By: Justin Felisko
November 03, 2016
LAS VEGAS – Pearl Harbor once charged through a fence so hard as a calf that he had to have his lip sewn back onto his black and white face.
World leader Kaique Pacheco hopes he can keep more than his lip when he takes on the 2016 World Champion Bull contender on Thursday night during Round 2 of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The showdown is a clash between two top championship contenders and the end result may play a big factor in determining the 2016 World Champion bull rider and which bovine superstar is named the World Champion Bull.
“He is a great bull,” Pacheco said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “He bucked me off once, but I am going to focus and try my best to stay on him this time.”
Pacheco and Pearl Harbor met in 2015 at the Springfield, Missouri, Built Ford Tough Series event. Pearl Harbor won that matchup by disposing Pacheco in 4.32 seconds.
However, Pacheco is a much stronger bull rider than the rookie that attempted him last year, and the 22-year-old believes he learned his lesson the first time around.
“He kind of had a bad step in the chute,” Pacheco said. “He just jumped in the chute and turned inside the chute and got me out of shape and turned around away from my hand and bucked me off.
“I expect to have a clean shot today.”
Pacheco will need more than a clean shot.
He will need to put forth a World Champion kind of effort, and a ride aboard Pearl Harbor at the World Finals would almost certainly go for 90-plus points.
Pearl Harbor is 16-2 on the Built Ford Tough Series, including 8-1 this season.
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney conquered Pearl Harbor for the second-highest ride of his career when he gutted his way to a 94.25-point ride on Berger’s bovine athlete to win the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 15/15 Bucking Battle.
“That will be a good matchup and he will probably ride him,” Mauney said. “He will be a lot of points on him, but it will be a good matchup.”
Pearl Harbor was marked a career-high 46.25 points against Mauney in Sioux Falls.
The 5-year-old bovine athlete’s second-best out this season came against Cooper Davis in Kansas City, Missouri. Pearl Harbor was marked 46 points for a 3.98-second buckoff.
Davis was 0-3 against Pearl Harbor this season and never got past the 4.2-second mark.
He agreed with Mauney though.
“He rides him,” Davis said. “I don’t think any of us three are falling off. Bull riding is bull riding. You can fall off the easy ones and stay on the hard ones, but if I had to put my bet on somebody, I would put it on Kaique or any of us. We are all riding really good. There is no reason to bet against us.”
2016 Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said, “It is going to be a fighting match between two champs.”
The only other two riders to reach 8 seconds on Pearl Harbor in 31 outs at all levels of competition are Matt Triplett and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee.
Triplett rode Pearl Harbor for 87.25 points in 2014 during the bull’s World Finals debut. Lee made 8 seconds on Pearl Harbor for 89.75 points last year in Decatur, Texas.
Berger was ecstatic when he saw Pearl Harbor’s Round 2 matchup and wouldn’t be surprised one bit if fans got to see something special inside T-Mobile Arena.
“I really like the matchup,” Berger said. “It is going to showcase the bull as good as he can be showcased with a kid like him getting on him. That little guy can ride really good. I know he will go at him 100 percent.”
Handler Jeremy Walker said Pearl Harbor has been much more relaxed in Las Vegas than the feisty bull that is normally back on the ranch in Texas.
“Out here he has been hanging out,” Walker said. “I was cleaning his pen out the other day and he walked in there with me. That kind of made me nervous. He has never done that before.”
Pacheco leads the PBR with 49 qualified BFTS rides.
Berger believes the key for Pacheco is if Pearl Harbor decides to spin into Pacheco’s right-riding hand.
“If he goes away from his hand, I give Pearl Harbor the edge – a big edge,” Berger said. “My perfect deal is him blowing out of there and making clear of the gate going left. If he does, we will see a great score, not a ride, for the bull.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said during a Thursday morning CBS Sports Network production meeting that Pearl Harbor was the favorite and that Pacheco cannot get caught sitting on his back pockets.
McBride also noted that Pearl Harbor wrecked out Mauney in the chute during the Springfield, Missouri, 15/15 Bucking Battle in September and that Pacheco cannot take as long inside the chute like in Round 1 at the Finals.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray made one thing clear:
Pacheco vs. Pearl Harbor is the marquee matchup of Round 2.
“Here is how I look at it. There are three riders that can ride Pearl Harbor, and Kaique is one of them,” Murray said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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