PUEBLO, Colo. – With the Built Ford Tough Series on its first break since the beginning of the 2015 season, let’s take a look at the Top-5 rides through the first three months of the year.
1. Joao Ricardo Vieira rides Walk Off for 92.25 points
Joao Ricardo Vieira won his fourth round of the 2015 BFTS last week in Seattle by riding Walk Off for 92.25 points.
The round win helped propel Vieira into the No. 1 spot in the world standings for the first time since seeing his world lead disappear during the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Since beginning Iron Cowboy as the 26th rider in the world standings, Vieira has gone on to earn 1,945 points at BFTS events to move into the No. 1 spot.
He leads the BFTS with 24 qualified rides and has a career-best 58.54 riding percentage through the first 13 BFTS.
The ride came one week after Vieira rode Jeff Robinson’s bovine athlete for 88 points at the Ty Murray Invitational.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year holds two of the four qualified rides Walk Off has surrendered in 35 outs.
2. Matt Triplett rides Delco for 90.75 points
Matt Triplett is tied for the BFTS-lead for round wins (five) and he got his first of the season back in Chicago when he covered Delco for 90.75 points to win Round 2.
Triplett had previously ridden the bull for 89 points at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“I got along good with that bull at the Finals and I knew usually when I draw bulls that I have already rode, I overthink it or I go at it not as hard as I usually do, but my attitude this year is totally changed,” Triplett said in January. “I am not even looking at what I got. I waited until I got here until I knew what I had, and I just have to go at them every single jump and try my best.
“I ride a lot to the front end of my rope and really drive forward and that bull has a lot of rear and a lot of kick. So he just fits me really good, because I got way out over bulls and that is what it takes to ride the rank ones.”
Triplett finished the event in fifth place and it was one of seven consecutive Top-10 finishes to begin the season.
The 23-year-old missed the Seattle Invitational due to a torn MCL in his left knee as Vieira surpassed him in the standings. He had been the world leader for eight weeks.
The No. 2 bull rider in the world has gone 20-for-38 (52.63 percent) this year and is tied with Reese Cates for the BFTS-lead in wins (2).
3. Chase Outlaw rides Crack The Whip for 90.75 points
Chase Outlaw was the No. 9 bull rider in the world when he sustained a torn right rotator cuff at the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City in February.
Outlaw was on his way to a career-year and had gone 11-for-24 and had won the 15/15 Bucking Battle in St. Louis with an 89.25-point ride on Crack The Whip.
However, his best ride of the year came on Crack The Whip in New York at the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden when he covered the bull for 90.75 points, which tied his career-high.
“I said, ‘If I had him when he cracked out there and went left, I would start whooping and I wouldn’t quit,’” Outlaw said in New York. “He likes to drop everybody in there or right around there. I figured if I started spurring right around there and stay aggressive and don’t quit.”
4. Guilherme Marchi rides Calypso for 90.5 points
It is hard to believe that it had been over a year since Guilherme Marchi surpassed the 90-point thereshold at a BFTS event until last week in Seattle.
Marchi rode Calypso for 90.5 points to finish second in the championship round behind Vieira and notch the 51st 90-point ride of his career.
“That is a really good bull,” Marchi said. “He was right there into my hand. I was so happy to cover him. He was very strong and was moving forward a little bit. I cover him pretty good. It worked for me.”
Marchi’s last 90-point ride came on Feb. 8, 2014 in Anaheim, California, when he rode KISS Animalize for 90 points.
The 2008 World Champion is second to J.B. Mauney among active riders for career 90-point rides.
The 32-year-old is ninth in the world standings and has gone 20-for-42 (47.62 percent). Marchi has finished within the Top-10 of the world standings 10 consecutive years.
5. Joao Ricardo Vieira rides Bruiser for 90.5 points
While Iron Cowboy was the event that Vieira’s season turned around, it may have been his 90.5-point ride on Bruiser that truly sparked the massive march Vieira has been on since stepping foot inside AT&T Stadium.
Vieira hadn’t flashed the kind of confidence post-ride that he did when he won Round 2 of Iron Cowboy by riding Bruiser for his first 90-point ride since covering Smackdown for 90.75 points in St. Louis on Feb. 16, 2014.
“I was not riding very well and now I draw good bulls,” Vieira said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating in February. “It is good to win this weekend again because I rode all of my bulls. I feel like the Iron Cowboy. It is in the heart of all the riders to be the Iron Cowboy champion.”
Vieira had previously ridden Bruiser for 88.75 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
The BFTS returns next weekend in Nampa, Idaho, with the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational on April 11-12.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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