By: Justin Felisko
October 19, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – One year later, and Joao Ricardo Vieira feels to be in a better place than he was at this point last season.
Despite being farther back in the world standings this year – he trails world leader Cooper Davis by 1,527.5 points – the No. 4 ranked bull rider believes he is still very much alive in the 2016 world title race.
Simply put, Vieira is riding much better this year compared to last season when he was still only 817.5 points out of the world lead.
Vieira heads into this weekend’s Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride, presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community, event fresh off a 4-for-4 showing at the San Jose Invitational, presented by Ariat.
Vieira is 14-for-32 since the Built Ford Tough Series resumed in August. His 43.75 percent riding average is vastly different than his 27.77 percent (5-for-18) ratio he brought into last year’s season-finale in Tucson.
“I see the chance to win, but at the Finals there are a lot of points,” Vieira said. “If the week is good for me, if I win the event, I will be the world champ.
“But I don’t see the world champ, I see the next event. One more event.”
Vieira has drawn Walter Pepper (8-3, BFTS) for Round 1. Vieira rode Walter Pepper for 84.5 points in Oklahoma City this season.
Fans can watch all of the Round 1 action Saturday on PBR LIVE at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Vieira, who recently received his green card here in the United States, got on six bulls last week at Silvano Alves’ Texas ranch.
He then placed fourth in the 15/15 Bucking Battle with 83.75 points on Modified Clyde and fourth in the Built Ford Tough Championship round with 85.25 points on Swashbuckler.
“That was a good bull. The first time I ride this bull he spins to the right and is good. Today he spun to the left and is good,” Vieira said.
Vieira’s 41 rides on the BFTS matches his career-high he set in 2014, when he finished second in the world standings.
“This year my big focus was for the events,” he said. “I start good, I ride good bulls. The middle (part of the season) was not good. No good luck with good bulls. It is OK. Now, I am good. I am going to work hard this week for this event and come here.”
Davis, the man everyone will be chasing, has drawn Houdunnit (0-0, BFTS).
No. 10 Shane Proctor is returning to competition from his groin injury. He has a rematch against Buckfire (3-1, BFTS) in Round 1. Proctor previously rode Buckfire for 86.25 points in Anaheim, California.
Jorge Valdiviezo is hanging on to the final draw spot for the World Finals. The No. 35 bull rider leads No. 36 Fraser Babbington by only five points and this weekend will most likely decide his ultimate fate.
Valdiviezo has no points in the BlueDEF Tour standings, meaning he will be ineligible to compete at the BlueDEF Finals next weekend.
The 27-year-old therefore will need to earn points toward the standings and pad his lead inside the Top 35 or else he will risk being passed over by another rider competing at this weekend’s non-BFTS events and next weekend’s BlueDEF Finals.
Valdiviezo has drawn Reagonator (1-3, BFTS). Valdiviezo couldn’t have asked for a better draw. Reagonator has been ridden in three of his four BFTS outs, as well as six of eight times overall.
Matt Triplett is the only alternate, replacing Ben Jones, as he continues to compete via an injury exemption. Triplett is 55th in the world standings and 245 points behind the Top 35.
Triplett will look to kick things off with a ride aboard Aussie Sauce (0-1, BFTS) in Round 1.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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