PUEBLO, Colo. – With two days remaining until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Biloxi, Mississippi, PBR.com will take a look at the Top 5 riders in the world standings before the stretch run to the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals officially begins.
Today, we look at Matt Triplett, who is currently second in the world standings.
FIRST HALF RECAP: Now in his third season on the PBR’s marquee circuit, Triplett has taken the next step in his career. He sat atop the world standings for eight consecutive weeks – the first time in his career he was ever ranked No. 1 – and won his first two career BFTS events (Oklahoma City and Anaheim, California). Triplett was cruising atop the standings before he was faced with his first major obstacle of his BFTS career. The World Champion contender sustained a torn left MCL at the Ty Murray Invitational when Coyote kicked him in the leg after being thrown at the 3.69-second mark. Luckily, Triplett was able to avoid surgery, but the injury did cost him the world lead and two events. It also put a halt to the momentum he had built up through the first 12 weeks of the season.
BEST FIRST HALF PERFORMANCE: Matt Triplett won the first two events of his BFTS career by notching 615 points in Oklahoma City and Anaheim, California.
Even though he bucked off Cooper Tires Brown Sugar in Oklahoma City’s championship round, it was an otherwise flawless weekend for the Montana bull rider. Triplett split Round 1 with J.B. Mauney with his 89-point ride on Spin Machine, won Round 2 with 90 points aboard American Sniper and rode Hou’s Back for 87 points in Round 3.
After going 0-for-5 in the championship round prior to Anaheim, Triplett finally got to shed that goose egg from his stat line by riding Mr. Bull for 89 points to win his BFTS-leading fifth round of the season at the time and clinch his second BFTS victory in three weeks. He also rode Super Cella for 85.5 points in Round 3 and El Capitan for 87 points in Round 2.
FIRST HALF TOP RIDE: 90.75 points on Delco in Chicago
TRIPLETT DEALS WITH SUMMER RIDING HAND INJURY: Triplett had every intention of riding at BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division events before a sprained riding hand at the June 13 Moline, Illinois, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event during his 85.5-point ride on Last Callchanged everything.
Instead of hitting the summer trail hard, Triplett took off almost six weeks until last weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Big Sky, Montana. Following a buckoff against Lil Earl in Round 1, Triplett proceeded to finish the event 2-for-3 and in third place.
He rode Chubby for 87 points in Round 2 and The Kraken for 86.5 points in the championship round.
“My confidence is back,” Triplett said. “I am feeling great. Last night I think I was a little too excited, over thinking things and tonight I went back to the basics of breathing and having fun. Just getting one rode again gives you the feeling and your brain thinking that you are back and ready to go.”
KEYS TO SUCCESS: There were two moments before the summer break where Triplett went through two 0-for-7 slumps.
Triplett has to avoid any cold streaks during the stretch run to the Built Ford Tough World Finals if he hopes to overcome No. 1 Joao Ricardo Vieira’s 1,022.5-point lead atop the world standings.
However, the talent is there for Triplett to make a potential run if he is mentally confident and physically recovered.
He is likely to surpass his career-high of 33 qualified rides in the second half – he had 25 through May – and he has already set new a new high in Top-5 finishes (five) and needs just two more Top-10 finishes for another career-high in that category.
He is also riding over 49 percent of his bulls, which is almost 11 points higher than his career average at the start of the season.
Triplett said he plans on embracing the underdog role in the second half.
“I am going to look at it as I am going to be the underdog and I have a lot of ground to make up, but I am going to take it one bull at a time and go after every round win I can,” Triplett said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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