PUEBLO, Colo. – Thanks to two wins and a 72.73 riding percentage in the past three weeks, it is tough to find anyone riding better than J.W. Harris at the moment.
The problem for Harris is world leader J.B. Mauney has a 70 percent average since the Built Ford Tough Series resumed in Biloxi, Mississippi, in August.
Until this weekend, PBR Ultimate Fantasy players had been able to utilize a dual Mauney-Harris Tier A/Tier B combo since Biloxi.
Harris’ recent hot streak puts him in Tier A for the regular-season finale and players will have to decide which hot hand they want to ride with.
The four-time PRCA champion has drawn Mini Me (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1, while Mauney – the 2013 World Champion – has a date with Big Naughty (0-1, BFTS).
Meanwhile, No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira can’t seem to break out of his second-half slump and the 31-year-old comes to Tucson in a 1-for-8 slump in the past three weeks. He also only has five qualified rides in the last two months.
Vieira, who dealt with a sprained riding wrist last weekend in Allentown, Pennsylvania, takes on Midnight Train (0-0, BFTS).
Matt Triplett went 2-for-3 in Allentown, but he has not put together consecutive weekends with two qualified rides since January and is dealing with an aggravated left knee injury.
Triplett has a matchup with Big Timber (1-0, BFTS) in Round 1.
Kaique Pacheco was went an uncharacteristic 0-for-3 in Allentown – his first weekend without a qualified ride in eight events – and the rookie will try to rebound against JJ’s Dream (0-0, BFTS).
TIER B: Fabiano Vieira falls down a Tier
Fabiano Vieira continues to be a rider fantasy players should look at selecting for their respective rosters. Because of Harris’ stretch of two wins in three weeks, Vieira falls into Tier B despite still having ridden the most bulls (15) on the BFTS since Aug. 1.
Not only that, but Vieira has two rematches in Tucson.
He first takes on Johnny’s Boy (3-1, BFTS) after previously being bucked off in 6.94 seconds at the PFI Invitational in Springfield, Missouri, last month. Vieira then takes on Jungle (2-1) in Round 2. The Perola, Brazil, bull rider rode Jungle for 84 points in Biloxi, which was the first of nine consecutive qualified rides.
Cooper Davis arrives in Tucson coming off a career-best 3-for-3 performance last weekend. Davis will look to extend his qualified rides streak to four when he faces Woody (11-9) in Round 1. Davis had past success on Woody, riding the bovine athlete for 82.75 points at the Seattle Invitational.
Reese Cates also had a strong showing last weekend in Allentown (2-for-3), and he has a rematch in Round 1. Cates faces Merlot Man (9-9, BFTS), who he rode for 86 points at the Bakersfield, California, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event last November.
TIER C: Can Mason Lowe continue to improve?
Mason Lowe is beginning to show that he has another gear, and is close to cracking the Top 15 of the world standings for the first time in his career.
Lowe is up to 16th in the world thanks to three Top-5 finishes in the past four weeks. During that span, Lowe has posted two qualified rides in three of the four events.
The 22-year-old has drawn Another Gangster (0-0, BFTS).
Don’t forget about Eduardo Aparecido. The 25-year-old has posted two qualified rides in five of the last seven events and has a 43.28 percent riding average.
Aparecido faces River Man Fighter (3-0, BFTS) in Round 1.
This weekend’s sleeper pick is Kasey Hayes. The Liberal, Kansas, native was 2-for-14 prior to last weekend’s 2-for-3 showing. Hayes takes on Wilbur (2-2, BFTS) in Round 1 in Tucson.
Gage Gay and Shane Proctor each rode Wilbur for 86 points this season.
BULL POWER: Roy boy leads the way
Roy is the only World Champion Bull contender competing in Tucson, and the stage will be all his in Saturday night’s Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
He is averaging 45.25 points per out in five BFTS events this season.
Other bulls to keep an eye on include Mr. Bull (44.3 points per out), I’m A Gangster Too (43.97 points per out), Walk Off (44.32 points per out) and Jeremiah (43.94 points per out).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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