BILLINGS, Mont. – Guilherme Marchi may not be the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings, but the 2008 World Champion is arguably the healthiest among the Top 5 riders.
Marchi is coming off his second win of the season and is riding a streak of five consecutive rides. He says he and feels like he is 26 years old, which is the same year he won his only world title.
With injuries to world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira (ribs), Matt Triplett (MCL) and Silvano Alves (hip), Marchi may be poised to continue his strong run in Billings.
He takes on Bucking Nightmare (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Guns & Donuts (5-3, BFTS) in Round 2. Rubens Barbosa rode Guns & Donuts for 87.5 points in Seattle during the bull’s last out.
Vieira, who leads the BFTS with 26 qualified rides, is riding with a rib injury that didn’t affect him from reaching 8 seconds in Nampa, but it will be something to monitor in Billings.
He has drawn Nearly Departed (0-0, BFTS) and Helter Skelter (0-2, BFTS) in the long rounds. Helter Skelter was ridden by Jordan Hupp (85.25 points) and Chase Outlaw (84.25 points) earlier this season.
Triplett will certainly be fired up to be riding in his home state, but that adrenaline rush may not be enough to overcome his torn MCL in his left knee. The former No. 1 bull rider in the world has spent the past week rehabbing for this event and will want to do all he can to pick up where he left off before getting hurt.
The Colombia Falls, Montana, bull rider takes on Heaven’s Nightmare (0-0, BFTS) in the first round and Mac-Nett’s Southern Wine (29-6, BFTS) in the second round. Southern Wine will be no easy task for Triplett. Jeff Robinson’s bull has only been ridden by Gage Gay (85.25 points in St. Louis this season) since the beginning of 2013.
Valdiron de Oliveira opened the door for Vieira last week by not competing on the final day in Nampa because of the flu. He will try to get back on track in Billings with a matchup against King George (0-1, BFTS) in Round 1 and Wild For The Night (1-0, BFTS) in Round 2.
J.W. Harris had ridden King George for 84.75 points in Seattle.
Tier B: Harris looking to snap streak, Cates has only Round 1 rematch
Speaking of Harris, the four-time PRCA champion is trying to end an 0-for-6 skid and his recent 2-for-10 run. Harris has a date with Cowtown Rock (2-1, BFTS) on Friday night and then meets up with Bobby (10-2, BFTS) on Saturday night. Bobby bucked off Cody Nance in 3.3 seconds last weekend in Nampa.
Oliveira rode Cowtown Rock for 85.5 points in St. Louis in February.
Reese Cates has the only rematch in Round 1 when he faces Good Cop (2-1, BFTS) for the first time since being dumped in 7.5 seconds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last month. Cates faces Savage Moves (3-2, BFTS) in Round 2.
Ben Jones is returning to action after missing Nampa because of a cervical strain. He has drawn Lieutenant Dan (0-1, BFTS) and Funkytown (13-0, BFTS). Both bulls were almost ridden last week by Lachlan Richardson and Mike Lee.
Tier C: Will second-time be the charm for Lowe?
Mason Lowe’s breakout performance in Nampa has him second in the Rookie of the Year race. He will try to build off his 2-for-3 showing last weekend when he faces Red Mile (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1 and Nefarious (8-5, BFTS) in Round 2. Nefarious bucked off Tyler Harr in 4.17 seconds in his last BFTS out at the Ty Murray Invitational.
Tanner Byrne arrives in Billings having ridden four of his last six bulls for an average score of 84.89 points. He has drawn The Marlin (3-2, BFTS) and Razor Buck (9-2, BFTS), who is making his season debut.
Fabiano Vieira rode The Marlin for 85 points last weekend.
This week’s sleeper pick is Robson Palermo. The three-time World Finals event winner is getting another crack at the Built Ford Tough Series following his BlueDEF Velocity Tour win (2-for-3) in Wheeling, West Virginia, last month.
However, Palermo has still struggled since being cut from the BFTS. He has gone 4-for-11 at Velocity events to go along with his 3-for-13 showing on the BFTS this year. If you are willing to roll the dice, Palermo may reward you if he can rekindle his past form.
Mick E Mouse, Sweet Pro’s Long John and Smooth Operator lead a strong bullpen into Billings.
Mick E Mouse is averaging 45.38 points per out and has bucked off all 34 of his opponents. He faces Nathan Schaper in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Schaper is the only rider to have ridden Long John (45.04 points per out).
Long John takes on Valdiron de Oliveira for the fourth time of his career and the second week in a row.
Smooth Operator (45.03 points per out) will be challenged by the red-hot Marchi in their first meeting.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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