By: Justin Felisko
October 22, 2016
Tucson, Ariz. – Time is running out if Jorge Valdiviezo wants to qualify for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Valdiviezo heads into this weekend’s Take The Money and Ride, presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Built Ford Tough Series regular-season finale hanging onto the No. 35 spot in the world standings – which is the last guaranteed spot to ride at the World Finals.
The major issue for Valdiviezo is that he has not earned any points in the BlueDEF Tour standings, making him ineligible for the BlueDEF Tour Finals next weekend in Las Vegas. Therefore, he will need to earn some big-time points at the Tucson Convention Center to try and gain some separation from riders outside the Top 35 that are attempting to hunt him down.
“Today, I try feeling focused and right,” Valdiviezo said last week in San Jose, California. “Do whatever it takes. I just need to keep my mind happy, and I am looking for the World Finals.”
Valdiviezo went 1-for-3 in San Jose, but he finished 16th in the event average and earned no points toward the world standings.
He is trying to hold off a slew of riders chomping at the bit to also qualify for the World Finals on Nov. 2-6.
No. 36 Fraser Babbington is only five points behind Valdiviezo. Although, Babbington was bucked off by Man Up in 1.88 seconds in Round 1 of the Portland, Maine, BlueDEF Tour event Friday night.
There were 12 qualified rides in Round 1, so it may be hard for Babbington to get back to the championship round in Portland without a high-scoring ride in Round 2.
If the two-time Canadian Professional Rodeo Association bull riding champion can hang on for the victory, he would knock Valdiviezo out of the No. 35 position if Valdiviezo goes pointless in Tucson.
Buttar heads into Round 2 in Portland only 63.34 points behind Valdiviezo in the world standings, and a BlueDEF Tour victory would give him 80 world points.
“Yeah, it’s kind of my last chance to get in there,” Buttar said. “That’s why I decided to come. I got in last minute and that’s definitely on my mind and why I’m here.”
A victory from Buttar may also be enough to sneak him into the BlueDEF Tour Finals in Las Vegas.
“Yeah, I actually didn’t think it was possible to get in there either until yesterday,” Buttar said. “I wouldn’t mind going there at all either.”
The No. 41 bull rider in the world standings isn’t alone, though.
No. 39 Keyshawn Whitehorse is competing in Portland. Whitehorse is sitting in 12th place after turning down a re-ride option following his 73.5-point ride on Shameless.
Whitehorse needs a first or second-place to potentially crack the Top 35.
No. 55 Matt Triplett is another wild card when it comes to the bubble race. Triplett is competing in Tucson thanks to his injury exemption, but he also rode at the Little Rock, Arkansas, Touring Pro Division event Friday night.
Triplett went 2-for-2 in Little Rock and is leading the event. If his two rides hold up for the victory, he would earn 60 world points and only need 241 points to crack the Top 35.
Triplett faces Aussie Sauce (0-1, BFTS) in Tucson Saturday night.
To make things more jumbled in the race at the bottom standings. Robson Palermo informed the PBR competition department early Saturday morning that he is unable to make it to Tucson because of the flu. Therefore, No. 49 Reese Cates was giftwrapped an opportunity to ride in Tucson. Cates was the top alternate able to make it to Tucson in time for Round 1.
He is only 222.5 points behind Valdiviezo.
Cates hasn’t competed on the BFTS since Last Cowboy Standing in May and will slide into Palermo’s draw spot against Johnny B (0-1, BFTS). Cody Nance rode Johnny B for 85.75 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma, last month.
The El Dorado, Arkansas, bull rider is tied for 31st in the BlueDEF Tour standings and will likely qualify for the BlueDEF Tour Finals.
Regardless, Valdiviezo can control his destiny with a victory in Tucson, or at least a 3-for-3 performance.
The 27-year-old from La Mision, Mexico, is only 6-for-20 (30 percent) since the BFTS resumed in August.
“It is hard,” he said. “Everybody here rides good and the bulls buck really, really good. After the summer, when I took the summer to rest my injuries, I started riding so bad. That didn’t help my confidence or my mind.”
Valdiviezo has to take advantage of a great Round 1 matchup. He has drawn Reagonator (1-3, BFTS). Reagonator has been ridden in three of his four BFTS outs, as well as six of eight times overall.
“This has been a long year,” Valdiviezo concluded. “Injuries and everything with my life, but I am very happy. I want to be ready for the World Finals.
“Now, I am trying to keep riding good and, of course, make points. Do whatever it takes. This is very important for me.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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