By: Justin Felisko
November 01, 2016
LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from the 2016 BlueDEF Tour Finals on Monday night at South Point Arena.
Holmes strikes magic for second year in a row; Silva and Cook earn first Finals berths
Neil Holmes’ first Built Ford Tough World Finals appearance ended horrifically in 2015, but the 30-year-old has earned himself a chance to write a new chapter at the PBR’s marquee event for the second year in a row thanks to the BlueDEF Finals.
Holmes went 2-for-4 at the BlueDEF Finals and his third-place finish earned him 188.3 points toward the world standings.
More importantly, Holmes picked up one of the five PBR World Finals wild card positions by finishing third in the final BlueDEF Tour standings.
“Man I am a fighter, so when my back is against the wall that is when I feel like I am going to be my best,” Holmes said.
Holmes then laughed before adding, “I was there at the Finals last year, but I don’t remember it. Hopefully this year I do.”
Holmes was referencing the concussion and broken jaw he sustained during Round 4 of the 2015 World Finals. The Houston native was well on his way to his first career ride at the Finals when he was jarred forward by Pure Bull at 6.29 seconds and his head collided with the 1,500-pound bucking bull.
Holmes was able to bounce back from his Round 1 buckoff against Bad Water (2.8 seconds) Saturday by riding Gambini for 88 points to win Round 2 on Sunday. He then finished tied for second in Round 3 with an 86.5-point ride on Blues Man on Monday.
“That was great,” Holmes said. “He did everything he wasn’t supposed to do, like go right, but it worked out.”
The only flaw Monday for Holmes was his 2.83-second buckoff against Bad Moon Rising in the championship round.
The buckoff didn’t hurt him, though, as he still finished high enough in the BlueDEF standings to earn the wild card berth.
Holmes and Emilio Resende earned the two BlueDEF Tour standings wild card berths because 2016 BlueDEF Tour champion Chase Outlaw and runner-up Nathan Schaper, as well as BlueDEF No. 3 Derek Kolbaba, all had already qualified for the World Finals by finishing inside the Top 35 of the world standings.
Zane Cook and Juliano da Silva earned the other two BlueDEF Tour event wild card berths by finishing in fourth- and fifth-place in the event.
Top-3 finishers Outlaw, Schaper and Holmes already had qualified for the World Finals.
Cook made his way to the Finals by riding War Party for 86 points in the championship round. He also rode Sic’ Em on a Chicken in Round 2 for 86 points.
Silva won Round 1 with an 89.5-point ride on Cracker Breaker and then notched 82 points on Locomotive Exhaust in Round 3 to finish 2-for-4.
Cook and Silva will be making their World Finals debuts.
“I am very happy now because before this year I didn’t ride very good,” Silva said with the help of Silvano Alves translating. “This week I rode good and this is a dream. All of the cowboys want to come to World Finals. I am very happy because this is my dream.”
Schaper and Buttar crack Top 35; Barbosa earns international invite
Nathan Schaper’s sister, Hailey, can breathe a sigh of relief.
Schaper made sure Hailey wouldn’t have to feel any guilt, not that he was going to blame her by any means if he didn’t make the World Finals, after he skipped the final BlueDEF Tour event of the regular-season two weeks ago to attend her wedding.
The problem for Schaper was that he was ranked 36th in the world standings and only 7.5 points behind No. 35 Fraser Babbington at the time of the wedding.
None of that matters anymore after Schaper rode his final three bulls at the BlueDEF Finals to finish 3-for-4 and second overall with 205 world points.
“They are all going to be super happy,” Schaper said. “I am glad it worked out. There was no way I was going to miss my sister’s wedding. I told them I knew I could get enough here to make it. I wasn’t going to miss her wedding for one event because I rode mediocre all year. It was all on my shoulders.”
The 205 points pushed Schaper to the World Finals for the fourth consecutive year. Schaper concludes the regular season 30th in the world standings.
“It has been weighing on me pretty heavy,” Schaper said. “Every morning I would wake up and it was on my mind. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. The last four or five weeks I suppose. That is where we all want to be – the World Finals at the end of the year.
“I am speechless. I will be ready to ride in Vegas.”
Schaper punched his ticket to the World Finals by riding King Buck for 87 points during the championship round.
It felt like “déjà vu” for Schaper. Last year, Schaper conquered King Buck for 87.5 points in Billings, Montana, for his second career Built Ford Tough Series victory.
“I had to stay on in the short round or else it wasn’t going to work,” Schaper said. “I drew the bull to do it on. That is one I would have handpicked. I won Billings on him and it is surreal that it happened again like this.”
Following the ride, Schaper gave bullfighter Cody Webster a big hug.
“I told him, ‘Just like last time Webster!’ Schaper exclaimed. “Oh, this was the same feeling I had when I got on him in Billings. Completely relaxed. I just knew to make small moves and thankfully that is what I did.”
Schaper wasn’t the only rider outside the Top 35 at the beginning of the BlueDEF Finals to end up inside of it come the final ride of the night.
Dakota Buttar, who had replaced 2016 PBR Canada champion Ty Pozzobon in the draw, finished the event 35th in the world after the 23-year-old finished in fifth place at the BlueDEF Finals.
2016 will be Buttar’s first World Finals.
“I am pretty happy,” Buttar said. “It was something I really didn’t expect at the start of the year. It all kind of just fell together this last month. I am pretty excited.”
Buttar finished 2-for-4 at the BlueDEF Finals. He began his weekend with an 84.5-point ride on El Guerrero in Round 1 before bucking Scotty’s Crossroads (2.48 seconds) in Round 2. The Kindersley, Saskatchewan, bull rider began the final night of competition with an 86.5-point ride effort on Big Dan in Round 3.
The ride ultimately got him to the World Finals after he bucked off Old Crow (5.06 seconds) in the championship round.
“I had seen a video of that first bull I got on him,” Buttar said. “I was pretty happy with him. I liked that draw pretty good.”
Schaper and Buttar’s success wound up being the demise of Jorge Valdiviezo and Fraser Babbington.
Valdiviezo and Babbington were eliminated from competing at the World Finals and finished the regular season 36th and 37th in the world standings. They will be the top two alternates at the World Finals if any riders get hurt over the course of the five days of competition.
Babbington was left kicking himself at the South Point Arena following two consecutive buckoffs just past 7 seconds.
Buttar finishing 35th in the world standings became gold for 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa.
Barbosa began the final night of the BlueDEF Finals in the lead after beginning the weekend 2-for-2, but he bucked off his last two bulls – Wiley(5.39 seconds) and I’m a Gangster Too (2.45 seconds) – to finish in eighth place overall.
However, seeing as Buttar finished 35th in the world, Barbosa wound up receiving the international wild card spot.
Outlaw continues hot streak with $79,133.33 BlueDEF Tour championship
There may be no hotter rider heading into the World Finals on Wednesday night than Chase Outlaw.
Outlaw went 3-for-4 to win the BlueDEF Tour Finals event, as well as the 2016 BlueDEF Tour championship.
He clinched the victory and championship with an 85-point ride on Gas Pedal in the championship round.
“Man, you just have to jam up,” Outlaw said. “I said leaving Tucson I would win here and I plan on winning there (at the World Finals).”
The 24-year-old won the BFTS regular-season finale two weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, and has now ridden six of his last seven and won an astounding $116,608.33.
Outlaw earned $79,133.33 at the BlueDEF Finals. He won $50,000 for beating out Nathan Schaper for the BlueDEF Tour championship, $19,800 for winning the BlueDEF Finals and an additional $9,333.33 in round money.
The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider bounced back from his Round 2 buckoff against Runaway Train (3.5 seconds) to ride both of his bulls Monday night.
Outlaw won Round 3 with a beautiful 87.5-point ride on Tom Horn before sealing the win aboard Gas Pedal.
“Bucking off last night really fired me up,” Outlaw said. “I have it between my ears to have the self-confidence to do what it takes. Man, I am looking forward to the next five days.”
Outlaw appears ready to make an even larger statement at the World Finals after concluding the regular-season 18th in the world standings despite missing the first six months of the season because of reconstructive shoulder surgery.
“I have the most confidence right now than I ever had on the Built Ford Tough Series,” Outlaw concluded. “I don’t even have to think about it. That is when you know you have good confidence. You get that eye of the tiger and go after each one of them.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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