By: Justin Felisko
February 04, 2017
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Frontier Communications Showdown, presented by Ariat, Friday night at the Honda Center.
Harris working his way back up the ranks (2-4-17)
J.W. Harris has repeatedly taken ownership of his miserable start to the 2017 season, and the four-time PRCA champion took a major step on Friday night toward digging out of the hole he has put himself in.
Harris tied with Cooper Davis for second-place in Round 1 by riding Thunderstruck for 87.25 points to earn a tremendously important 55 points toward the world standings.
“He turned back and was spinning good,” Harris said. “He kind of had me to the outside a bit, but it worked out.”
Harris originally had drawn Spotted Panther, but he was awarded a re-ride after being unable to get out of the chute on the bull.
The 30-year-old came into the event 86th in the world standings and had begun the season 2-for-9 through three events.
“It is frustrating,” Harris said. “I ride better than the position I am in right now, but I put myself in it. The only thing I can do is ride my way out of it.”
Harris’ Round 1 ride pushes him all the way up 45th in the world standings. He is only 27.5 points out of the Top 35.
The Texas cowboy missed the majority of the 2016 season because of elbow, hip and knee surgeries.
Anaheim was his last regular-season event last year.
Harris began this season with five injury exemptions. He only has one more Built Ford Tough Series event remaining following Anaheim before being subject to the BFTS cutline (Top 35).
Friday night was a big step toward avoiding being cut.
“I know I can ride better than this,” Harris added.
He admitted rust had been a factor this season.
“Hell, I am 30 years old,” Harris said. “It takes a while for things to start clicking. I had three surgeries last year, but that is part of it.”
Harris had missed last weekend’s event in Sacramento to attend his grandfather’s funeral and added that his cracked ribs from Oklahoma City are feeling better.
“They feel alright,” he said. “They are a little sore, but there is nothing I can do about it.”
Harris has drawn Crazy Days (12-6, BFTS) for Round 2.
Harris has already competed in a few PRCA bull ridings this year and is hoping to make a return to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December.
However, that is all on hold while he makes sure to solidify himself on the BFTS for the rest of the year.
“I want to kind of get through these exemptions and all that stuff,” Harris said. “I will get this taken care of before rodeoing. One thing at a time right now. That way I can go ahead and just be done with all the worrying and cuts.
“Ya’ll can come and talk to me about other things rather than the cutline then.”
Joao Ricardo Vieira wins Round 1 with 87.75 points on More Big Bucks
Joao Ricardo Vieira has finished inside the Top 5 of the world standing for four consecutive seasons, but this year he hasn’t shown that same kind of power in his riding.
Vieira said a large part of his slow start has been his left elbow (riding had) sprain he sustained during the season-opener in New York.
The 32-year-old has been going to physical therapy and trying to rehab the injury as best he can.
Vieira’s training during the past week paid off in a big way Friday night. The Itatinga, Brazil, native won Round 1 with a season-high 87.75 points on More Big Bucks.
“He was very fast,” Vieira said. “I did not see nothing. I had to move, move move. Today my elbow is good. This week I worked hard. I did physical exercise and physical therapy. I hope it keeps getting good.”
There were 12 qualified rides in Round 1.
Friday was Vieira’s first round win since last September.
It is also only his third Top-5 round finish in 2017.
Vieira is 8-for-17 (47.05 percent) and is now ranked 17th in the world standings after earning 100 world points for the round win.
“I am very happy to be here again in America riding bulls,” Vieira said. “This is my life. For a long time, I have had dreams to stay here. This is my fifth year here. I am very happy.”
The win was also a special one for Vieira who made a dedication while on the shark cage.
“This night is very special for me,” Vieira said. “It’s my dad’s birthday, this win is for my daddy.”
Vieira takes on Stuntin Like My Daddy (25-10, BFTS) in Round 2.
This season hasn’t been a terrible start by Vieira, but he also explained he understands that he has let some opportunities slip past him this year.
“I haven’t had good luck in short go,” Vieira said. “I have three buckoffs in the short go. I need to fix that.”
Davis continues magic in Anaheim; goes to Disneyland
Maybe it is the magic of Disneyland, but 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis sure seems to ride well in Anaheim.
Davis won two rounds in Anaheim last year during his season debut and Friday night he tied with Harris for second-place in the round by riding One Time Joe for 87.25 points.
“That bull was really wild,” Davis said. “I saw him last weekend with Derek (Kolbaba). He was one of those where if you get around the first corner everything goes OK.”
And, yes, Davis did go to Disneyland on Friday with his wife, Kaitlyn, and son, Mack.
“Oh yeah, we walked forever and ever and rode every ride we could. Mack had fun. We went and seen Mickey Mouse. That is his buddy,” Davis said. “Whenever I have them with me and we get to do things like that, it takes a load off me.”
While Davis agreed that rooming with Kolbaba and Jess Lockwood in Sacramento was good for him, there is still nothing better than having his son and wife with him on the road.
“It is good to be around them and see the fire that they have to come here and do good, but, at the same time, Mack and Kaitlyn are what drive me to better.”
Davis has drawn Bandy’s Bad Boy (6-1, BFTS) for Round 2.
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Shane Proctor (86.75 points on American Hustle) and Marco Eguchi (86.75 points on Shake It).
Proctor and Eguchi earned 35 points toward the world standings.
Eguchi, who is second in the world, now trails world leader Lockwood by 767.5 points.
Lockwood was bucked off by Off The Tracks in 4.55 seconds.
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Justin Paton tore his right PCL when he was bucked off by Pile Driver. He is expected to be out for 12 weeks.
Paulo Lima is listed as doubtful for Round 2 after being transported to a local hospital to be evaluated for a potential collapsed lung. Lima was bucked off by Back Jackin in 5.54 seconds.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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