By: Justin Felisko
ARLINGTON, Texas – 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco already has the most prestigious belt buckle a bull rider can ever win his career, but the six-time PBR World Finals qualifier has his sights on adding the next best thing to his resume this weekend.
Pacheco is a perfect 2-for-2 at the 2020 PBR World Finals, and the No. 3-ranked bull rider in the world knows that not only can he walk out of AT&T Stadium with potentially a second World Championship this weekend, but also his first World Finals event victory.
“I am thinking more about the World Finals,” Pacheco said following his 84.25-point ride on Bronstad’s Boomer Saturday night. “I think about both. You need to ride good at the World Finals to win both. To win the World Finals or win the world title, you need to ride good here.
“This is really important because the World Finals is the biggest event on the tour. If you want to stay in the world title race, this can help a lot because it has a lot of points.”
Pacheco has never won the World Finals event title, and his best finish came in 2016 when he placed sixth at the World Finals by going 4-for-6.
The 2015 Rookie of the Year heads into his Round 3 matchup against Sky Harbor (23-8, UTB) sitting sixth in the event average (171.25), one spot ahead of world leader Jose Vitor Leme (170.50).
Sky Harbor bucked Pacheco off in 3.62 seconds last year in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Leme answered Pacheco’s Round 2 ride by converting on Louisville Slugger for 83.25 points, extending his lead on Pacheco in the world title race to 692.5 points.
Leme said that going against Pacheco is similar to his battle with two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood last season.
Pacheco held off Leme for the World Championship in 2018, so the two are certainly not strangers when it comes to competing for the ultimate prize in bull riding.
“Going against either of those guys, Kaique or Jess, is the same feeling,” Leme said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I lose to both of them already. If I can win, then it will be all equal. Both of those guys are great.”
Leme admires the fact that Pacheco is such a technician in the arena with his focus and his controlled style. The two riders may have differences in their riding styles, but their determination and focus on winning a world title remains the same.
“Kaique is so focused on his bulls, and every jump and movement he makes is so perfect and so sharp,” Leme said. “I wish I could ride like him. Sometimes I do the same movements he does, but sometimes I expose myself a little too much and sometimes make it a little harder. He does it so perfect. To me, he has one of the prettiest styles.”
There are still 860 world points available heading into Round 3, but Pacheco will have to win the World Finals event average, which is worth 560 world points, to win the World Championship. He would only earn 650 world points if he were to finish second in the event average and win the last three rounds of the Finals.
Leme could potentially clinch the 2020 World Championship on Saturday night if he finishes the evening 760.25 points ahead of his opponents in the world standings.
Round 3 begins on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET and on RidePass at 7:15 p.m. ET.
Pacheco says it is important to not get wrapped up in the scenarios or the big picture. The 26-year-old wants to keep things simple and focus on the next bull in front of him. None of this matters if he bucks off Sky Harbor on Saturday night.
“The World Champion is the best bull rider all year,” he concluded. “If you want to be a World Champion, you need to forget about all of the things. You need to clear your mind and focus on your bull. That is what I am thinking.
“You need to focus on yourself and ride your bulls. I need to be my best. I just try to push myself up and keep doing better and better.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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