While Joao Ricardo Vieira only trails Silvano Alves by one ride for the Built Ford Tough Series qualified rides lead, the runner-up to Alves in last year’s world title race has a 14-8 advantage on Alves since the last week of February.
Prior to Iron Cowboy, Vieira had only 10 qualified rides through almost two months of the season. Vieira has since gone on to record the most rides among Tier A riders with 14.
Vieira will try to build on his world lead and continue his hot streak – he went 11-for 14 in March – when he climbs aboard Rusty (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1.
Meanwhile, Alves will look to chip away at Vieira’s slight grasp on the world lead after he went 3-for-4 two weeks ago at the Seattle Invitational.
The No. 4 bull rider in the world hadn’t put together three rides at a BFTS event since the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden over two months ago.
Alves has drawn Legal Tender (2-2, BFTS) for Round 1. Eduardo Aparecido had ridden him for 87.75 points in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last month and Chase Outlaw earned an 88-point qualified ride aboard him in Oklahoma City during the January BFTS event.
Seattle winner Valdiron de Oliveira is two rides behind Alves for the BFTS qualified rides lead. Seattle was Oliveira’s third BFTS weekend with three qualified rides. He has made the 8-second mark two or more times in six of the 13 BFTS events.
The No. 3 bull rider in the world begins his weekend against Joe The Grinder (6-4, BFTS). Joe The Grinder has been ridden for 86.5 points or more in two of his last three outs.
J.W. Harris was right up there with Vieira as one of the hottest riders on the BFTS in March before a 1-for-4 performance in Seattle. Harris rode King George for 84.75 points in the first round at KeyArena, and he has earned a qualified ride on six of his last seven first-round bulls.
Harris, who has the fourth-lowest riding average (39.02 percent) in the Top 10 of the world standings, has drawn DaNutso (14-3, BFTS). DaNutso has bucked off three in a row (Fabiano Vieira, Skeeter Kingsolver and Jay Miller) since being ridden by Kasey Hayes for 85.5 points in Anaheim, California.
However, DaNutso did fall against Nathan Schaper at the Ty Murray Invitational.
Tier B: Marchi’s recent march
Guilherme Marchi has gone 5-for-10 in the last two BFTS events after tying a season-high with four consecutive buckoffs in early March. All five of his qualified rides have been scored 85 points or higher.
Marchi has drawn Gnarly Head (4-1, BFTS).
The bovine athlete has bucked off three in a row (Bryan Titman, Renato Nunes and Sean Willingham) since being ridden by Fabiano Vieira for 86.5 points in Oklahoma City. However, all three of those riders lasted 6.29 seconds or more.
Shane Proctor and Nathan Schaper have posted two qualified rides in two consecutive BFTS events. Proctor will face Good Cop, while Schaper has American Hustle (10-0, BFTS). American Hustle has bucked off his three opponents this year (David Mason, Cates and Brady Sims) in 1.85 seconds or less.
Good Cop is making his BFTS debut after being ridden just three times in 33 career outs at various rodeo events.
This week’s sleeper pick is Cody Nance. The Paris, Tennessee, bull rider had previously ridden three of four before missing the past two events because of a pelvis strain. Nance says he feels much improved and will be ready for his Round 1 meeting with Slash (0-0, BFTS).
Keep an eye on Reese Cates, who is returning to action from a biceps tear in his riding arm. He is set to face Strung Out (0-0, BFTS).
Also to note: Ben Jones was a late subtraction from the draw on Thursday afternoon and is not competing in Nampa.
Tier C: Can Aparecido strike magic at the Ford Idaho Center again?
Aparecido is the defending event champion after picking up his first career BFTS victory last year in Nampa by going 3-for-3. Yet, he is currently on a streak of five consecutive buckoffs – his second-longest this season.
Aparecido had ridden four of his last five for an average ride score of 85.69 points prior to his buckoff streak.
The third-year BFTS pro faces Hells a Poppin (3-1, BFTS) in the first round. Kasey Hayes rode Hells a Poppin for 85 points in Sacramento, California, before being bucked off in 4.75 seconds in Anaheim.
L.J. Jenkins has gone 5-for-7 in the past two BFTS events to rise to 18th in the world standings. Three of those five rides have placed him within the Top 5 of a round.
Jenkins takes on Half Shaved (5-0, BFTS) in Round 1. Half Shaved has bucked off Vieira (3.79 seconds) and J.B. Mauney (6.84 seconds) in his past two outs.
Shaft (43.79 points per out in 2015), Stanley FatMax (43.68) and Fire Rock (43.48) are three of the top bulls that will be competing in Sunday’s Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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