PUEBLO, Colo. – The number eight will be the key number for the Top 40 riders stepping foot into AT&T Stadium on Saturday evening.
Obviously, 8 seconds is always important when it comes to the sport of professional bull riding, but the riders competing at the Choctaw Casino Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki Strong, will need to make 8 seconds in hopes of being declared the 2015 Iron Cowboy.
Yes, there will still be an increased amount of round points (150, 90, 75, 60, 45) available for riders that place within the Top 5 of every round, but only one rider will walk away with $180,000 – $100,000 courtesy of the Bad Boy Mowers bonus – and 600 points toward the world standings.
Therefore, the easiest way to find victory – and that large sum of cash – is to keep making 8 seconds in the newly-adopted Last Cowboy Standing format for Iron Cowboy and not put much too much weight in their respective ride scores.
There are four riders (Alexander Cardozo, Rubens Barbosa, Neil Holmes and Dakota Louis) that are set to make their 2015 BFTS debuts in Arlington.
Cardozo is making his BFTS debut after winning the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is the 30th bull rider in the world standings and has gone 14-for-27 (51.85 percent) this year at Velocity and Touring Pro events.
Cardozo has drawn Shepherd Hills Stockman (18-13, BFTS) in Round 1. Sean Willingham rode Shepherd Hills Stockman for 86.75 points in Oklahoma City.
Barbosa – the 2011 PBR Rookie of the Year – is competing at his first BFTS event in three years. He brings a 50 percent (11-for-22) riding average into the event from lower PBR levels. Barbosa, who is 40th in the world standings, will face Cowboy’s Dancehall Blonde Bomber (9-10, BFTS). Blonde Bomber has yet to compete on the BFTS this year.
Holmes stated earlier this year his intentions to make it onto the BFTS full time and Saturday will be his first opportunity to try and gain some points to crack the Top 35. He heads to Arlington 41st in the world standings, but he won the BlueDEF Velocity Tour qualifying event in Detroit to get a spot in the draw.
The 29-year-old has gone a combined 6-for-14 (42.88 percent) on the Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division.
Holmes faces Jack Daniel’s After Party (43-22, BFTS) in Round 1. After Party was ridden in six of nine outs last season.
Louis won a spot in the draw by tying with Kaique Pacheco at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour qualifying event in Salt Lake City, Utah. Saturday will be Louis’ fourth career BFTS event and he will see Thunderhead (1-0, BFTS) in the first round. Thunderhead bucked off Douglas Duncan in his debut last month in Oklahoma City.
J.B. Mauney (right groin, pelvis injury) and Ryan Dirteater (left groin) are both returning to action at Iron Cowboy, while Chase Outlaw is out with a separated right shoulder.
Mauney has drawn Earl (10-4, BFTS) in the first round, and Dirteater will take on Bootdaddy.com (0-0, BFTS).
Here is a look at the Top-5 riders based on riding percentage on the BFTS and who they have drawn for the first round of Iron Cowboy.
1. Silvano Alves (62.96 percent) vs. Fire Bender (5-1, BFTS)
Alves has won the Last Cowboy Standing format two times in his career and is one of the most consistent riders on the BFTS. In his career, he has a 60.43 riding percentage (281-for-465) and earlier this year he shattered the all-time record for consecutive rides on the BFTS with 24 in a row.
The defending World Champion leads the BFTS with 17 qualified rides.
Fire Bender has been ridden once in four outs this year. Josh Faircloth earned 86-points aboard Fire Bender in Chicago.
2. Kaique Pacheco (56.25 percent) vs. Pistol Pete (5-2, BFTS)
Pacheco has only competed in four BFTS events, but the 20-year-old rookie has already won his first career event (St. Louis) and is second on the BFTS with four round wins.
While the sample size is small, if you take Pacheco’s riding statistics from the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division his riding percentage is still at an impressive (24-for-38).
Pacheco has ridden six of his last 10 bulls attempted.
Pistol Pete has bucked off L.J. Jenkins and J.B. Mauney in his only two outs of 2015 and hasn’t been ridden since February 2014 (Fabiano Vieira for 84 points).
3. Valdiron de Oliveira (56 percent) vs. California’s Sport Coat (3-1, BFTS)
Oliveira currently has the highest riding percentage of his career since 2012 (60.92 percent). That was the last season in which Oliveira finished a stretch of five consecutive years with a Top-5 finish in the world standings.
Like Pacheco, Oliveira has ridden six of his last 10 bulls attempted.
California Sport Coat bucked of Jason Malone in 2.1 seconds in Oklahoma City. It was the bull’s first BFTS out since September 2013.
California Sport Coat was last ridden in April 2013 by Stormy Wing for 88.75 points.
4. Matt Triplett (55.17 percent) vs. Hungry Eyes (7-1, BFTS)
The No. 1 bull rider in the world is competing at AT&T Stadium for the first time in his career and heads to Arlington on his longest buckoff streak of 2015.
Triplett has failed to make the whistle in six consecutive outs, but the 23-year-old still has the highest riding percentage of his three-year career.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider has won a BFTS-high five rounds.
Hungry Eyes has yet to buck in 2015, and Fabiano Vieira became the first rider to make 8 seconds on him in the bull’s last out at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals for 86.5 points.
5. Shane Proctor (50 percent) vs. Butcher’s Nightmare (2-2, BFTS)
February has been a total nightmare for Proctor. The 29-year-old has yet to record a qualified ride in nine outs since beginning the month with an 87-point ride on Redbone in the first round of the Anaheim, California, event.
Proctor began the year 12-for-16 (75 percent) before the calendar turned to February.
Butcher’s Nightmare has bucked off Dirteater (5 seconds) and Renato Nunes (3.65 seconds) since being ridden by Reese Cates in Oklahoma City for 87.25 points.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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