PUEBLO, Colo. - Eduardo Aparecido grabbed control of the top spot in the PBR world standings seven weeks into the 2017 season and never relented through the rest of the first half.
Over that span of time, Aparecido won a Built Ford Tough Series-leading three events, including Iron Cowboy in Arlington, Texas – the first PBR Major victory of his career.
Aparecido entered the summer break having ridden 52 percent of his bulls in 15 BFTS events. His 26 qualified rides are second only to Kaique Pacheco this season.
The 27-year-old’s evolution from perennial dark horse to elite World Championship contender has been one of the biggest stories of the first half of the 2017 season, and his ascension has defined the race for the gold buckle.
Aparecido’s climb to the top featured some of the best rides so far this season on some of the biggest stages, several of which were considered turning points of his career year.
The journey is far from over, though, and Aparecido will have to carry the momentum from his spectacular start into the home stretch. He will have to fight off the likes of Pacheco, who is on a mission himself after finishing as the runner-up the past two seasons.
Aparecido will also have to contend with rising superstars Derek Kolbaba and Jess Lockwood. Also chasing Aparecido is two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, who wants to add a record-tying third gold buckle to his collection.
Will Aparecido finish what he started? You can be there to witness history by purchasing your tickets now for the 2017 World Finals at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.
Below is a look at five of Aparecido’s best rides this year.
Aparecido strikes while the Iron is hot at Iron Cowboy
Iron Cowboy stands out among BFTS events because of its unique “ride or go home” format. The PBR Major is also one of the most punishing nights of bull riding, on one of the biggest stages in the sport, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
By Round 3 of 2017’s edition, only Mason Lowe and Fabiano Vieira remained alongside Aparecido in contention for the win.
With two rides on the night already under his belt, Aparecido added another when he rode Big Black Cat for 88.75 points.
“Before I came here, I knew I had to ride each bull I get on,” Aparecido said. “I self-prepared to be here. I asked God to save my life and give me confidence for each bull I get on.”
Aparecido’s night was not over after the ride, and he showed he was ready to go the distance.
Aparecido closes things out in Arlington
If a regular-season BFTS event is a marathon, then Iron Cowboy is a full on sprint to the finish. With a maximum of five rounds possible, a rider could potentially face up to five increasingly challenging bulls in a single night.
It’s the kind of night that will push even the PBR’s best to their mental and physical limits.
With only one rider, and one more bull, standing between Aparecido and the Iron Cowboy title, he pushed past his limits and rode Catfish John for an event-winning 89 points.
“This builds his confidence,” Guilherme Marchi said of his friend and countryman. “He won the last event and this guy is very hot. He is believing in himself. Either way, he rides good. Away from his hand, into his hand. This guy is very strong mentally. This guy is going to be a contender for a World Champion this year.”
The win elevated Aparecido to the top of the world standings, a spot he has yet to let go.
Aparecido rises in Sacramento
Aparecido’s rise in the world standings started early when he arrived at the season’s fourth regular-season event in Sacramento, California.
After Round 1, Aparecido went on to steal the show with a 90.5-point ride on Jack Shot to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle and move into the Top 10 of the world standings.
“It is a good score,” Aparecido said. “The bull bucks really good. He gave me a lot of points and a good score too. I am really happy to be 90 points because a couple of times I made good rides and the judges didn’t give me 90 points.”
It was Aparecido’s first 90-point ride since 2015, and it delivered him his third career 15/15 Bucking Battle win.
More importantly, it kick started a run that would lead to the most-successful stretch of Aparecido’s career.
Aparecido throws down in Arlington
Before 2017, Aparecido had only recorded two 90-point rides on the BFTS since debuting in 2012. By the end of the first half, Aparecido had turned in three – including a 90.5-point ride on Jack Shot in Round 2.
Aparecido improved to 2-1 against Jack Shot in 2017 with the ride. It was also the second time he had ridden Jack Shot for more than 90 points.
“I have always been high on him,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said of Aparecido. “I always thought he was pretty good. I always thought he was on the verge of being really good. I still think so. I still don’t think he is as good as he is going to get.”
Only one of Aparecido’s rides at Iron Cowboy fell below the 88-point mark, and he dominated on bulls that went both into and away from his hand.
The career performance opened the eyes of a lot of people in the BFTS and forcefully confirmed that Aparecido had his eyes on a World Championship.
“Now you are talking big-time World Championship focus because he is winning a Major,” nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said. “He has all the momentum. He has all of the talent.”
Aparecido answers in Albuquerque
As the first half of the season went on, it became difficult to wrestle the spotlight away from Aparecido.
In the championship round of the Ty Murray Invitational, Aparecido covered Speed Demon for 91.25 points.
“He was very fast into my hand and real good,” Aparecido said. “This bull bucked down and then spun fast. It was fun. Speed Demon is a good bull and this is a good score.”
It took a historic ride from Stormy Wing on 2016 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser to steal the headlines, but it was enough for Aparecido to tie for second place in the event, increasing his lead atop the world standings to 1,152.5 points.
“These points are good,” Aparecido said. “This is my best ride this year.”
Aparecido’s lead at the time was the third time a rider held a lead of 1,000 points or more since the PBR changed its points system three years ago.
Though that lead has shrunk, his outstanding performance in the first half helped ensure that he maintained control of his fate in the World Championship race.
“I feel like Fast Eddy has to believe in himself,” Murray added. “You don’t go win a World Championship and think you are good enough. I think you have to find a way to believe you can do it and then go do it. That is where Fast Eddy is at. He is realizing he is as good as there is.
“That makes him that much more dangerous.”
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