International Indian National Finals Rodeo champion will make his BFTS debut against Wesley’s Pet (4-0, BFTS).

Triplett will try to build on his world lead with a tough rematch against Rock River Red (21-4, BFTS). The bull got the best of Triplett last year in Tacoma, Washington, with a 3.32-second buckoff.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: SIOUX FALLS, DAY 2 (3-14-15)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Here are three things we learned from this weekend’s First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

Bulls pitch shutout in championship round

For the second time this season, the bulls in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round proved their dominance against the top riders on the Built Ford Tough Series.

Boot Jack led the way on Saturday night with a 45.5-point bull score as all 13 bulls in the championship round took care of their opponents in an average of 3.75 seconds.

Only 13 riders competed in the championship round after there were only 20 qualified rides on the weekend.

Stormy Wing (bruised calf) and Eduardo Aparecido (sprained left shoulder) had qualified for the championship round, but dropped out because of their respective injuries suffered in Round 2.

CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart believes the riders had an off-night and an off-weekend because of mounting injuries and the grind of the season. 

Sioux Falls was the 11th stop of the BFTS and injuries, soreness and the rigors of travel have begun to take their toll.

“I’m going to say it was an off-night for the guys for the most part, but I think a lot of the reason for the off-night for the guys would be because of the injuries and the time of year it is,” Hart said. “Guys are starting to get a little burnt out of traveling and are getting tired, really.”

At the conclusion of the event, there were 19 riders listed on Dr. Tandy Freeman’s official injury report (see below), which is not including the unofficial injuries that another group of riders are dealing with.

Four-time Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger was the owner of the three high-marked bulls of the weekend – Boot Jack (45.5 points), Cooper Tires Brown Sugar (45.25 points) and Smooth Operator (45 points).

Boot Jack earned top honors by dumping Valdiron de Oliveira in 1.6 seconds, while Cooper Tires Brown Sugar shook down Cooper Davis in 5.98 seconds and Smooth Operator bucked off Nathan Schaper in 3.42 seconds to kick off the championship round.

“When all of the best bulls are there, they have a good chance at posting a shutout,” Berger said. “Today, I think the guys just missed a step. I think you found out today all of the great bulls ain’t from Texas and Oklahoma. There are a few in North Dakota.”

In Sacramento, California, the championship round bulls bucked off all 15 of their opponents.

Harris overcomes Arrow Truck Sales Hot Iron, jumps to fourth in world standings

J.W. Harris jumped from eighth to fourth in the world standings this weekend, and he did so in part by riding Arrow Truck Sales Hot Iron for 86.5 points to finish Round 2 tied for second place with Ben Jones.

“He dives around the corner to the left, but, shoot it worked out good,” Harris said. “I had seen him a few times and he looked good. I was excited after getting the ride last night (87.25 points on Oyster Creek) and thought he would fit my style pretty good.”

Hot Iron had bucked off his previous eight BFTS opponents. Brady Sims last rode him for 88.25 points in Des Moines, Iowa.

Harris earned 55 points for the round finish, and wound up placing second overall in the event average to earn an additional 240 points to finish the weekend second overall with 395 points toward the world standings.

It is the second-most points Harris, who won Round 1 on Friday night with 87.25 points on Oyster Creek, has earned this season outside of his event win in Kansas City, Missouri.

“You are supposed to ride all of the long-round bulls and it helps when you draw two good ones like I did,” Harris said.

Harris has ridden both his Round 1 and Round 2 bulls in four BFTS events this season.

The four-time PRCA champion’s only slip up in Sioux Falls came in the championship round when American Sniper hooked his horn into the gate while leaving the bucking chute before dispatching Harris in 4.45 seconds.

Harris wasn’t the only rider to make a move within the Top 5 of the standings as Joao Ricardo Vieira moved to second in the world standings by earning 240 total points in Sioux Falls.

Vieira saw his consecutive ride streak snapped at eight in the championship round by Diesel (6.99 seconds), but he did enough damage to cut Matt Triplett’s lead to 695 points.

The 2013 Rookie of the Year finished third in the event average (2-for-3) to gain 180 points to the world standings in addition to the 60 points he earned on Friday night for placing second behind Harris with his 87-point ride on Butcher’s Nightmare.

He rode Oyster Creek for 85.25 points in Round 2, but he didn’t place within the Top 5 of the round.

Triplett finished 1-for-3 and earned 10 points for finishing 11th in the event average.

Lee cracks the Top 30 thanks to first win of 2015

Mike Lee began the weekend as an alternate in Sioux Falls, but the 2004 World Champion left the Mount Rushmore State with a guaranteed spot on tour for the foreseeable future by winning the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational.

Lee edged J.W. Harris for the win by one point in the event average (174.75 to 173.75) to earn the crucial 400 bonus points that was more than enough to provide Lee with his first win of 2015.

More importantly, the 595 total points Lee earned moved him from 33rd in the world standings to 15th. He began the weekend with only 190 points in the standings.

“I didn’t know that until I nodded for my bull,” Lee said. “That stuff really don’t matter to me. I don’t know why. I am just not wired that way.”

Lee helped set himself up for the win by riding Cooper Tires Semper Fi for 88.75 points to win Round 2 and earn 100 points for the world standings.

Cooper Tires Semper Fi may have spun into Lee’s hand, but Berger’s bull was firing on all cylinders.

“Oh yeah, that bull had a lot of back up and was slinging his head,” said Lee, who mentioned on Friday night that he had been struggling with his confidence. “He can pull a guy down and I sat up when he turned around there.”

Injury updates

Wing did not compete in the championship round because of a bruised right calf that he sustained when he was stepped on by Little Joe in 2.61 seconds in the second round. According to Freeman, he is probable for next weekend’s event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Aparecido also did not compete in the final round after he sprained his left shoulder when he was struck by the Soldier Pride’s horn as he was thrown from the bull. He is questionable for Albuquerque. 

Cody Nance did not compete on Saturday night because of a pelvic contusion/sprain that was a result of his hard landing in Fresno, California, following his 74-point ride on Yak Attack. He is questionable for Albuquerque. 

Freeman also added Wing (left MCL sprain) and Tanner Byrne (sprained left thumb, riding hand) to his list of riders competing with injuries in Sioux Falls. Wing sustained his injury attempting to ride Off the Grid last week in Fresno, while Byrne hurt his thumb during his 82.75-point ride on Velvet Rain in Fresno.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: SIOUX FALLS, DAY 1 (3-13-15)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Here are three things we learned following Round 1 of the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on Friday night.

Lee breaks through with confidence builder

2004 World Champion Mike Lee admits he has never been a boastful bull rider or one that bragged about his confidence. Quite frankly, the 31-year-old said he has struggled with believing in himself for most of his career.

Therefore as Lee struggled in his 3-for-10 slump since beginning February 2-for-2, it was only natural for his confidence to waver.

Lee, who has been an alternate on the BFTS the past two weekends, finally broke through Friday night by riding Strong Heart for 86 points to finish Round 1 in fifth place.

“I ain’t going to lie. It has been freaking real bad,” Lee said. “It was all in my head. It is funny, I am a World Champion, but sometimes I have no confidence.

“I have never been a confident person, even when I was a World Champion. I am just not a boastful person. I always wanted to be and I tried to be, but I quit trying. I just want to be myself and enjoy myself. I need to be confident in what God gave me.”

Lee went back to the basics this week and got on some bulls in the practice pen, where he is most calm and relaxed.

“I like the simple things of bull riding,” he said. “The smell of the bull and the smell of the rosin – not knowing how it is going to go. I love this sport. God is good and he let me do it.”

His ride on Strong Heart was his highest-scored ride since placing fourth in the 15/15 Monster Energy Bucking Battle in New York when he rode King Buck for 88.25 points.

Lee picked up 30 points toward the world standings with his fifth-place finish in the round Friday night and he moves up one spot in the world standings to the 32nd position. He now trails Douglas Duncan, who dropped to 30th in the world standings, by 8.75 points for the last guaranteed spot on the BFTS.

Harris wins Round 1 to gain ground in world title race

J.W. Harris’ riding shirt may not have made it to Sioux Falls, but his riding ability sure did.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year rode Oyster Creek for 87.25 points to win Round 1 and earn 100 points toward the world standings.

“That was just a nice bull, a good one that just jumped up and down,” Harris said. “Once I got back there and looked at him, I remembered seeing him at some rodeos.”

It was a good rebound performance for Harris after he went 0-for-2 in Fresno following four straight Top -10 finishes.

“The way the new points system is, you have to get points every weekend,” he added. “You can’t go weekends without getting them and if you do, you better make up for it the next because they are crucial.”

Friday night was Harris’ second BFTS round win of the season, and the 100 points he earned for the win bump him up one spot in the world standings to No. 7.

He also gained ground on Matt Triplett and trails the world leader by 1,132.5 points. Triplett ended the night with an 84-point ride on Marshall Law, but he gained no points toward his No. 1 ranking.

Apparently what also wasn’t crucial – in terms of riding – was Harris’ trusty blue sponsor shirt.

“My bags didn’t make it,” Harris said with a laugh. “My clothes bag didn’t make the plane in Abilene (Texas). They left it sitting behind the counter. I had my riggin’ bag at least.”

Joao Ricardo Vieira extends riding streak to seven in a row, moves to No. 3 in the world

Joao Ricardo Vieira has been a rider on a mission since entering Iron Cowboy with a chip on his shoulder and looking to prove he was truly an Iron Cowboy.

Vieira rode his seventh bull in a row since the first round of that event by conquering Butcher’s Nightmare for 87 points.

The 2013 Rookie of the Year picked up 60 points toward the world standings and moved from fifth in the world to third after Reese Cates and Kaique Pacheco bucked off their bulls.

Vieira is averaging 83.29 points per ride during his current steak and he sits 865 points back of Triplett.

Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Cooper Davis (86.5 points on Flip Out), L.J. Jenkins (86.25 points on Bootdaddy.com) and Lee.

Injury updates

Round 1 began with a frightening moment when Shaft bucked off Kasey Hayes in 3.72 seconds and stomped on the Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team bull rider’s head – shattering his helmet.

Hayes remained down in the arena for a few minutes before being able to walk off with the assistance of PBR sports medicine.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Hayes suffered a concussion and contusions/abrasions of his face and neck. He is listed as doubtful for Round 2 on Saturday night.

There were seven riders competing with injuries in the first round, according to the official report from PBR sports medicine: L.J. Jenkins (unstable right shoulder), Cody Nance (broken right ulna, free arm), Cates (bruised left shoulder, free arm), Duncan (right shoulder contusion, free arm); Ryan Dirteater (unstable left knee); Dave Mason (sprained left riding hand) and Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain).

Eight riders were listed as official out of competition by Freeman earlier in the evening: J.B. Mauney (left ankle injury); Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction), Ty Pozzobon (concussion), Markus Mariluch (bicep tear), Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture), Billy Robinson (left PCL tear) , Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff) and Rubens Barbosa (right ankle fracture).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

MAUNEY OUT FOR SIOUX FALLS (3-12-15)

PUEBLO, Colo. – J.B. Mauney has informed the PBR that he will not be competing at the First Premier Bank PremierBankCard Invitational this coming weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Mauney is set to undergo an MRI on Saturday morning in North Carolina to find the extent of his injuries after he was hurt during Round 2 of the Fresno Invitational last weekend.

The 2013 World Champion plans on sending the MRI to Dr. Tandy Freeman for further diagnosis.

On Sunday, it was originally believed that Mauney may have fractured his left fibula and tore ligaments in his left ankle when Bring It On stepped on his back when the bull tossed Mauney in 6.8 seconds.

However, according to Mauney, X-rays on Monday showed that Mauney has not fractured his fibula. Therefore, he will now undergo an MRI to see if he possibly tore his left ACL during the wreck.

Mauney is ranked ninth in the world standings.

In other injury news, Dave Mason confirmed that X-rays were negative on his left riding hand after it was believed that he may have a ring fracture on his ring finger.

Mason is in the draw for Sioux Falls and will face Stuntin Like My Daddy (8-3, BFTS) in Round 1 on Friday night at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. It will be rematch between the two after they previously faced off at the Touring Pro Division event in Decatur, Texas, last May. Stuntin Like My Daddy bucked off Mason in 5.18 seconds.

Valdiron de Oliveira also has a rematch in the first round when he takes on HD. Oliveira rode the bull for 86.75 points at the Bass Pro Chute Out in St. Louis earlier this season for a second-place finish in Round 3.

Mason Lowe is set to make his 2015 BFTS debut after splitting the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event victory in Jacksonville with Jorge Valdiviezo as both riders notched 89.5-point rides. Valdiviezo will get his automatic bid in Des Moines, Iowa.

Cody Tyler White is also making his 2015 season debut thanks to the 50 points he earned at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Hampton, Virginia, by finishing second in the event average.

The 50 points bumped him into a tie with Lachlan Richardson and Mike Lee for 33rd in the world standings. All three riders are alternates in Sioux Falls.

White will get to tangle with Magician (2-0, BFTS) on Friday night. It will also be Magician’s season debut and the bovine athlete has bucked off nine consecutive riders at all levels.

Richardson has been slotted to face Lieutenant Dan (0-0, BFTS), and Lee will take on Strong Heart (6-3, BFTS).

Alexandre Cardozo is this weekend’s top alternate as the No. 32 rider in the world standings and is still looking for his first qualified ride on the BFTS this season entering his third event.

Cardozo has drawn Open Season (7-1, BFTS). Open Season has bucked off Brady Sims, Sean Willingham and Douglas Duncan all in 4 seconds.

Aaron Roy (44th) and Claudio Crisostomo (52) will be using their second injury exemptions to compete in Sioux Falls.

Roy will have three exemptions remaining after this weekend and he takes on Cash Ya Out (2-3, BFTS). Tanner Byrne (87 points) and Bryan Titman (85.25 points) have ridden the bull this year already.

Crisostomo will have six remaining exemptions and faces Trendon (1-0, BFTS) – the same bull that Roy rode for 90 points in November to win the PBR Canada Finals.

All the alternates and injury exemption riders will be chasing Cooper Davis, who is 30th in the world standings with 227.5 points.

There are only 97.5 points separating Davis, who takes on Flip Out, from Roy.

Matt Triplett has drawn Marshall Law (2-1, BFTS) in his attempt to build on his lead atop the world standings. Cody Nance most recently rode the bull for 85 points in New York.

INJURY REPORT

Injury updates

Round 1 began with a frightening moment when Shaft bucked off Kasey Hayes in 3.72 seconds and stomped on the Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team bull rider’s head – shattering his helmet.

Hayes remained down in the arena for a few minutes before being able to walk off with the assistance of PBR sports medicine.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Hayes suffered a concussion and contusions/abrasions of his face and neck. He is listed as doubtful for Round 2 on Saturday night.

There were seven riders competing with injuries in the first round, according to the official report from PBR sports medicine: L.J. Jenkins (unstable right shoulder), Cody Nance (broken right ulna, free arm), Cates (bruised left shoulder, free arm), Duncan (right shoulder contusion, free arm); Ryan Dirteater (unstable left knee); Dave Mason (sprained left riding hand) and Alexandre Cardozo (right elbow sprain).

Eight riders were listed as official out of competition by Freeman earlier in the evening: J.B. Mauney (left ankle injury); Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction), Ty Pozzobon (concussion), Markus Mariluch (bicep tear), Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture), Billy Robinson (left PCL tear), Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff) and Rubens Barbosa (right ankle fracture).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: Fresno, Day 2 (3-8-15)

FRESNO, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from this weekend’s Fresno Invitational at the Save Mart Center.

Roy notches first qualified ride on BFTS since May 2013

Aaron Roy came through on his personal goal to prove to himself that he indeed still has what it takes to ride on the Built Ford Tough Series.

Roy picked up his first qualified ride on the BFTS since fracturing his back at the 2013 Calgary Stampede when he rode Past Time for 86.25 points in the second round on Sunday afternoon.

“It is always something when you come back from injury to get that first one down and rode,” he said. “It feels really good to get that one down, and the way I rode, it felt like I haven’t left the sport and feel like I can still compete here.”

Roy’s last qualified ride came on May 12, 2013, when he made 8 seconds on Shameless for 88 points at Last Cowboy Standing.

The 27-year-old quickly became a fan favorite in Fresno and he received a strong ovation from the fans and his fellow riders when he made the 8-second whistle on Sunday.

“It is kind of funny how when you get injured real bad how many people get behind you and support you through it all,” Roy said. “I am just thankful for all of that.”

Not only did Roy ride Past Time, but he also earned 40 points for splitting third, fourth and fifth place with Brady Sims (Super Cool Cat) and Matt Triplett (Springsteen).

Roy was bucked off by Stanley FatMax in 2.93 seconds.

Roy is up to 44th in the world standings (130 points) and has four more injury exemptions remaining to try and crack the Top 30 of the world standings. He trails No. 30 Cooper Davis by 97.5 points.

Triplett, who bucked off Mr. Bull in 2.14 seconds during the final ride attempt of the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, finished the event 2-for-3 and seventh in the event average (171.75) to earn another 20 points toward the world standings.

The current world leader extended his lead to 790 points over No. 2 Silvano Alves (1-for-3, no points).

Bolton earns share of championship-round win with career-high ride

Rookie Bonner Bolton tied with Fabiano Vieira for his first career BFTS-round win and earned 80 points to the world standings by riding LL Cool J for 88.25 points in the championship round.

LL Cool J had bucked off his previous seven challengers on the BFTS.

Bolton was able to end LL Cool J’s buckoff streak by not being surprised by the bull’s initial explosive kick out of the gate.

“It felt good,” Bolton said. “I didn’t know the bull much. He blew up. I had seen him a couple of times and I knew he would blow up that first round and get real fast. It was just trying to keep up with him after that.”

Bolton began the night 0-for-3 in Built Ford Tough Championship rounds.

“It takes all the weight off my shoulders, finally getting one down in the short round,” Bolton said. “I hadn’t done that yet at this level. No matter what the bull, I could have been 50 points today and felt that way. Thankfully, it was a good bull and a good ride. I am just thankful to be here.”

Bolton earned a total of 205 event points to finish a career-best fourth overall. Prior to the championship round, Bolton kicked off his day by riding Imagine That for 87 points to finish second in Round 2. He finished fifth in the event average (175.25) to earn 65 points toward the world standings.

Therefore, Bolton jumps from 25th to 20th in the world standings.

Vieira jumps into the Top 10 of the world standings

Fabiano Vieira became the second rider in the past two weeks to jump into the Top 10 of the world standings thanks to his Fresno Invitational victory.

Vieira finished 3-for-3 in Fresno and earned a total of 515 points to move from 18th in the world standings all the way up to seventh. The 515 points is more than the 485 points he had accumulated through the first nine events of 2015.

“I am happy and fortunate to win my first event this year,” Vieira said. “I think I rode good this weekend and I feel good.”

Vieira earned the event victory by riding Breakdown for 88.25 points in the championship round to earn 80 points toward the standings after splitting the championship round win with Bolton.

The 32-year-old selected Breakdown with the fifth pick of the championship-round draft. He had ridden both of his bulls in Round 1 (84 points on Slingshot) and Round 2 (83 points on Dirt Devil) to have an opportunity to ride for the event victory.

Vieira earned 35 of his 515 points in the first round on Saturday night by splitting fourth and fifth place with J.B. Mauney.

The Perola, Brazil, bull rider is the second consecutive 2014 world title contender that has won in the past two weeks to put himself right in the mix of the 2015 World Championship race. Last week, Joao Ricardo Vieira earned 900 points to move to No. 5 in the world after winning Iron Cowboy.

It is Vieira’s first win since winning the Allentown, Pennsylvania, event last season.

Rounding out the Top 5 in Fresno was Valdiron de Oliveira (290), Cody Nance (220), Bolton (205) and Eduardo Aparecido (175).

Aparecido won Round 2 on Sunday with an 87.5-point ride on KISS Animalize.

It was the second consecutive out that Aparecido has ridden Jeff Robinson’s bull after he rode him for 90 points in New York to win the Monster Energy 15/15 Bucking Battle.

Injury updates

2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney left the Save Mart Center with his left ankle in a walking boot and on crutches after Bring It On stepped on his back when he tossed him in 6.8 seconds during the second round on Sunday.

According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Mauney may have possibly fractured his left fibula and tore ligaments in the ankle.

Mauney plans on getting X-rays taken when he returns to North Carolina on Monday and will then send them to Freeman for an official diagnosis.

According to Freeman, Mauney is questionable for next weekend’s BFTS event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Dave Mason is also expected to undergo X-rays this week after it was discovered by PBR sports medicine that the rookie may have a ring finger metatarsal fracture on his left riding hand that he first sustained at a Touring Pro Division event earlier in the week.

Mason is also listed as questionable for Sioux Falls.

Ryan Dirteater opted out of the championship round after twisting his left knee during his 85.5-point ride on What Up in Round 2. There was no official injury update provided by PBR sports medicine.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: Fresno, Day 1 (3-7-15)

FRESNO, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Fresno Invitational at the Save Mart Center.

Triplett breaks out of slump

Matt Triplett busted out of his season-high buckoff streak by riding The Kid for 85.5 points on Saturday night to conclude Round 1 in third place.

The world leader had been previously bucked off during his past seven outs on the BFTS and his last qualified ride came in St. Louis when he rode Easy Money for 86.25 points.

“That is what comes with every sport,” Triplett said. “You are going to have your downs. It is the champions that can get back up on that hill and keep climbing, keep working, try harder and do whatever it takes to be better. Every athlete has to rise up from it.”

Triplett is the first rider to make the 8-second mark on The Kid in the bull’s eight professional outs.

“He bucks really hard and he hasn’t been rode that far,” Triplett said. “He kind of got lost a little bit and ran out, but he is really a good bull and was fun.”

The 23-year-old added that he spent the past week hanging out with fellow BFTS rider Douglas Duncan to try and refocus.

“I just haven’t put the work in like I needed to these last couple of weeks, and I went and hung out with my good buddy Douglas. Whenever I need to get my stuff fixed, that is who I hang out with.”

The third-place round finish helped him extend his lead over Silvano Alves to 730 points in the world standings thanks to the 50 points he earned.

Alves rode Hawaiian High Tide for 79.25 points, which tied him for 14th in Round 1 with Joao Ricardo Vieira.

Triplett called his first low point of the season a learning experience and one that he is happy to leave in the past.

“It was a learning moment,” he concluded. “Being able to ride everything and then you get humbled real fast. That is how bull riding always is. Getting out of that slump feels good.”

Eguchi not going down without a fight

Marco Eguchi understands his back is against the wall and that he is on the verge of being cut from the Built Ford Tough Series, but the 25-year-old has every intention of doing all he can to try and avoid that fate.

Eguchi, who began the weekend 177.5 points out of the Top 30 with Fresno being his final guaranteed event on tour, kicked off his weekend with an 80.25-point ride on Ranger.

The ride was only good enough for 13th in the round – there were a total of 17 qualified rides – and Eguchi was unable to earn any round points.

Regardless, Eguchi knows he can earn potentially enough points to crack the Top 30 of the world standings if he can finish in the Top-3 of the event average.

He finished the 2014 season 15th in the world standings.

“This week is going to be my better week,” Eguchi said. “I will do everything I can. I still have plenty of fight left.”

Eguchi competed at last weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Portland, Oregon, to test out his injured riding elbow before returning to the BFTS since last competing on tour in St. Louis.

On Saturday, he said the elbow was feeling much better.

“Yes sir, it feels good now,” Eguchi said. 

Nance tests out new head gear

A week after getting head-butted by Diesel during the Final 4 Shoot Out Round at THE AMERICAN, Cody Nance took to heart the concerns of his wife, Jordan, and started wearing his bull riding helmet once again.

Nance broke out his purple and green helmet after riding without any protection last week in Arlington, Texas, and he was able to ride Orange Crush for 83.5 points to tie with Tanner Byrne for seventh in the round.

“I always liked wearing a mask or nothing period pretty much,” Nance said. “Last week after the event, my wife said that she would feel better if I wore it. She never told me to or that I need to. I asked her, ‘Do you want me to?’ She said, ‘I would feel better about it.’ I said, ‘OK, that is all I needed to know.’”

Nance also tried out a protective cap created by SkullTec. The goal of the product is to help reduce the impact blows to the head caused in contact sports.

The skull cap is made out of a spandex and nylon blend that contains a patented-gel. Nance was able to slide the cap on underneath his helmet and was very pleased with the product.

“I totally believe in it,” Nance said. “This is a new product that a bunch of football players have been wearing. It is a little cap to put on under your helmet. It is created to absorb more of the percent of an impact and help prevent concussions.”

Injury updates

Claudio Crisostomo returned from his broken left clavicle to win Round 1 with an 86.5-point effort aboard El Capitan.

According to Crisostomo, it was only the second bull he has been on since taking the past four months off following the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals to let the injury heal.

“It feels good,” Crisostomo said with the help of Eguchi translating. “I feel great. Everybody come to make the points, and I made some points tonight.”

He also didn’t show any hesitation or fear inside the bucking chute like he did last season when he broke his clavicle during the first half of the season.

Crisostomo is guaranteed eight events to try and crack the Top 35 of the world standings due to his 27th place finish in the 2014 world standings.

Crisostomo helped his cause by winning the round, which gives him 100 points toward the world standings and already puts him tied for 48th in the world.

Aaron Roy returned to the BFTS for the first time since fracturing his back at the 2013 Calgary Stampede nearly 20 months ago.

His return didn’t go as well as he hoped, and he was bucked off by California Kid in 4.78 seconds.

The 27-year-old said he was still happy to be back at a BFTS event and even felt some of the rookie butterflies when he first walked into the arena on Saturday afternoon.

“It is pretty cool just to nod my head today,” Roy said. “It actually went a lot better than I thought, being back at this level. I thought I had him rode, but he just kind of dropped me in there. I am happy to get away clean and it feels great to be back.”

Rookie Kaique Pacheco sustained a concussion when he was thrown hard to the ground by Hot Blooded in 4.83 seconds during Round 1. According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Pacheco is questionable for Round 2.

Nine riders were competing injured during Round 1: Triplett (sprained right elbow), L.J. Jenkins (unstable right shoulder), Valdiron de Oliveira (sprained right ankle), J.B. Mauney (bruised left groin/pelvis), Sean Willingham (right leg strain), Nance (broken right forearm), Reese Cates (bruised left shoulder), Duncan (right shoulder contusion), Ryan Dirteater (left groin strain).

Six riders remain out of competition because of injury: Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction),  Ty Pozzobon (concussion), Markus Mariluch (bicep tear), Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture), Billy Robinson (left PCL tear) and Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

BEHIND THE CHUTES: CRISOSTOMO SET TO MAKE DEBUT

PUEBLO, Colo. – Before Kaique Pacheco had stormed onto the Built Ford Tough Series this year, Claudio Crisostomo was the latest Brazilian bull rider to make a splash on the BFTS.

Crisostomo won his BFTS debut in Springfield, Missouri, by going 4-for-4 and would later go on to finish 12th in the 2013 world standings despite competing in just six BFTS events. He placed third at the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals.


Claudio Crisostomo puts up 89.75 points on Cowtown Slinger in Round 4 of the 2013 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas. 

Things began to shift downhill for the Barro Alto, Brazil, native last season when he first broke his left clavicle at the end of February in Kansas City, Missouri, while being bucked off by Lane’s Magic Train.

He eventually underwent surgery after trying to ride through the injury and missed four weeks before returning to the BFTS in mid-April. However, he was never able to truly regain his confidence from the injury out of a worry that he would injure it again.

To his dismay, Crisostomo indeed would break it again – this time in a different location on the bone –attempting a practice bull one day before the final regular-season event in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Crisostomo is ready to make a healthy return starting this weekend in Fresno, California, after undergoing using the offseason to let his clavicle heal following a 2-for-6 showing at the 2014 World Finals.

“I’m feeling good, I had to stop riding for a long time to let my clavicle heal and it took such a long time to recover since I didn’t do another surgery," Crisostomo said. "My body is tired from having so many surgeries, it’s been five already, but I’m fine, thank God, I’m no longer worried about getting on a bull”

Coincidentally, Crisostomo’s returns comes almost a year to the date when he had tried to fight his way through his first broken clavicle at the Phoenix BFTS event the week after the 2014 Iron Cowboy event.

The time around, Crisostomo will be able to comeback with a clean bill of health and because of the new PBR points system, he has eight injury exemptions due to finishing 27th in the world standings last year.

Crisostomo has drawn El Capitan (0-2, BFTS) in the first round on Saturday night. Matt Triplett (87 points) and Billy Robinson (86.75 points) have ridden the bull in his only two BFTS outs.

Joining Crisostomo in making his 2015 BFTS debut is Aaron Roy, who will be competing on the BFTS for the first time in almost 22 months this weekend

Roy will take on Jagged Edge (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1.

Marco Eguchi is also returning from injury after taking the past two weeks off from the BFTS to heal his injured elbow. However, this is Eguchi’s last guaranteed spot in the BFTS draw before facing being relegated to the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division.

It’s been a miserable 2015 for Eguchi and he trails No. 30 Cooper Davis, who holds the last guaranteed spot in the weekly BFTS draw by 177.5 points.

He will face Ranger in the first round, which will be the bull’s BFTS debut.

Both Crisostomo and Eguchi competed at the Portland, Oregon, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event last weekend to rehab their respective injuries. Crisostomo bucked off his bull, while Eguchi placed eighth with a 75.5-point ride in the first round.

Minus Chase Outlaw (torn rotator cuff), the rest of the Top 30 of the world standings is healthy enough to compete in Fresno. However, Rubens Barbosa (31st in the world standings) is out for the Fresno Invitational after breaking his ankle at Iron Cowboy.

Mike Lee is the first World Champion that will have to use a World Champion’s exemption under the new PBR’s points system. Lee is tied for 33rd in the world standings and has nine World Champion exemptions remaining for 2015. The 2004 World Champion is only 37.5 points out of the Top 30.

Lee has the only rematch in Round 1 when he faces Merlot Man (8-7, BFTS) for the first time since being bucked off in 6.42 seconds at the 2012 Anaheim Invitational.

Lachlan Richardson is tied with Lee for 33rd in the world standings and is the second alternate behind Alexandre Cardozo.  The 22-year-old Australian has Cookie Monster in the first round.

Cardozo is in the draw for the second week in the row and is the top alternate in Fresno. He is 32nd in the world standings and 22.5 points behind Davis.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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