Fantasy Focus: Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – J.W. Harris and Joao Ricardo Vieira head into the Ty Murray Invitational as the hottest riders on the Built Ford Tough Series.

Harris has posted six qualified rides in his last 10 outs for an average score of 87 points, while Vieira has gone 8-for-10 for an average score of 83.53 points.

The four-time PRCA champion has placed inside the Top 5 of a round with all six of his qualified rides, and Vieira has done so with three of his rides.

Harris has drawn Past Time (7-5, BFTS) in Round 1 and Vieira will be greeted by Red Dingo (2-3, BFTS).

Red Dingo bucked off Gage Gay in 4.64 seconds in his only out of 2015, but was marked just 38.75 points.

Past Time was ridden by Aaron Roy in Fresno, California, for 86.25 points, and Harris could be poised for a good score.

Silvano Alves has his third matchup against Crystal Pistol (7-4, BFTS) – a bull who he is undefeated against. The three-time World Champion rode him for 84 points last year in Billings, Montana, and for 84.75 points in Kansas City, Missouri.

World leader Matt Triplett is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to rematches. Triplett has the tall task of battling against Rock River Red (21-4, BFTS). He bucked off Triplett last year at the PBR Passport Invitational in Tacoma, Washington, in 3.32 seconds.

Reese Cates will try to end his streak of six consecutive buckoffs when he takes on Kung Fu Fighter (2-4, BFTS) during the bull’s season debut on Friday night.

Valdiron de Oliveira remains the strongest rider in Tier B when it comes to riding percentage (56.25 percent). Oliveira has ridden three of his last five for an average score of 85.92 points. He is set to face Beer Belly (1-2, BFTS).

Beer Belly bucked off Mike Lee in 5.15 seconds in Oklahoma City.

Lee will attempt to build off his first win of 2015 when he takes on Ponderosa, who is making his BFTS debut.

Kaique Pacheco continues to battle his cold streak, and other than his 85.75-point ride on Black Ninja in Fresno, the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year has been bucked off seven times – all at 5.16 seconds or less. The 20-year-old will try and turn things around against Joe The Grinder (5-2, BFTS). The bovine athlete bucked off both of his opponents (Robson Aragao and Bonner Bolton) last week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Claudio Crisostomo has returned to the BFTS from his broken clavicle and has shown flashes of the rider that made an impact late in 2013. Crisostomo has gone 4-for-6 the past two weeks for an average score of 83.31 points. The 29-year-old faces Deja Voodoo (1-1, BFTS), who Alves rode for 87.25 points in Oklahoma City.

A sleeper pick for the Ty Murray Invitational could be Rubens Barbosa. The 31-year-old is returning to action after missing two weeks with a broken right ankle and has a good match on paper against Easy Money (0-2, BFTS), however we will have to see how he rides with his ankle injury.

Barbosa rode Cowboy’s Dancehall Blonde Bomber (9-11, BFTS) for 87.5 points at Iron Cowboy. Aragao has Blonde Bomber this week and if he can break out of his 1-for-8 slump, he may be able to record a good score.

Bonner Bolton is the only other rider with a first-round rematch. The rookie last faced Modified Clyde (17-7, BFTS) at Iron Cowboy, lasting 6.71 seconds. Modified Clyde hasn’t bucked since then.

The bull pen for the Ty Murray Invitational will feature some of the rankest bulls in the PBR. Mick E Mouse (45.31 points per out in 2015) brings a streak of 32 buckoffs into Albuquerque and is the holder of the highest bull score of the season (47 points against Harris). He hasn’t bucked since Iron Cowboy.

Long John (45.25 points per out) has posted three of the top five bull scores (46.25, 46, 46) this year and is also slated for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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