PUEBLO, Colo. - The first half of the Built Ford Tough Series is now in the books and the battle for the World Championship buckle is nowhere near settled. So far, the 2016 season has featured historic rides and dazzling debuts. In fact, the current crop of young guns on tour have made the World Championship race one of the closest in PBR history with the Top 10 riders in the world standings within 800 points of the current leader, 2015 PBR Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco.
The Top 16 rides of the first half featured everything from monstrous high scores, clutch rides, and one ride for the history books. Over the next few weeks, PBR.com will count down the top rides of the first half and look forward to the second half where the PBR World Champion will be crowned at Las Vegas’ brand new state-of-the-art T-Mobile Arena, be sure to secure your tickets for the next amazing moment.
No. 1: J.B. Mauney plays hurt and wins big in Sioux Falls
Everything that could have gone wrong for J.B. Mauney in the beginning of the First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Invitational in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, did.
In Round 1, Mauney was set to take on Speed Dial in the last ride of the night. Mauney had never faced Speed Dial before and the bull was exceptionally rowdy in the chute, eventually bucking hard and slamming the reigning World Champion against the chutes. Mauney immediately hopped off and went straight to PBR Sports Medicine, his night was over and the elbow injury he suffered left him with little to no feeling in his arm.
Surprisingly, Mauney returned the next day for Round 2, though his ride on Unwound was less than inspiring and left many questioning whether he'd ride in that night's 15/15 Bucking Battle.
With his elbow still injured and the numbness still present, he did compete, and threw down one of the best rides of his career.
His 94.25-point ride on Pearl Harbor was the highest-scored ride of the season, and was the highest since his legendary 95.25-point ride on Bushwacker. The ride won him his third consecutive 15/15 Bucking Battle and was the 68th 90-point ride of his illustrious career.
“I knew that bull was going to buck,” Mauney said. “I knew I had a chance if I rode him to be over 90. I didn’t know it was going to quite be 94. I didn’t hear the whistle. The crowd was so loud. I hit the ground and I was looking up at the clock and it said 8. That is when I knew I did my job.”
The ride almost didn't happen. Though Mauney has always been known to ride through pain, he admitted that after the injury the previous night, it was almost impossible to even hold onto his bull rope. So he arrived the next day and went straight to Sports Medicine and Dr. Tandy Freeman, determined to find a way to ride.
“I came in here and let them work on it,” Mauney said. “I talked to Tandy and he said do away with that brace and go back to taping it. That is what I did. It felt a lot better. I think I bent that brace a little bit and it wasn’t fitting quite right. I think that is partially what happened to it when that bull snatched me. So it is back to letting them tape it again.”
It was not easy, but Mauney got it done, and PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert summed it up perfectly.
“Riding a rank one like that makes you feel better.”
No. 2: Mike Lee makes history in Billings
Mike Lee has always been humble when it comes to his bull riding career so it was no surprise he tried to downplay his historic ride. That said, Lee is the kind of rider who will never say no to getting on a bull. So, with 499 career BFTS rides on his resume, all eyes were on the 2004 World Champion in Billings, Montana.
In Round 2, it happened, Lee made 8 seconds for the 500th time in his BFTS career with an 86.75-point ride on Tahonta's Magic.
Lee joined 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi as the only riders in PBR history with 500 qualified rides on the BFTS.
“It means a lot to get that many at this level,” Lee said. “The bulls are so good. He was a really good bull. I got in time with him and he has a lot of kick. He is up and down and stays in it. He is a great bull."
Lee, who debuted on the BFTS in 2002 at 18 years old, has always been driven by his passion more than the spotlight.
“I haven’t really thought about what it means, so I don’t know,” Lee said. “I am here and this is what I do.”
When factoring in minor league statistics, BlueDEF Tour numbers, and countless practice bulls he has attempted for his neighbors in Texas, Lee easily already has over 1,000 rides and 2,000 outs as a bull rider.
Bull riding is in Lee's blood, so while acknowlodging the importance of the moment, he was ready to get back to work.
“Everybody can quit talking about it now,” Lee added with a smirk.
No. 3: Kaique Pacheco takes over the world in Las Vegas
2015 PBR Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco has always had a flair for the dramatic. Last season, he came just short of beating J.B. Mauney to become the first rookie to win the PBR World Championship. So when he arrived at Last Cowboy Standing he had nothing but victory on his mind.
In Round 4 it came between him and fellow countryman Eduardo Aparecido, with only Little Red Jacket stading between him and the top of the world. So Pacheco went to work.
Pacheco rode Little Red Jacket for 88 points while Aparecido was bucked off by Asteroid leaving the 21-year-old Brazilian as the Last Cowboy Standing.
“I am very happy to do good here this week and win this event,” Pacheco said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “I came in here feeling strong, healthy and with a lot of confidence. I drew a lot of good bulls today."
The victory launched Pacheco to first place in the world standings heading into the summer break and put him in prime position to challenge for the World Championship once again when the BFTS kicks off its second half in August.
“I am so happy to be No. 1 right now," Pacheco said. "My goal is to be a World Champion. That is my dream.”
No. 4: Cooper Davis does the impossible in Albuquerque
Cooper Davis knew in his gut that he could ride Crossfire, despite the bull never being ridden in his BFTS career. For two events, Davis was ready to select Crossfire before being talked out of it by Chad Berger and PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert.
But in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round at the Ty Murray Invitational, Davis decided that enough was enough and that he was ready to follow his gut. The result was a career-best 91.5-point ride and the end of Crossfire's vaunted buckoff streak.
“He hadn’t been rode yet and I wanted to be the first guy to ride him,” Davis said. “It just so happened I got it done. It is pretty cool, especially when guys like J.B. (Mauney) had got on him, and he has thrown them off. It just shows today was my day to come out on top.”
Crossfire had been on Davis' list for a while, having been bucked off in all their previous meetings and he felt immensly satisfied finally making 8 seconds on him.
“That was my third time getting on him and that sucker bucked,” Davis said. “I wanted to pick him a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t. I kind of regretted it. To get one rode like that gives a man a confidence booster.”
No. 5: Mason Lowe becomes the top gun in Albuquerque
Mason Lowe had been there before, turning in a 90-point ride in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round only to come up just short of the event title. So, though confident, he still had to wait and see how things would play out in the championship round of the Ty Murray Invitational.
In the end, his 90-point ride on Brutus held up as the high mark and finally awarded him his first career BFTS win.
“I was sitting there by the fence with one guy left to ride, and it was Stetson on Bruiser and I figured he would ride him,” Lowe said. “I didn’t want to put my chips in the basket yet. When he got bucked off it was a sigh of relief I guess.”
It was the second time Lowe threw down a 90-point ride, the only other time being his 91-point effort on SweetPro's Bruiser in Oklahoma City earlier this season, and he felt just as strong in Albuequerque.
“Brutus is up and down and I kind of got a longer arm so I can take it away from him in a way,” Lowe said. “Therefore, at the end I got to spur him at the end. I got to feeling too good.”
More importantly, he finally got to see his effort pay off with a win.
“Finally,” Lowe said with a smile. “I finally got the win.”
No. 6: Jess Lockwood becomes the hometown hero in Billings
For a month since his debut in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Jess Lockwood could do no wrong. He won his first BFTS round in his debut, then won another the very next week in Little Rock, Arkansas and then headed into the Stanley Performance in Action Invitational in Billings, Montana, just a few hours away from his hometown of Volborg, on a hot streak.
With his friends and family in the stands, he gave them, and the state of Montana, a reason to cheer as he won Round 3 and then shut the building down with a 90.5-point ride on Modified Clyde to win his first career event.
It was the first 90-point ride of his young career, and it was the culmination of a month that proved the promise he showed over the past year.
“It was pretty nerve racking,” Lockwood said. “He started spinning right there and (Cody) Lambert told me he was going to have some suck back and to stay back on my pockets just a little enough to have him set me up each jump. He got me really loose there the whole time and finally he blew me out of there but luckily my hand stayed in the tail of my rope.”
Lockwood became one of five 18-year-olds to win a BFTS event and was the second youngest to do so. Doing it in his home state made the experince all the more surreal.
“It means the world to do it in my home state,” Lockwood said. “I am pretty excited, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Words can’t really describe it.”
No. 7: J.B. Mauney shows there's a first time for everything in St. Louis
J.B. Mauney has never been one to worry too much about personal stats, as he likes to say he just rides a bull jump for jump. So the fact that he had never won a 15/15 Bucking Battle was far from his mind in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mauney came to ride that night, winning Round 2 and turning in a 90.25-point trip aboard Sheep Creek to win his very first 15/15 Bucking Battle.
It wasn't an easy trip, and Mauney had to adjust, which has been a hallmark of his career.
“I don’t know how that worked,” Mauney said. “That is not the correct way to ride bulls, but like I always say, you keep your hand shut and you keep trying and things will work out that aren’t supposed to work out.”
The ride was the 67th 90-point ride in his BFTS career and added to his lead among active riders. More than anything, Mauney enjoys a challenge and it shows in his work, whether it's making an adjustment mid-ride or heading to Oklahoma for a bounty bull challenge.
No. 8: Des Moines finally crowns Derek Kolbaba
Derek Kolbaba had already built a name for himself when he arrived on the Built Ford Tough Series after winning three BlueDEF Tour events. The then 19-year-old Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider even added a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory in just his second 2016 BFTS event in Anaheim. Kolbaba's impressive resume was missing one thing, though, a BFTS event win.
That changed in Des Moines, Iowa, with an 89-point ride on Kookabura in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“Finally got that first win,” Kolbaba said. “This is what I have been searching for all year long. It worked out here, but I didn’t think it would coming off that first one. Heck, I knew if I came back and rode the other two it would at least put me in a good position. Sometimes it works that way and I am happy it did.”
The win in Des Moines moved him back into the Top 10, where he currently sits at No. 8, and has grown his already budding confidence. So much so, that he has decided to challenge reigning PBR World Champion Bull SweetPro's Long John next month at the Young Guns Challenge portion of the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event in Decatur, Texas.
No. 9: Paulo Lima's hunch in New York made him the one and only
When Paulo Lima walked into Madison Square Garden before the Built Ford Tough Championship Round of the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, he had already long decided how that Sunday was going to go.
He was going to select Cochise in the championship round draft, and ride him.
It was a discussion he previously had with Robson Palermo the night before, and it was a hunch he knew he could deliver on.
Eight seconds later, Lima had bested Cochise for 90 points and locked up the victory in the first PBR Major of the season.
“I went to sleep thinking of this bull and I got up this morning thinking about this bull,” Lima said with the help of Palermo translating. “It is funny. We are sharing a room and we were arguing about who was going to get on Cochise in the short go.”
In nine outs since New York, Lima has remained the only rider to have ridden Cochise this season (9-1, BFTS), and it was a ride that brought the most famous arena in the world to its feet. More importantly, it brought some confidence back to Lima, who had not ridden on the BFTS full time since 2011.
“I am really happy and so proud of myself because I took four years off over here and I won this event,” Lima said. “I am really happy.”
No. 10: Mason Lowe bests Bruiser in Oklahoma City
Mason Lowe has never been shy when it comes to bull riding. He proved it when he selected SweetPro's Bruiser with the second pick in the bull draft before the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Oklahoma City.
Up until that point, Bruiser had not been ridden by a right-handed rider on the BFTS, but Lowe had a feeling he could change that.
Eight seconds later, Lowe hopped off Bruiser earning 91 points, enough to win the championship round with style.
“I heard everyone on the back of the chutes hollering and right at the end he got me on the end of my arm and kind of blew up,” Lowe said. “He tried to whoop me down and I let loose for a second and got back on top of my rope.”
The ride capped a 4-for-4 weekend for Lowe who ended up finishing second in the event. Coming just short would stick with him for a while but the ride on Bruiser was something he knew he could do, just like he knew he could win on the BFTS.
“I woke up this morning wanting to pick that bull and I knew he fit my style,” Lowe said. “He kind of had me off for a second and I just let loose and everything and let it go.”
No. 11: Derek Kolbaba walks away a winner in Anaheim
Usually, when a rider turns in a monster ride to win a 15/15 Bucking Battle, their first reaction is pure exlihliration. But, in Anaheim, California, Derek Kolbaba just wanted to make sure he walked away healthy after his winning 89.75-point ride on DaNutso.
Kolbaba went straight to PBR Sports Medicine after getting hung up and stomped on by DaNutso, but he was able to walk away ok and fully enjoy the first 15/15 Bucking Battle victory of his career.
“Shoot, it is something else,” Kolbaba said. “I just need to keep doing what I am doing and keep riding consistent and everything should fall into place.”
Though his ride was superb, he was quick to admit the ending could have gone a little better.
“I wish I could have had a better get off,” Kolbaba added. “That is part of it. I am glad it worked out.”
No. 12: J.B. Mauney makes it two in Kansas City
Over the course of his career, J.B. Mauney had piled up countless accolades and two PBR World Championships, but until 2016 none of those accolades included a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory. So for a man who has pretty much everything, 2016 has been a year firsts for Mauney who has collected not only his first 15/15 Bucking Battle victory, but three straight. His 89-point ride on Wicked in Kansas City secured his second victory and was the beginning of a trend for the reigning PBR World Champion.
“I knew that bull and had seen him quite a bit,” Mauney said. “I never had been on him and wasn’t sure what he was going to feel like. I knew he would go either way and bucked. All I did was I just nodded my head and I didn’t turn loose. When he stumbled, it kind of helped me out and put me exactly where I kind of needed to be so when he jumped back up I kind of picked him back up and we went on with it. Once he got to whirling it was fun after that.”
The win came right after a fourth place finish in Round 1, which placed Mauney back atop the world standings. He has remained within striking distance of first place ever since.
“I don’t know. I guess all of the cards are playing out right I guess,” Mauney said.
No. 13: Jess Lockwood dazzles in debut in Sioux Falls
Until Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there had only been rumors about Jess Lockwood. Just whispers about an 18-year-old kid, still in high school, who had been taken under the wings of Cody Lambert and Justin McBride and was beginning to show promise the Touring Pro Division and BlueDEF Tour.
He introduced himself to the BFTS world in Round 3 with an 88.25-point ride on Tom Horn that not only was his first career BFTS ride, but won him his first career round.
“He came right out of there and wrapped it up to the left and the whole time he had me scratching and clawing," Lockwood said. "I was fighting my way to get through there. I knew he was going to go back the other way at some point and he ended up going right back at the whistle and I stepped off on my feet and it was the coolest thing ever.”
It was only the beginning for Lockwood, who went on to win four rounds in consecutive events. He reached his highest point, though, just two weeks later when he won the Stanley Performance in Action Invitational, in Billings, Montana, his home state. He admits the metoiric rise has been a little bit surreal, but he knows he still has a ways to climb and that he has the talent to do it.
No. 14: Ben Jones comes through in the clutch in Phoenix
For the three weeks heading into the Ak-Chin Invitational in Phoenix, Ben Jones was fighting for his BFTS life. The veteran Australian had been flirting with the cut line and was in danger of missing not only the Ty Murray Invitational, the namesake event of his good friend and idol, but of falling off the tour completely.
That's when he delivered, riding Cowboy Dance Hall's Panda Trax for 90.75 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“I can’t thank J.D. Nix enough,” Jones said. “He called me down to his house a couple of weeks ago to go get on some practice bulls because he knew what I wasn’t doing right. He came up to me before the championship round and said 316 is your time tonight. I went along with him and I can’t thank him enough.”
The ride won him the championship round and helped him finish third in Phoenix. More importantly, the points propelled him to 19th in the world standings. The finish in Phoenix kept him on the BFTS and has helped him stay within the Top 35 despite his recent injury.
“It just means everything,” Jones concluded. “I slid up and said it was time to make things hang again and not worry about anything and that is what we did. It worked out good.”
No. 15: J.B. Mauney covers Brutus in Sacramento, California
The only thing that was missing from J.B. Mauney's ride on Brutus in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Sacramento was the event win. Mauney had been in the hunt all weekend entering the last day of competition and he needed a big ride after bucking off in Round 2. He delivered in the first ride of the round with a 91.25-point performance, a score that was then the highest scored ride of the season.
“That was a lot better than the long round,” Mauney said, referencing his 2.1-second buckoff against The Don. “I knew that bull has a lot of up and down. If you don’t stay out over him, it is going to whip you down and hit you in the face. He is kind of like a Long John, but just quite not as high. He has the same amount of power and stuff. He really wants to bring a man and whip him down. Here lately it seems like I am getting along with those bulls so I figured I would pick him.”
Ultimately, Mauney came in second to Fabiano Vieira in the event but the ride was still the highlight of the early season.
No. 16: Shane Proctor rides Cooper Tires Brown Sugar in St. Louis
It had been two years since Shane Proctor last won a Built Ford Tough Series Event. That changed in St. Louis after a perfect 4-for-4 weekend for the Grand Coulee, Washington, bull rider. Proctor swept Round 3 and the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, topping off the weekend with a masterful 89-point ride aboard Cooper Tires Brown Sugar.
“He is one of those bulls if you make a mistake you are going to get bucked off, but you should ride him,” Proctor said. “But he is kind of a pressure bull and you don’t want to mess up. They tease you a little bit in the locker room if you mess up. He shot out there and instead of going left like he normally does he went right and when you work hard and you let things get on a roll luck happens to go your way. He turned right into my wheelhouse and it was great.”
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