UVALDE, Texas – Other than the sweat barreling down Neil Holmes’ face on Friday night, he gave everyone in attendance no hint of evidence that he nearly didn’t even make it in time for his Round 1 winning 88-point ride on Loose Change.
By the time Holmes was walking into the Uvalde County Fairplex on Friday at 7:25 p.m. for the Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding BlueDEF Velocity Tour event, Loose Change was being loaded into the bucking chute and the national anthem was just about to get underway.
Holmes, who was set to be the last out during Section 1, quickly got behind the chutes, slipped on his chaps and hopped onto the back of Loose Change.
The 29-year-old was already sweating so much once he nodded for the gate that the fact that Loose Change went away from his hand was the least of his worries.
In fact, Holmes wasn’t even sure if he was going to make it to the event organized by stock contractor Danny Reagan after hitting severe weather on his 5-hour commute from Houston.
“I was sweating so much,” Holmes said. “The kids (Kendall & Kaleb) kept wanting to stop to use the restroom and I was like, ‘We are almost at the bull riding.’
“I knew we were going to make it, and I had faith that we were going to make it just in time. It worked out just right.”
Holmes’ score ended up holding out as the best ride of the night out of 10 qualified rides.
“I kind of like them away from my hand anyways,” Holmes added.
Tyler Harr (86 points on Willy), Dustin Ratchford (85.5 points on Bad Black), Alexandre Cardozo (85.5 points on Able) and Michael Lane (85 points on Maximum Justice) rounded out the Top 5.
Harr won Round 1 last year in Uvalde.
“You can’t ask for a better bull,” Harr said. “He turned right back there to the left and that is the way I like them. I got to spur him a little bit and have some fun.”
Kaique Pacheco, the No. 3 bull rider in the world standings, is currently tied for sixth place with Kolt Donaldson with an 84-point ride aboard Surprise Package.
Pacheco is the highest-ranked rider in the world standings competing in Uvalde.
“This is an important moment in my life and every event is very important to me,” Pacheco said with the help of Luis Blanco translating.
Mike Lee – the 2014 Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding winner – was the only other rider in the Top 15 of the world standings to earn a qualified ride. Lee rode One Wipe for 82.5 points.
The other three Top 15 riders competing – Reese Cates, Fabiano Vieira and Rubens Barbosa – all bucked off their respective bulls.
Pacheco currently trails world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 620 points.
Unlike Built Ford Tough Series events, BlueDEF Velocity Tour events only award world points to the Top 6 riders in the final event average.
Therefore, if Holmes can put together a strong Saturday night performance in Round 2 and the championship round, which can be seen exclusively on PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com starting at 8 p.m. ET, he would be able to earn 80 points toward the world standings.
There is also another 125 points (50, 30, 20, 15, 10) up for grabs for the riders that finish in the Top 6.
Holmes is currently the 53rd bull rider in the world and is hoping to solidify his chance at competing at Last Cowboy Standing on May 22-23 in Las Vegas during Cowboy Spring Break.
The Houston native competed at Iron Cowboy in February in his only BFTS event this season. Holmes has gone 4-for-9 in six BlueDEF Velocity Tour events.
He arrived in Uvalde after a strong outing last week at the Touring Pro Division event in Wharton, Texas, where he went 2-for-3 to finish second to Cody Tyler.
“The ball is back and rolling and I want to be wherever they are bucking bulls at,” Holmes said.
Holmes trails No. 50 Dallee Mason by only 25 points for the last guaranteed spot for Last Cowboy Standing, but he still is in a good position to qualify because of injuries to riders ahead of him in the standings.
Regardless, he rather just crack the Top 50 and earn his way to Cowboy Spring Break.
“Yeah, I kind of am planning on going to Vegas, but I have to finish my business here to get there,” he concluded. “One bull at a time. I came here to win that big check anyways.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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