PUEBLO, Colo. – When the lights turn on at the Uvalde County Fairplex Arena this weekend, there will be multiple Built Ford Tough Series riders ready to nod their heads.
As of Wednesday morning, over half of the Top 15 riders in the world are tentatively scheduled to compete at the Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas.
No. 2 Matt Triplett, No. 3 Kaique Pacheco, No. 5 Valdiron de Oliveira, No. 10 Reese Cates, No. 11 Fabiano Vieira, No. 12 Ben Jones, No. 13 Rubens Barbosa and No. 14 Mike Lee are all in the draw, according to the PBR competition department.
The event will be available exclusively on PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday.
Cates begins the weekend 1,110 points behind world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira and said that while the chance to win 80 points for a BlueDEF Velocity Tour victory is important, it is more the relaxed setting that he is looking forward too.
“It is one of the only Touring Pros I have been to this year,” Cates said. “Those are always a little bit more relaxed. We don’t have as many responsibilities when we get there. We just show up and get to have a good time.”
Thanks to his career-high two BFTS wins (Baltimore and Sacramento), Cates is in prime position of qualifying for his first World Finals since 2011.
In past summers, The 2008 Rookie of the Year would have to go to Touring Pro events and scratch and claw his way back onto the BFTS while battling through various injuries.
This year is shaping up to be different.
Uvalde is only his fourth Touring Pro or BlueDEF Velocity Tour event of the season, and Cates admits it will be nice to have to press for points or a paycheck.
“I feel like I have an opportunity to enjoy them a little more,” Cates said. “I am not pressing to get the points to qualify for the World Finals, but then again, you need them for a world title and that is what we are all shooting for. My gameplan hasn’t changed at all. As long as my body is feeling good, I am going to be entered up as much as I can.”
The Cactus Jack Bull Riding is not only featuring some of the Top 15 bull riders in the world, but out of the 40 riders in the draw, 30 of them have competed on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2015. There is also $50,000 up for grabs during the two-day event.
BlueDEF Velocity Tour events award points toward the world standings differently than compared to the BFTS. There are no round points available like at the BFTS, and riders can only earn points toward the standings by finishing in the Top 6 of the event average. Points awarded are as follows: 80, 50, 30, 20, 15, 10.
That is why this weekend can be crucial for riders at the bottom half of the world standings. Alexandre Cardozo heads into Uvalde as the No. 35 bull rider in the world standings and only leads No. 42 Lachlan Richardson, who is also riding in Uvalde, by 72.5 points.
Therefore, alternate BFTS riders such as Cody Tyler White, Bryan Titman and Luis Blanco can help their causes in Uvalde, while riders just outside the alternate positions like Michael Lane, Austin Meier and Marco Eguchi can try to put themselves back into the mix.
Bonner Bolton, who begins the weekend as the 28th bull rider in the world standings, said he is excited to return to his roots in Uvalde.
The Odessa, Texas, native remembers making the four-hour trek to the southern Texas town for junior bull ridings as a kid. Bolton called Uvalde one of his favorite areas in Texas with some of the best Mexican food you can find.
Beyond hopefully grabbing a taste-bud enticing entrée, Bolton believes a trip away from the BFTS will be good for him.
Prior to his Round 2 winning ride on Rough’em Up Tuck at the Built Ford Tough Rumble in the Rockies, Bolton had only four qualified rides on the BFTS since March 1.
Overall, Bolton has gone 8-for-28 (28.57 percent) on the BFTS compared to 9-for-12 (75 percent) on the Touring Pro and BlueDEF Velocity Tour level.
Bolton admits that being pulled in so many directions for public relation requests and appearances due to “The Longest Ride” premiere and other sponsorship obligations began to take a toll on him.
It is why sometimes it is good to get away from the demands of the BFTS and just slow down.
“I need to regroup a little bit and take it back down,” Bolton said. “The last couple of weeks I have had so much PR stuff thrown out at me than ever and it just kind of distracts what it is all about.
“For me, I started out doing this because I love it. Not because someone promised us we would ever get paid $1 million. I started doing this by getting on for free in my home practice pen, testing stuff. Trying to get better and ride something wild between my legs.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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