LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the BlueDEF Finals at the KFC Yum! Center.
VALDIVIEZO EYEING FIRST WORLD FINALS APPEARANCE
Jorge Valdiviezo moved to San Antonio, Texas, late last year to chase his professional bull riding dream and give his family a better opportunity.
The 26-year-old from La Mision, Mexico, is now one step closer toward achieving a professional milestone.
Valdiviezo rode Escape Artist for 85.25 points to tie with Brady Sims for third place in the round and is in position to earn his first career bid to World Finals.
Seeing as Robson Palermo and Gage Gay are already in the Top 35 of the world standings, Valdiviezo would be the first rider based on the event average standings to earn one of three automatic bids to the World Finals.
“This is a great moment for my family and my country,” Valdiviezo said. “Not a lot of riders can ride with this league. I feel great to ride this bull. If I win now, I have an opportunity to ride in the World Finals. That is my dream.”
Valdiviezo is a decorated champion in Mexico. He has won four national titles, as well as the 2014 PBR Mexico championship.
He also expressed his gratitude for the PBR sports medicine team helping him prepare to ride with a right ankle injury that he sustained at a bull riding in San Antonio a few weeks ago.
“Sports medicine helped me to do this,” he said. “My ankle feels great, but I still feel pain. Maybe it is sprained or dislocated. I don’t like going to the hospital. I just take my time at home and rest.”
The next two riders leading the way for the two other automatic bids are Dakota Louis and Derek Kolbaba.
Louis is sitting in a tie for seventh place with his 84.25-point ride on Chubs, while Kolbaba is 11th with 83.5 points on Heads Up.
Other riders currently outside of the Top 35 with a qualified ride are Roscoe Jarboe (82 points on Gomer Pile), Josh Birks (81 points on Little Stinger) and Luis Blanco (76 points on Super Trooper).
PALERMO CLINCHES BERTH FOR WORLD FINALS
Palermo was not thrilled this week that he had to go to the BlueDEF Finals if he hoped to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the ninth time in his career.
He was sore and beat up from the BFTS regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona, and just wanted to stay home and rest.
Palermo can now breathe easy thanks to his Round 1 winning ride on Grandpa Joe (87.25 points).
The three-time World Finals event winner earned 80 points toward the world standings to move from 33th in the world to 30th and clinch a berth for the marquee PBR event on Oct. 21-25 in Las Vegas.
“It looks like I got it,” Palermo said. “I got 80 points and made a little more points with that score. I am so happy. I didn’t want to come. I was so sore at home. Yesterday I got up and I told my wife I didn’t want to come. She said, ‘No, you need to go.’”
Palermo made big work on Grandpa Joe after earning a re-ride during his 48.75-point ride on Sometimes.
“This time is all about points,” he said. “I was down in points and I really needed points and a score. Thanks to God I got a good score.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Gay (86.25 points on Traveling Jones), Valdiviezo, Sims (85.25 points on Beer Nuts) and Douglas Duncan (84.75 points on After Party).
Joao Ricardo Vieira was the only rider in the Top 5 of the world standings to earn a qualified ride. The No. 3 bull rider in the world rode Little Waspy for 82.5 points.
Vieira is 12th heading into Saturday night’s second round.
World leader J.B. Mauney was bucked off by Back in Black in 3.23 seconds.
After all of the ups and downs this season, including being cut from the BFTS, Palermo is able to now focus on enjoying the rest of the weekend and possibly winning the $25,000 BlueDEF event title or the $50,000 bonus that awaits the BlueDEF champion.
Palermo trails BlueDEF leader Kaique Pacheco, who was bucked off by Repo in 7.75 seconds, by only 145 points heading into Saturday night’s second round.
“Oh, that would be awesome,” Palermo said. “I have been down so much this year. It has been really depressing. I have had to do so much to be in the Top 35 this year. My mind is good and everything is starting to come back.
“I hope to do the same thing tomorrow and win the Finals.”
SIMS AND DUNCAN TRYING TO HOLD ONTO FINAL SPOTS
Sims didn’t find out until Tuesday that he was being awarded an alternate spot to compete at the BlueDEF Finals.
Sims, who entered the weekend 34th in the world standings, didn’t waste any time trying to use the opportunity to keep hold of one of the final World Finals qualification spots up for grabs.
His 85.25-point ride on Beer Nuts helped him earn 25 points toward the world standings.
Sims previously rode Beer Nuts for 81 points at the Bismarck, North Dakota, 2014 Touring Pro Division event.
“I wasn’t expecting that out of that bull either,” Sims said. “Last time I got on him he kicked out hard and made one round left and we just went straight down the pen and circled to the left. I knew he is very steep and really tries to jerk on you. The whole ride I was like stay out over him and move with him. Whenever he kicked out, he made a real big fake left and once he hit right he just picked me right back up.”
Sims now leads No. 37 Michael Lane – the first rider not holding a qualification spot in the standings – by 134.17 points.
“It was a spur of the moment deal and it was a blessing in disguise,” Sims said. “I was kicking myself in the butt. I didn’t think I was coming here. I figured I would let fate decide it and then fate came knocking on the door, and it was like ‘Hey do you want to come to Louisville.’ I was like let’s do it.”
Lane had a very tough break in his pursuit of his first World Finals appearance when he was ruled to have bucked off Joe The Grinder in 7.94 seconds.
Meanwhile, Duncan helped his push toward qualifying for the Finals with his fifth-place finish in the round.
Duncan and After Party nearly collided with the bucking chutes during the ride as After Party spun extra closely toward the blue bucking chutes.
“That little black bull, he kind of had me working quite a bit,” Duncan said. “It never looks like what it feels like when I watch it back. He is one when you take your wrap everything just feels right. I hate to sound cocky, but I knew that bull was going to be rode before I nodded my head.”
He earned 15 points to the world standings to extend his lead on Lane to 82.92 points.
“I just try not to put pressure on myself,” Duncan said. “I am whooping and hollering in the bucking chute and I got Stormy (Wing) giving me a hard time. It brings me back down to home base and why you do it in the first place – for the love of the game.
“I don’t know. I guess The Built Ford Tough, you can sometimes put to much pressure on yourself to do good and for whatever reason I always seem to do good when I come back down to these deals. I need to carry this momentum into the big shows.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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