By: Justin Felisko
January 04, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – The big winner of the PBR’s international, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division in November and December was Matt Triplett.
The 25-year-old went 8-for-13 (61.54 percent) at all levels of competition, including two PBR Australia victories, to earn 175 points toward the world standings.
Triplett used the two months of competition to try and earn enough world points to get back onto the Built Ford Tough Series after missing the majority of the 2016 season because of elbow and shoulder surgeries.
In the grand scheme of things, 175 world points may seem miniscule. However, Triplett – the current world No. 1 bull rider – earned enough points, in combination with his 2016 world standing point totals, to earn an alternate position for this weekend’s Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden season opener.
The Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden is the first of four PBR Majors this season. The event winner takes home $100,000.
By being an alternate, Triplett was able to save his two remaining injury exemptions for later on this season if he fails to earn enough points to remain on the Built Ford Tough Series.
As a reminder, based on the PBR rulebook, riders that placed 1-30 in the 2016 world standings are guaranteed eight BFTS events before being subject to the cutline, while riders ranked 31-35 are guaranteed five BFTS events before being subject to being cut.
Therefore, until the sixth event of the 2017 season (Kansas City, Missouri), all alternates for BFTS events will be based on the 2016 world standings point totals plus the 2017 world standing point totals following any riders with injury exemptions.
Triplett, who did sustain a shoulder injury in Southaven, Mississippi, has drawn Little Red Jacket (20-15, BFTS) in Round 1 and begins the season with a 60-point lead on No. 2 Mike Lee in the world standings.
Last season, 175 points would have placed Triplett 26th in the world standings following the eight BFTS event. Therefore, Triplett appears to have done enough to keep himself in contention for weekly draw spot before the BFTS draws reset based upon 2017 standings.
This is the second season that Triplett competed in Australia. The Colombia Falls, Montana, bull rider is looking for similar success.
In 2015, Triplett went 7-for-11 in Australia with three Top-3 finishes, propelling him to a fifth-place finish in the world standings and a career-best 42.31 percent riding average.
He hopes 2017 has a similar, if not better, result.
There are seven riders from last year’s Top 35 unavailable to compete in New York – Tanner Byrne (shoulder blade), Lachlan Richardson (bicep surgery), Robson Palermo (knee), Ty Pozzobon (hand), Valdiron de Oliveira (retirement), Aaron Roy (leg) and Kasey Hayes (retirement).
Byrne fractured his shoulder blade on Saturday when he was attempting some practice bulls in preparation for the 2017 kickoff.
“I was practicing up for the season and a bull stepped on my shoulder (free arm) and fractured my shoulder blade,” Byrne said.
Byrne is unsure of how long the injury will keep him out, but he believes he won’t need surgery.
“No surgery or nothing,” Byrne said. “Just got to let it heal up for a few days and then get strength and movement back. I am day-to-day for now.”
Pozzobon expects to miss the first month of the season because of his on-going riding hand injury.
“It’s still pretty sore,” Pozzobon said. “No surgery (needed), just time. I figure I will be good by Anaheim. I’ll be ready to roll.”
Palermo said he has scheduled an appointment with Dr. Tandy Freeman to get an update on his torn PCL that he aggravated during Round 2 of the World Finals.
Four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris, who missed the majority of 2016 because of elbow, hip and knee surgery, will be using one of four injury exemptions remaining, while Alexandre Cardozo is set to use one of his three remaining.
Harris has drawn Tractor Tippin (0-0, BFTS) and Cardozo will see Ace (1-2, BFTS) in Round 1.
The four additional draw spots were filled by Cody Heffernan, Jorge Valdiviezo, Keyshawn Whitehorse and Brant Atwood.
Heffernan takes on Jailbreaker (10-1, BFTS) in Round 1.
Valdiviezo has a matchup against Crooked Face (7-1, BFTS), while Whitehorse will look for 8 seconds on Northside (0-0, BFTS).
Atwood has a good matchup against Micro Man (0-3, BFTS).
Fraser Babbington and Kurt Shephard were offered alternate positions, but neither could make it back to the United States in time for this weekend’s competition.
Defending World Champion Cooper Davis begins his title defense against Pneu Dart’s Captain (0-0, BFTS).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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