By: Justin Felisko
May 16, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – The beads of sweat were rolling down Kaique Pacheco’s face as he hung his bull rope just beyond the out gate of the arena at the Las Vegas Village on Saturday night.
The 8-second clock had long already reached conclusion after Pacheco had ridden Spotted Demon for 90 points – only the third 90-point ride of his career.
Still, the intensity Pacheco had on his face when he nodded for the gate was still there as he began to rosin his bull rope.
In his mind, Last Cowboy Standing was far from over.
Up and down Pacheco moved his hand on his bull rope with the famous Luxor pyramid beaming lights high into the Las Vegas skyline.
It was only six months earlier, and one mile up The Strip, that Pacheco had gone through a gut-wrenching loss at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals – losing the world title when he bucked off Slinger Jr. on Championship Sunday inside T-Mobile Arena.
Pacheco’s rosin began to heat up as the fire in his eyes only burned brighter.
At first, Pacheco didn’t pay much attention as the remaining seven riders in Last Cowboy Standing began to buck off in Round 3.
Pacheco knew it may take another two rounds to win the final PBR Major before the Built Ford Tough Series summer break, and the third-year pro was well aware just how important this event was to his overall goals.
A Last Cowboy Standing victory would put him on the doorstep of the world No. 1 ranking. A loss would make it that much harder for him to try and run down world leader Eduardo Aparecido in the final 10 weeks of the season.
“It is a real important event,” Pacheco said a night earlier with the help of Robson Palermo translating. “There are a lot of points. That helps to stay in the title race. I will try and make points too.”
His actions made it clear he believed he would need to ride another bull before this event was all said and done.
His body language made it ever apparent this was no regular event.
First it was Marco Eguchi getting ripped off Bad Beagle (2.67 seconds).
Then it was the man Pacheco is trying to hunt down, Aparecido, getting slammed by Magic Train in 3.35 seconds.
Next was Jess Lockwood being no match for Deep Water (3.13 seconds) and Pacheco’s mentor, three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, being bucked off by Seven Dust in a quick 2.88 seconds.
Eventually, Joao Ricardo Vieira was smoked by Smooth Operator (1.54 seconds) and Derek Kolbaba laid an egg against Pearl Harbor (2.34 seconds).
Pacheco then walked around the corner of the bullpen and squatted down – deep in thought.
He didn’t look on as Cody Nance was eventually bucked off by his re-ride, Cochise, in 1.66 seconds to clinch Pacheco a second consecutive Last Cowboy Standing.
Pacheco lasted the full 8 seconds in Round 3, while the rest of competitors were all bucked off within 3.4 seconds.
Pacheco was mobbed by his friends.
The aspiring World Champion smiled.
He thanked his fans and sponsors in arena.
But he still remained stoic in those celebratory moments.
Pacheco calmly danced around any talk of this perhaps finally being the year that he will go from a bridesmaid to a World Champion.
“Every event is important for the riders,” Pacheco said. “Last year was important, and this year is important. This is more important because this is a new competition, and I want to end on top this year.
“I want to finish all my bulls.”
By finishing off the first half of the BFTS with 825 points toward the world standings, Pacheco is now only 180 points behind Aparecido in the world standings.
Pacheco has won a PBR Major every season of his three-year career. Those three wins – the most all time by one rider – have netted Pacheco a combined $336,225.
“It is really amazing, this guy has now won three Majors in his short career and he has done it by making great rides like this,” two-time World Champion Justin McBride said to Craig Hummer on CBS Sports Network.
Pacheco also joins Alves, who predicted Pacheco had the event won halfway through Round 3, as the only back-to-back winners at Last Cowboy Standing.
“This makes me really happy and gives me a lot of strength,” Pacheco said. “Las Vegas is a place I like to ride. It helps a lot.”
Pacheco got a second chance to compete in the event on Saturday after being bucked off by Hard Times (2.34 seconds) in Round 1 Friday.
There were only 13 qualified rides in Round 1, therefore the final 12 spots in the draw for Round 2 were filled based on the PBR world standings following the Tacoma Invitational.
Pacheco brushed off his Round 1 buckoff on Friday night by beginning Round 2 with an 88-point ride on Machinery Auctioneer’s Little Joe.
“I know he is an excellent bull,” Pacheco said. “I saw a lot of my friends and partners ride this bull. He is a really tough one, but I was glad I was able to do my job this time.”
Pacheco’s ability to bounce back on Saturday and win the event is a prime example of how Pacheco has been able to bounce back from his 2016 disappointment.
Pacheco has finished No. 2 in the world standings in each of his first two seasons in the PBR, but he has yet to show any lack of a championship hangover in year three.
If anything, those shortcomings have only driven him that much more.
He has picked up where he left off last year.
Pacheco finished 2016 with the most BFTS qualified rides in the PBR (52), and he leads the PBR with 27 qualified rides on the BFTS and 38 rides overall.
Pacheco earned 25 of those 52 rides during the final 10 regular season events and the World Finals last year.
The Itatiba, Brazil, bull rider believes the key for him this year is to have an even better second half than he did in 2016. Pacheco rode 56.82 percent of his bulls and posted seven Top-5 finishes in the final 10 regular-season events before placing sixth at the Finals.
He headed home to Brazil today, and he already plans on returning in August to finally finish the job and win his first gold buckle at the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“This year I am going to get really focused because the second half is the half that is going to define the champion,” Pacheco concluded. “I am going to be extra focused.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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