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Behind the Chutes: Thackerville, Day 1

Neil Holmes is in contention for the victory in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Photo by Andy Watson / BullStockMedia.com.

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational on Friday night.

Chasing their first World Finals berths

Neil Holmes (87.75 points on Stone Cold Crazy) and Mason Lowe (87.75 points on Buck Autism) split fourth and fifth-place in Round 1 for an important 35 points toward the world standings.

It isn’t a lot, but those points will certainly be difference makers as each rider is on the hunt for their first career berths to World Finals.

The points were especially important for Holmes.

The Houston native moved up two positions to 40th in the world following Round 1.

“You will appreciate it a lot more when it is earned,” Holmes said about potentially qualifying for Finals. “We still have a little ways to go and, hell, I am not backing down now.”

It was the second consecutive time Holmes had ridden Stone Cold Crazy.

However, it didn’t come without consequences as Holmes lacerated his left index finger on his riding hand when Stone Cold Crazy’s horn grazed his hand in the chutes.

Dr. Tandy Freeman stitched up Holmes during the event and Holmes is expected to ride in Round 2.

Lowe is currently the 25th-ranked bull rider on the tour and his ride helped him break out of a mini-slump (1-for-8).

The rookie was able to handle every burst of energy from Buck Autism as the bull tried to pull him down toward the middle.

“I was pretty excited when I saw I had him this week,” Lowe said. “I had seen J.B. get on him (in Tulsa) and it looked like he had a lot of timing. He didn’t turn back there, but he was getting high in the air.

Lowe is ahead of No. 35 David Mason by 344.16 points.

“I am fired up and ready to go,” Lowe concluded.

Mauney wins 10th round of 2015 to close in on world lead

A left ankle may have taken him out in Nashville, Tennessee, two weeks ago, but it is not going to knock J.B. Mauney out of the 2015 world title race.

Mauney showed no ill effects after injuring his ankle at the final PBR Major of the year and the 2013 World Champion fought his way across Red Moon for a Round 1-winning 90.5 points Friday night.

“He was a really good bull of Riley Sanford’s. I had never seen him before,” Mauney said. “Riley sent me a video of him and I knew if I did my job I could win the round on him. That is what he told me at the start of the night. He said, ‘Let’s go win one.’

“That’s what I tried to do.”

Mauney did not just win his BFTS-leading 10th round of 2015; he also is that much closer at potentially winning a second world title.

The round win gave him 100 points toward the world standings to move within 67.5 points of world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira.

CBS Sports Network commentator and two-time World Champion Justin McBride congratulated Mauney following Round 1.

He also knew that Mauney was about to whip his free arm after a couple of jumps from Red Moon.

“I could see that big ole skinny arm coming,” McBride said to Mauney. “That was a great ride.”

Mauney added, “I was out of shape around the second or third round and I let him beat me around the corner and I had my hips way out of there. I knew if I didn’t throw the Hail Mary and see if it would work, it wouldn’t have worked at all.”

Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Cody Nance (89.25 points on Brutus), Ryan Dirteater (88.5 points on Savage Moves), Holmes and Lowe.

Vieira is currently seventh in the event average with an 86.5-point effort aboard Wicked Stick.

World No. 5 Fabiano Vieira is sitting ninth with 85.75 points on Born in the USA, while No. 3 Kaique Pacheco turned down a re-ride option and kept his 71.5-point ride on Midnight Bender. Pacheco is sitting 13th out of the 13 qualified rides in the first round.

In terms of Mauney, is it safe to say his ankle will not be an issue?

“It is sore, but you don’t need to run,” Mauney said. “You need to ride.”

Bruiser bounces back from Tulsa

SweetPro’s Long John may be the World Champion Bull contender stud on the D&H Cattle Company trailer, but Bruiser continues to show he has the potential to one day be a star on the Built Ford Tough Series.

The 4-year-old bull rebounded from his foul in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month by bucking off Luis Blanco in 3.39 seconds for a round-high 45 points.

It is Bruiser’s fifth 45-point or higher bull score of his career.

Blanco admitted he was mentally defeated even before the chute gate swung open after Bruiser jumped forward on him inside the chute.

“I tried to focus a lot, but he broke my focus when he started bucking in the chute,” Blanco said. “I tried to do my perfect stuff and I lost my focus to win.”

Bruiser made easy work of Blanco by causing the 26-year-old to lose control of his feet mid-spin.

“I just tried to stay on the inside and he felt me there coming back and I was soft to the outside and I lost my legs.”

Blanco was disappointed he didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to earn points toward the world standings.

He began the weekend  ranked 40th in the world standings and dropped to 41st.

“When I see the draw, I was really glad because that is a bull (that) could help me make it to World Finals,” Blanco said. “I could have won the round and get the points I need for Finals.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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