PUEBLO, Colo. – The Built Ford Tough Series summer break is by no means a do or die scenario for any of the world’s top bull riders, but it isn’t exactly a vacation either for a majority of the riders fighting to win the 2016 World Championship.
In fact, 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco has quietly increased his lead from 72.83 points on two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney to 132.83 points, unofficially, thanks to strong back-to-back weekends in his native country.
Pacheco, an Itatiba, Brazil, bull rider, tied for fourth place this weekend at the Monster Energy PBR Brazil event in Americana and picked up 10 world points before being eliminated during PBR Brazil’s Iron Cowboy tournament.
The 21-year-old had earned 50 world points for finishing in second-place at the first Americana PBR Brazil event with a 3-for-4 performance two weeks ago.
The PBR Brazil Iron Cowboy event is similar to the Music City Knockout, the next PBR Major and BFTS event in Nashville on Aug. 19-20. The event will kick off the final stretch to the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6 at the brand new T-Mobile Arena.
It was last year in Nashville where Pacheco became the first rookie to win a PBR Major by going 2-for-5. He eliminated three Top 10 bull riders in the world standings – Matt Triplett, Stetson Lawrence, and Fabiano Vieira – at the time, as well as Aaron Roy and Tanner Byrne.
Most of all, the win put him right in the thick of the 2015 world title race as he jumped up to No. 3 in the world standings.
Pacheco set PBR rookie records for qualified rides (37) and BFTS round wins (seven) in 2015 and put forth a valiant effort as he tried to trade blows against Mauney, who eventually edged Pacheco for his second world title.
Mauney had high praise for then 20-year-old at the regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona, and said he expected Pacheco to challenge him for many years to come.
“Being 21 and young like him, it takes a lot,” Mauney said last year. “Dealing with the cameras shoved in your face when you are in a world title race. I remember being in the same spot as him with McBride and those guys. You get star struck a little bit and you don’t know how to deal with all of it and kind of keep it all separate at the same time. It will be a lot on you and it seems like it doesn’t faze him at all. He is pretty cool, calm, collected and you never see his attitude change at all no matter what bull he gets on.
“He is going to be around for a long, long time.”
Mauney may not be a fortuneteller, but his assessment of Pacheco was spot on.
Pacheco is 25-for-50 this season and his 50 percent BFTS riding percentage is second in the PBR behind Mauney.
The second-year pro was confident last year going up against Mauney, but he admitted after winning Last Cowboy Standing and taking over the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career that he feels even stronger mentally compared to last year.
He is prepared for another tough battle against the defending World Champion.
“For me, it helped a lot because he is one of the best bull riders here in the PBR,” Pacheco said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “Competing with J.B., and the other riders in the Top 5 and Top 10, make me more strong. I am very proud to compete with J.B. and the other riders here are on the Built Ford Tough.”
Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves won Round 1 in Americana with an 89.25-point ride on Tempo Fechado. Alves said in Las Vegas he believed Pacheco has the perfect mentality to try and dethrone Mauney from his championship reign.
Alves would know, he and Mauney have combined to win the past five world titles.
“He is getting strong,” Alves said. “He is comfortable. Some riders it is too much for them, the first year. Right now, he is growing up all the time. It is very good. There is not very much pressure. He is a very good bull rider. He is not nervous or feels the pressure. He is relaxed all the time. He is not nervous. Nothing.”
Pacheco knows it isn’t just about Mauney either. He is aware there are a lot of new challengers this year in the 2016 title race. There are four riders 23 years or younger inside the Top 15 of the world standings.
Rookies Derek Kolbaba and Jess Lockwood saw how close Pacheco was last year to becoming the first rookie to win the world title, and they believe they have what it takes to pull off what Pacheco failed to do in his first season.
Pacheco is impressed by the rookies’ confidence and likes that they have a similar attitude that he had his rookie year.
“I think it is great they want to win the title,” he said. “That is making me more excited to be here to ride with the best bull riders and get on the best bulls. They look like the big guns like Guilherme, J.B. They look like champions.
“The opportunity they have at this point in their career impresses me. Those kids ride so good and they have confidence. They look like they are going to be here for a long time.”
For now, he is the one they, and the rest of the top bull riders in the world, are trying to hunt down.
He could have stayed in the U.S. for the summer, but Pacheco wanted to spend some time his family and work on his new ranch in Itatiba.
Despite being home, he still slowly adding to his lead.
“I wanted to go to Brazil,” he said. “I am so close with my parents and my brother. I just bought a new ranch and built a new house. I am excited with my new house.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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