ST. LOUIS ― For the third time in the past year, Joao Ricardo Vieira rodeSmackdown for 90-plus points and in doing so he logged another Built Ford Tough Series win for the third time as well.
Vieira climbed in the chute Sunday afternoon, nodded his head and rode the big veteran bull for 90.75 points. It was the 18th time Smackdown has been ridden in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in 71 outs.
However, this time the round win and, more importantly, the event victory pushed last year’s Rookie of the Year to second in the PBR world standings—354.38 points behind Mike Lee. The 2004 World Champion and Vieira both passed Guilherme Marchi, who was the top-ranked rider coming into this week’s event.
Lee, Vieira and Marchi are the Top 3 riders in the world followed by Fabiano Vieira (no relation to Joao) and the reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney.
“I feel really grateful that God has helped me win this event,” said Vieira, with the assistance of Megan Bradford translating his native Portuguese to English.
Vieira beat out Claudio Crisostomo, who aggravated a left riding shoulder separation in Round 2 that was originally sustained in Anaheim, with Lee, Mariluch and Triplett rounding out the Top 5 places in St. Louis.
Vieira came back to win the St. Louis Invitational – his first of 2014 and the fourth of his career – after bucking off in the opening round of the three-day event in St. Louis.
That night 11 riders made a qualified ride at the Scottrade Center, but only three of them – Valdiron de Oliveira, Emilio Resende and Silvano Alves – went 2-for-2 after the second round. That opened the door for Vieira, who added 84 points to the leaderboard after initially being flagged for a slap. A replay showed otherwise, and he was given the score on Saturday night for making the 8-second whistle on Throbbin Robin.
He rode his way into the final round on Sunday afternoon by closing out the long rounds with 87 points on Electric Prune.
Surprisingly, Mariluch and Triplett passed on Smackdown in the championship round bull draft – Mariluch took Apollo Stripes, while Triplett took Who Dey – and Vieira could barely contain himself in having what looked like another golden opportunity.
Speaking of gold, after finishing third in the world standings during his rookie season he’s now looking for a gold buckle this year.
In the meantime, the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy is two weeks away and Vieira is hoping for a matchup with Bushwacker for the Bad Boy Mowers Million Dollar Ride.
“I want to ride Bushwacker this year,” Vieira said.
Healthy and confident after escaping a near-stomping in Round 3 from Electric Prune, Vieira has ridden 13 of 25 bulls for a 57.7 percent average seven events into the 26-event season.
This was his third Top-5 finish and only Lee (5) has more.
“Every weekend is a new bull, so I focus on one bull at a time,” said Vieira, who said he’s calm, secure and prepared since accompanying his family from Brazil to the United States.
Following the Sacramento, Calif., event two weeks ago, he flew to Brazil and helped his family to his place in Decatur, Texas, and then immediately headed back to California for the Anaheim event.
They will see him compete in person in two weeks at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium).
He said, “I’m more prepared both physically and mentally for the Iron Cowboy.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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