PUEBLO, Colo. – For the second time this season, the Built Ford Tough Series will feature an elimination-style format where riders will have to make the 8-second mark to advance to the next round.
Similar to Iron Cowboy, Last Cowboy Standing will have a maximum of five rounds and a minimum of two. However, unlike Iron Cowboy, Last Cowboy Standing will feature the Top 50 available riders in the world standings competing for $180,000 – with $100,000 courtesy of the Bad Boy Mowers bonus – and 600 points toward the world standings.
World No. 3 Kaique Pacheco and No. 4 J.B. Mauney both head into Las Vegas coming off wins on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division.
Pacheco went 3-for-3 to win the Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding BlueDEF Velcoity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas, two weeks ago, while Mauney went 2-for-2 to win Hico’s Steak Cook Off Chute Out in Hico, Texas, this past weekend.
Mauney has a rematch against Celling Bioscience’s Jukebox Hero (5-11, BFTS) in the first round. The 2013 World Champion rode the bovine athlete for 86 points in Des Moines, Iowa, last month.
Pacheco takes on Hungry Eyes (9-1, BFTS). Hungry Eyes has bucked off four consecutive riders since being ridden by Fabiano Vieira for 86.5 points at last year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Speaking of Hico, No. 9 J.W. Harris injured his leg in Hico and will be out of competition for Last Cowboy Standing and next weekend’s World Champion’s Challenge in Decatur, Texas, according to the PBR competition department.
No. 13 Mike Lee was also injured in Hico when a bull stepped on his right bicep, but Lee is in the draw for Last Cowboy Standing and has drawn Ghost Face (0-0, BFTS).
Other Top 35 riders out for Last Cowboy Standing include, No. 8 Silvano Alves (fractured hip), No. 19 Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff), No. 21 L.J. Jenkins (broken neck-C1), No. 23 Kasey Hayes (compression fractures- L1,2,3), No. 24 Renato Nunes (abdominal laceration) and No. 25 Eduardo Aparecido (undisclosed injury).
According to the PBR competition department, Nunes is expected to return in time for the World Champion’s Challenge.
Last Cowboy Standing is the second PBR Major of the season, therefore there will be an increased amount of round points (150, 90, 75, 60, 45) available for riders that place within the Top 5 of every round.
A minimum of 25 riders will be brought back for Round 2 on Saturday night. If there are not 25 qualified rides in Round 1, the remaining spots will be filled based on the highest-ranked riders in the world standings.
During Iron Cowboy, 16 riders made the 8-second mark in Round 1 and three in Round 2. Vieira was then the only rider to make the whistle in the third round.
There will also be five PBR Australia Top 10 riders making their 2015 BFTS debuts: Justin Paton (44th), Fraser Babbington (47th), Troy Wilkinson (50th), Cody Heffernan (53rd) and Roy Dunn (56th).
It will be the BFTS debuts for Paton, Heffernan, Dunn and Babbington – the current No. 1 rider in Australia. Also making their debuts at the PBR’s highest-level will be Dallee Mason (52nd), Roscoe Jarboe (58th), Cody Rodeo Tyler (58th) and Guthrie Long (61st).
Here is a look at the Top-3 finishers from Iron Cowboy, their riding percentages in 2015 and who they have drawn for the first round of Last Cowboy Standing.
1. Joao Ricardo Vieira (51.79 percent) vs. Long Hair (0-0, BFTS)
Vieira used his Iron Cowboy victory to earn 900 points toward the world standings and march his way from 26th in the world standings to No. 1 in a five-week span. The 30-year-old is a prime example of how big of a swing in the world standings one rider can make with a strong performance at one of the PBR Major events.
He begins the weekend with 170-point lead on Matt Triplett and has drawn Long Hair in the first round.
2. Stetson Lawrence (29.79 percent ) vs. Night Rider Six (6-12, BFTS)
Stetson Lawrence heads into Last Cowboy Standing looking to find any kind of positive to take into the summer break. Lawrence has bucked off nine consecutive bulls and has only three qualified rides (3-for-24) since going 2-for-3 at Iron Cowboy on Feb. 28.
He will try and swing the pendulum in his favor against Night Rider Six. In 2014, Night Rider Six was ridden in 3-of-4 outs. Lachlan Richardson last rode him for 86.5 points at last year’s Last Cowboy Standing.
3. Tanner Byrne (43.75 percent) vs. Wild For The Night (2-0, BFTS)
Byrne returns to the BFTS after missing the Rumble in the Rockies with a thumb injury on his riding hand. However, Byrne rode well at his hometown event and used a 2-for-2 showing, including a 90-point effort on Rockaholic, to win the first day of the Clunie-Cooper Memorial PBR in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
Byrne faces Wild For The Night, who bucked off Valdiron de Oliveira in 5.05 seconds in Billings, Montana, during his only out of 2015.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko