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Five Riders Earn World Finals Qualification Berths

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Here are three things we learned from the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals this weekend at the KFC Yum! Center.

HOLMES LEADS THE WAY FOR WORLD FINALS QUALIFIERS

How confident was Neil Holmes that he was going to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals?

Well, confident enough that he bought his airplane ticket for Las Vegas last week.

Holmes won’t have to eat the cost of a wasted ticket as the 29-year-old went 2-for-3 (172 points) and finished highest in the event average among non-Top 35 bull riders in the world standings to earn the first of thre World Finals qualification spots up for grabs in the event average results.

The Houston, Texas, bull rider clinched the berth with an 86.75-point ride on Back In Black in the championship round to finish in seventh place overall.

“I had already bought my ticket a week ago so I was counting on this,” Holmes said. “Man, that was great for my career and my confidence. I am glad it worked out.”

Holmes rode Direct Deposit for 86.25 points in Round 2 to earn a spot in the championship round after being bucked off by Gas Pedal in 1.88 seconds on Friday night.

2015 will be his first World Finals appearance.

Joining Holmes as the other World Finals qualifiers via the event average were Derek Kolbaba and Luis Blanco.

Kolbaba finished eighth in the event average (170.5 points) after placing second in Round 2 with an 86.75-point ride on The Marlin and 11th in Round 1 with an 83.5-point effort on Heads Up.

The 19-year-old from Walla Walla, Washington, nearly won the BlueDEF Finals event before bucking off Cowtown Slinger in 7.9 seconds.

“I didn’t really think about it too much, but then I got here and it was explained what is all up for grabs here and there was a chance to go to the big show. It is awesome to get a chance to go to the Finals and show them what I am made of and compete against the best riders and bulls in the world.”

Blanco finished 11th in the event average after wisely, even if a little risky in the heat of the moment, turning down a re-ride option in the first round on Friday night.

Blanco’s 76-point ride on Super Trooper in Round 1 and his 84.25-point ride in Round 2 was enough to give him the third-highest event average (160.25) total among non-Top 35 riders.

“Well, I am very surprised right now because I bucked off my last one,” Blanco said. “I knew I had a chance to win and get to the World Finals. It was hard thinking about (that re-ride) in the moment because you want to win the round, but if you ride two bulls you could place in the average. Thank God it worked.”

Also making his way to the World Finals was Michael Lane, who concluded the season fourth in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour standings.

Lane earned the automatic bid by being the highest-ranked rider in the BlueDEF standings (fourth) that had not already qualified for World Finals.

Gage Gay – the 2015 BlueDEF Champion – and No. 2 Kaique Pacheco were already ranked inside the Top 35, while No. 3 Neil Holmes earned his way to Las Vegas via the event average.

“I can’t even put it into words,” Lane said. “Time to go home this week and work hard to make it count.”

Here is how the bubble riders finished up in the world standings: No. 33 Alexandre Cardozo, No. 34 Bonner Bolton, No. 35 Douglas Duncan and No. 36 Lachlan Richardson.

No. 38 David Mason and No. 41 Tyler Harr were the two most notable riders whose push to qualify for the World Finals came up short. Both riders will have to wait and see if any injuries open the door for them to compete in Las Vegas.

PATON EARNS INTERNATIONAL INVITE QUALIFIER

After two years of finishing runner-up in the race for the PBR Australia championship, Justin Paton is able to say he is going to the World Finals for the first time in his career.

Paton was competing at the BlueDEF Finals as an alternate because of 2015 PBR Australian Champion Fraser Babbington’s visa issues and his 84-point ride on Ranger in Round 2 was good enough to help him earn the international qualifier spot for the World Finals.

Fellow international invites Alejandro Gamboa Calvo (PBR Mexico) and Shay Marks (PBR Canada) both finished 0-for-2 in Louisville.

2015 PBR Brazil Champion Luciano de Castro was unable to compete because of visa issues.

Paton finished 1-for-2 and the 23-year-old could not be happier to get a chance at competing at the World Finals like his idols Troy Dunn, Brendon Clark and Ben Jones have done in their respective careers.

“I am pretty stoked,” Paton said. “This is just what I was aiming for. To come here and achieve that is great. I have come here as the reserve champion in the champion’s position and I have fought my way to get in.

“Hopefully this is the first of many.”

GAY COMES FROM BEHIND TO WIN BLUEDEF TITLE

Amidst all of the chaos that occurred for the race to qualify for the World Finals, Gage Gay went 3-for-3  to win $75,000 in a memorable come-from-behind performance.

Gay wound up winning the BlueDEF Finals event average with 261 points for $25,000 when he rode Legal Tender for 88.5 points for the high-marked ride of the weekend.

The 21-year-old then earned 360 points toward the BlueDEF standings – 200 from winning the event average – to clinch the $50,000 championship away from Pacheco, who only turned 21 years old last month.

“This is the biggest check I ever won in one day,” Gay said. “I am pretty happy. It hasn’t all set in yet, but when I start spending it, it will.”

Gay went even farther, calling it the biggest ride of his career.

“My mouth was so dry,” Gay said. “I couldn’t spit. I was so nervous. It was crazy. I mean riding for the biggest check I ever rode for in one ride was a lot of weight on my shoulders.”

Gay came into the day 135 points behind Pacheco – the most dominant rider during the BDVT regular season – and knew he needed to ride both of his bulls if he wanted to have any chance at winning the $50,000 championship.

He began the night with an 86.25-point ride on RMEF Team Elk for a third-place finish in Round 2 after previously riding Traveling Jones for 86.25 points and a second-place finish in Round 1 on Friday.

The door remained opened for Gay to make his comeback after Pacheco failed to qualify for the championship round with his 83.5-point ride on Big John.

More costly for Pacheco was his 7.75-second buckoff on Repo in Round 1.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Cody Nance (3-for-3, 255.5), Joao Ricardo Vieira (3-for-3, 255.5), Brady Sims (3-for-3, 253.25) and Mike Lee (3-for-3, 247.5).

The 3-for-3 weekend was a big one for Vieira.

The 31-year-old now moves back into the No. 2 world ranking ahead of Pacheco leading in to the upcoming World Finals on Oct. 21-25.

Vieira gained 82.5 points on J.B. Mauney and trails the world leader by 1,315 points.

Mauney finished 2-for-3 and earned 72.5 points toward the standings, officially eliminating No. 5 J.W. Harris from the world title race.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROUND 1 OF THE BLUEDEF FINALS (10-10-2015)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the BlueDEF Finals at the KFC Yum! Center.

VALDIVIEZO EYEING FIRST WORLD FINALS APPEARANCE

Jorge Valdiviezo moved to San Antonio, Texas, late last year to chase his professional bull riding dream and give his family a better opportunity.

The 26-year-old from La Mision, Mexico, is now one step closer toward achieving a professional milestone.

Valdiviezo rode Escape Artist for 85.25 points to tie with Brady Sims for third place in the round and is in position to earn his first career bid to World Finals.

Seeing as Robson Palermo and Gage Gay are already in the Top 35 of the world standings, Valdiviezo would be the first rider based on the event average standings to earn one of three automatic bids to the World Finals.

“This is a great moment for my family and my country,” Valdiviezo said. “Not a lot of riders can ride with this league. I feel great to ride this bull. If I win now, I have an opportunity to ride in the World Finals. That is my dream.”

Valdiviezo is a decorated champion in Mexico. He has won four national titles, as well as the 2014 PBR Mexico championship.

He also expressed his gratitude for the PBR sports medicine team helping him prepare to ride with a right ankle injury that he sustained at a bull riding in San Antonio a few weeks ago.

“Sports medicine helped me to do this,” he said. “My ankle feels great, but I still feel pain. Maybe it is sprained or dislocated. I don’t like going to the hospital. I just take my time at home and rest.”

The next two riders leading the way for the two other automatic bids are Dakota Louis and Derek Kolbaba.

Louis is sitting in a tie for seventh place with his 84.25-point ride on Chubs, while Kolbaba is 11th with 83.5 points on Heads Up.

Other riders currently outside of the Top 35 with a qualified ride are Roscoe Jarboe (82 points on Gomer Pile), Josh Birks (81 points on Little Stinger) and Luis Blanco (76 points on Super Trooper).

PALERMO CLINCHES BERTH FOR WORLD FINALS

Palermo was not thrilled this week that he had to go to the BlueDEF Finals if he hoped to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the ninth time in his career.

He was sore and beat up from the BFTS regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona, and just wanted to stay home and rest.

Palermo can now breathe easy thanks to his Round 1 winning ride on Grandpa Joe (87.25 points).

The three-time World Finals event winner earned 80 points toward the world standings to move from 33th in the world to 30th and clinch a berth for the marquee PBR event on Oct. 21-25 in Las Vegas.

“It looks like I got it,” Palermo said. “I got 80 points and made a little more points with that score. I am so happy. I didn’t want to come. I was so sore at home. Yesterday I got up and I told my wife I didn’t want to come. She said, ‘No, you need to go.’”

Palermo made big work on Grandpa Joe after earning a re-ride during his 48.75-point ride on Sometimes.

“This time is all about points,” he said. “I was down in points and I really needed points and a score. Thanks to God I got a good score.”

Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Gay (86.25 points on Traveling Jones), Valdiviezo, Sims (85.25 points on Beer Nuts) and Douglas Duncan (84.75 points on After Party).

Joao Ricardo Vieira was the only rider in the Top 5 of the world standings to earn a qualified ride. The No. 3 bull rider in the world rode Little Waspy for 82.5 points.

Vieira is 12th heading into Saturday night’s second round.

World leader J.B. Mauney was bucked off by Back in Black in 3.23 seconds.

After all of the ups and downs this season, including being cut from the BFTS, Palermo is able to now focus on enjoying the rest of the weekend and possibly winning the $25,000 BlueDEF event title or the $50,000 bonus that awaits the BlueDEF champion.

Palermo trails BlueDEF leader Kaique Pacheco, who was bucked off by Repo in 7.75 seconds, by only 145 points heading into Saturday night’s second round.

“Oh, that would be awesome,” Palermo said. “I have been down so much this year. It has been really depressing. I have had to do so much to be in the Top 35 this year. My mind is good and everything is starting to come back.

“I hope to do the same thing tomorrow and win the Finals.”

SIMS AND DUNCAN TRYING TO HOLD ONTO FINAL SPOTS

Sims didn’t find out until Tuesday that he was being awarded an alternate spot to compete at the BlueDEF Finals.

Sims, who entered the weekend 34th in the world standings, didn’t waste any time trying to use the opportunity to keep hold of one of the final World Finals qualification spots up for grabs.

His 85.25-point ride on Beer Nuts helped him earn 25 points toward the world standings.

Sims previously rode Beer Nuts for 81 points at the Bismarck, North Dakota, 2014 Touring Pro Division event.

“I wasn’t expecting that out of that bull either,” Sims said. “Last time I got on him he kicked out hard and made one round left and we just went straight down the pen and circled to the left. I knew he is very steep and really tries to jerk on you. The whole ride I was like stay out over him and move with him. Whenever he kicked out, he made a real big fake left and once he hit right he just picked me right back up.”

Sims now leads No. 37 Michael Lane – the first rider not holding a qualification spot in the standings – by 134.17 points.

“It was a spur of the moment deal and it was a blessing in disguise,” Sims said. “I was kicking myself in the butt. I didn’t think I was coming here. I figured I would let fate decide it and then fate came knocking on the door, and it was like ‘Hey do you want to come to Louisville.’ I was like let’s do it.”

Lane had a very tough break in his pursuit of his first World Finals appearance when he was ruled to have bucked off Joe The Grinder in 7.94 seconds.

Meanwhile, Duncan helped his push toward qualifying for the Finals with his fifth-place finish in the round.

Duncan and After Party nearly collided with the bucking chutes during the ride as After Party spun extra closely toward the blue bucking chutes.

“That little black bull, he kind of had me working quite a bit,” Duncan said. “It never looks like what it feels like when I watch it back. He is one when you take your wrap everything just feels right. I hate to sound cocky, but I knew that bull was going to be rode before I nodded my head.”

He earned 15 points to the world standings to extend his lead on Lane to 82.92 points.

“I just try not to put pressure on myself,” Duncan said. “I am whooping and hollering in the bucking chute and I got Stormy (Wing) giving me a hard time. It brings me back down to home base and why you do it in the first place – for the love of the game.

“I don’t know. I guess The Built Ford Tough, you can sometimes put to much pressure on yourself to do good and for whatever reason I always seem to do good when I come back down to these deals. I need to carry this momentum into the big shows.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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