Behind the Chutes: 2014 World Finals

LAS VEGAS – The top bull riders in the PBR officially have arrived in Las Vegas. Here are three highlights from rider check-in at the MGM on Monday evening.

1. 12-year BFTS veteran Robinson qualifies for Finals by skin of his teeth

It took every bit of strength this past weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas, but Billy Robinson’s 88-point ride at the Touring Pro Division event was enough to sneak the Galax, Virginia, bull rider into World Finals for the second consecutive season.

Robinson is ranked 36th in the world standings, but will be in the draw for Round 1 on Wednesday night due to Markus Mariluch being unable to compete due to a torn right biceps muscle.

Robinson edged out Jason Malone, who valiantly covered two bulls in Little Rock for a fourth-place finish in the event average, by a mere 12.38 points.

“Yeah, we had to slide on in there a little bit, but it worked out alright,” Robinson said.

There was no choice but to head to Little Rock and ride if he hoped to be in Las Vegas this week, said Robinson. He began the weekend with a 54.37-point edge over Malone for the final spot and drove 12 hours to the TPD event in hopes of gaining a spot in that draw as an alternate.

“If I hadn’t went out there, he would’ve passed me to where I wouldn’t even have the spot where I got,” he said. “Either way, it was something I had to do one way or the other.”

Malone is in Vegas as the next alternate in line should a rider get hurt and be unable to compete this week.

2. Gay youngest at World Finals

Gage Gay enters World Finals this week as the leading contender for the PBR Rookie of the Year title. However, he is also only 20 years old, which makes him the first World Finals qualifier to compete in Las Vegas that was born after the PBR’s first season.

“I don’t really think it has set in yet being at my first World Finals, but once it does I think I will be pretty excited and ready to win a lot of money hopefully,” Gay said.

The Staley, North Carolina, native is ranked eighth in the world standings and holds a 1,909.33-point advantage over Tanner Byrne and leads Brady Sims by 2,540.25-points.

Gay leads all rookies with 24 rides in 23 BFTS events.

3. International invites ready for Finals

This year’s four PBR international invites are Scott Schiffner, Fernando Henrique Novais, David Kennedy and Gustavo Pedrero.

2014 will be Pedrero’s third World Finals and last year he rode Love Dr. for 83.75 points during the second round.

“Well, I feel really, really good,” Pedrero said. “All of the riders are the best in the world and every year I am here I feel great to be alongside them”

Novais earned the bid to Finals seeing as PBR Brazil champion Vitor Thiago is unable to compete due to injury. Novais finished third at the Monster Energy PBR Brazil Finals in Barretos and won the PBR Brazil event in Divinopolis this year.

“It is the realization of a dream,” Novais told PBR Brazil earlier this month. “I plan to stay here until January and learn a little more about the sport and maybe win a chance to compete for a world title in the future.”

Schiffner won the Calgary Stampede and its $100,000 bonus this past July by riding Mr. Buddy for 89.5 points in the final round. This will be his fourth World Finals.

Kennedy arrives in Las Vegas after winning his fourth PBR Australia championship in July.

“It’s like the Superbowl of bull riding,” Kennedy told the Daily Telegraph in August. “It’s a completely different level. They have more time than us to work at it and they have the best bulls in the world to work with.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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