Five riders earn PBR Wild Card qualification berths ~ Justin Felisko

Here are three things we learned from the 2016 BlueDEF Tour Finals on Monday night at South Point Arena.

Holmes strikes magic for second year in a row; Silva and Cook earn first Finals berths

Neil Holmes’ first Built Ford Tough World Finals appearance ended horrifically in 2015, but the 30-year-old has earned himself a chance to write a new chapter at the PBR’s marquee event for the second year in a row thanks to the BlueDEF Finals.

Holmes went 2-for-4 at the BlueDEF Finals and his third-place finish earned him 188.3 points toward the world standings.

More importantly, Holmes picked up one of the five PBR World Finals wild card positions by finishing third in the final BlueDEF Tour standings.

“Man I am a fighter, so when my back is against the wall that is when I feel like I am going to be my best,” Holmes said.

Holmes then laughed before adding, “I was there at the Finals last year, but I don’t remember it. Hopefully this year I do.”

Holmes was referencing the concussion and broken jaw he sustained during Round 4 of the 2015 World Finals. The Houston native was well on his way to his first career ride at the Finals when he was jarred forward by Pure Bull at 6.29 seconds and his head collided with the 1,500-pound bucking bull.

Holmes was able to bounce back from his Round 1 buckoff against Bad Water (2.8 seconds) Saturday by riding Gambini for 88 points to win Round 2 on Sunday. He then finished tied for second in Round 3 with an 86.5-point ride on Blues Man on Monday.

“That was great,” Holmes said. “He did everything he wasn’t supposed to do, like go right, but it worked out.”

The only flaw Monday for Holmes was his 2.83-second buckoff against Bad Moon Rising in the championship round.

The buckoff didn’t hurt him, though, as he still finished high enough in the BlueDEF standings to earn the wild card berth.

Holmes and Emilio Resende earned the two BlueDEF Tour standings wild card berths because 2016 BlueDEF Tour champion Chase Outlaw and runner-up Nathan Schaper, as well as BlueDEF No. 3 Derek Kolbaba, all had already qualified for the World Finals by finishing inside the Top 35 of the world standings.

Zane Cook and Juliano da Silva earned the other two BlueDEF Tour event wild card berths by finishing in fourth- and fifth-place in the event.

Top-3 finishers Outlaw, Schaper and Holmes already had qualified for the World Finals.

Cook made his way to the Finals by riding War Party for 86 points in the championship round. He also rode Sic’ Em on a Chicken in Round 2 for 86 points.

Silva won Round 1 with an 89.5-point ride on Cracker Breaker and then notched 82 points on Locomotive Exhaust in Round 3 to finish 2-for-4.

Cook and Silva will be making their World Finals debuts.

“I am very happy now because before this year I didn’t ride very good,” Silva said with the help of Silvano Alves translating. “This week I rode good and this is a dream. All of the cowboys want to come to World Finals. I am very happy because this is my dream.”

Schaper and Buttar crack Top 35; Barbosa earns international invite

Nathan Schaper’s sister, Hailey, can breathe a sigh of relief.

Schaper made sure Hailey wouldn’t have to feel any guilt, not that he was going to blame her by any means if he didn’t make the World Finals, after he skipped the final BlueDEF Tour event of the regular-season two weeks ago to attend her wedding.

The problem for Schaper was that he was ranked 36th in the world standings and only 7.5 points behind No. 35 Fraser Babbington at the time of the wedding.

None of that matters anymore after Schaper rode his final three bulls at the BlueDEF Finals to finish 3-for-4 and second overall with 205 world points.

“They are all going to be super happy,” Schaper said. “I am glad it worked out. There was no way I was going to miss my sister’s wedding. I told them I knew I could get enough here to make it. I wasn’t going to miss her wedding for one event because I rode mediocre all year. It was all on my shoulders.”

The 205 points pushed Schaper to the World Finals for the fourth consecutive year. Schaper concludes the regular season 30th in the world standings.

“It has been weighing on me pretty heavy,” Schaper said. “Every morning I would wake up and it was on my mind. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. The last four or five weeks I suppose. That is where we all want to be – the World Finals at the end of the year.

“I am speechless. I will be ready to ride in Vegas.”

Schaper punched his ticket to the World Finals by riding King Buck for 87 points during the championship round.

It felt like “déjà vu” for Schaper. Last year, Schaper conquered King Buck for 87.5 points in Billings, Montana, for his second career Built Ford Tough Series victory.

“I had to stay on in the short round or else it wasn’t going to work,” Schaper said. “I drew the bull to do it on. That is one I would have handpicked. I won Billings on him and it is surreal that it happened again like this.”

Following the ride, Schaper gave bullfighter Cody Webster a big hug.

“I told him, ‘Just like last time Webster!’ Schaper exclaimed. “Oh, this was the same feeling I had when I got on him in Billings. Completely relaxed. I just knew to make small moves and thankfully that is what I did.”

Schaper wasn’t the only rider outside the Top 35 at the beginning of the BlueDEF Finals to end up inside of it come the final ride of the night.

Dakota Buttar, who had replaced 2016 PBR Canada champion Ty Pozzobon in the draw, finished the event 35th in the world after the 23-year-old finished in fifth place at the BlueDEF Finals.

2016 will be Buttar’s first World Finals.

“I am pretty happy,” Buttar said. “It was something I really didn’t expect at the start of the year. It all kind of just fell together this last month. I am pretty excited.”

Buttar finished 2-for-4 at the BlueDEF Finals. He began his weekend with an 84.5-point ride on El Guerrero in Round 1 before bucking Scotty’s Crossroads (2.48 seconds) in Round 2. The Kindersley, Saskatchewan, bull rider began the final night of competition with an 86.5-point ride effort on Big Dan in Round 3.

The ride ultimately got him to the World Finals after he bucked off Old Crow (5.06 seconds) in the championship round.

“I had seen a video of that first bull I got on him,” Buttar said. “I was pretty happy with him. I liked that draw pretty good.”

Schaper and Buttar’s success wound up being the demise of Jorge Valdiviezo and Fraser Babbington.

Valdiviezo and Babbington were eliminated from competing at the World Finals and finished the regular season 36th and 37th in the world standings. They will be the top two alternates at the World Finals if any riders get hurt over the course of the five days of competition.

Babbington was left kicking himself at the South Point Arena following two consecutive buckoffs just past 7 seconds.

Buttar finishing 35th in the world standings became gold for 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa.

Barbosa began the final night of the BlueDEF Finals in the lead after beginning the weekend 2-for-2, but he bucked off his last two bulls – Wiley (5.39 seconds) and I’m a Gangster Too (2.45 seconds) – to finish in eighth place overall.

However, seeing as Buttar finished 35th in the world, Barbosa wound up receiving the international wild card spot.

Outlaw continues hot streak with $79,133.33 BlueDEF Tour championship

There may be no hotter rider heading into the World Finals on Wednesday night than Chase Outlaw.

Outlaw went 3-for-4 to win the BlueDEF Tour Finals event, as well as the 2016 BlueDEF Tour championship.

He clinched the victory and championship with an 85-point ride on Gas Pedal in the championship round.

“Man, you just have to jam up,” Outlaw said. “I said leaving Tucson I would win here and I plan on winning there (at the World Finals).”

The 24-year-old won the BFTS regular-season finale two weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, and has now ridden six of his last seven and won an astounding $116,608.33.

Outlaw earned $79,133.33 at the BlueDEF Finals. He won $50,000 for beating out Nathan Schaper for the BlueDEF Tour championship, $19,800 for winning the BlueDEF Finals and an additional $9,333.33 in round money.

The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider bounced back from his Round 2 buckoff against Runaway Train (3.5 seconds) to ride both of his bulls Monday night.

Outlaw won Round 3 with a beautiful 87.5-point ride on Tom Horn before sealing the win aboard Gas Pedal.

“Bucking off last night really fired me up,” Outlaw said. “I have it between my ears to have the self-confidence to do what it takes. Man, I am looking forward to the next five days.”

Outlaw appears ready to make an even larger statement at the World Finals after concluding the regular-season 18th in the world standings despite missing the first six months of the season because of reconstructive shoulder surgery.

“I have the most confidence right now than I ever had on the Built Ford Tough Series,” Outlaw concluded. “I don’t even have to think about it. That is when you know you have good confidence. You get that eye of the tiger and go after each one of them.”

Kolbaba takes over BlueDEF Tour lead

LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from Round 2 of the BlueDEF Tour Finals on Sunday night at the South Point Arena.

The sound of the 8-second mark rang through the arena late Sunday night and Derek Kolbaba thought to himself, “Finally.”

Kolbaba rode Livin Large for 85.5 points to place third in Round 2 and overtake the BlueDEF Tour lead with one night remaining in the BlueDEF Tour season.

Even more so, Kolbaba ended a streak of 16 consecutive buckoffs at all levels of competition.

“That is what we came here to do,” Kolbaba said. “It is a little close to the World Finals, but it is a great stepping stone into it. I haven’t been riding the best, so to get something like that done boosts the confidence a whole lot. It is definitely something I needed, for sure.”

Kolbaba leads No. 2 BlueDEF Tour rider Emilio Resende by a slim 1.67 points. The race is even tighter seeing as both riders are tied for sixth-place in the event aggregate with identical 85.5-point rides.

Resende was bucked off by Last Minute in 3.3 seconds in Round 2, but he had previously ridden The Lunatic for 85.5 points in Round 1 on Saturday.

The winner of the BlueDEF Tour championship earns $50,000. The top two riders in the BlueDEF Tour standings, not already ranked inside the Top 35 of the world standings, also earn a trip to the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Wednesday.

“That is the other thing,” Kolbaba said. “The money here at the BlueDEF Finals is great. If anyone says $50,000 isn’t very much money then I probably wouldn’t listen to them. If I can come in here and be $50,000 richer going into the World Finals that always make it a whole lot better as well.”

Kolbaba has drawn All Shook Up (2-3, BFTS) for Round 3, while Resende is set to see Honey Hush (28-2, PBR).

Round 2 winner Neil Holmes and Nathan Schaper are the only two riders inside the Top 10 of the BlueDEF Tour standings with qualified rides this weekend.

Holmes won Round 2 with 88 points on Gambini.

“It was a good bull of Zane Cook’s,” Holmes said. “I was excited to get on him. It worked out. He had no tricks or nothing. He was around to the left and kept getting better and better. Thank God I was able to cover.”

It was only a year ago when Holmes finished seventh at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals to earn a trip to the World Finals.

“That is the only reason I am here, to try and make it to the Finals,” Holmes said. “I thank the PBR for giving guys like myself a chance to still qualify. Hopefully, we can do it again.”

Holmes is seventh in the BlueDEF Tour standings and is only 151.67 points behind Kolbaba.

Schaper rode Chute Brute for 83 points in Round 2 to finish seventh in the round.

The problem for Schaper is he is sitting 14th in the event average and has yet to earn any world standings points. The No. 36 rider in the world still needs a ride tomorrow in Round 3 to try and qualify for the 10-man championship round, as well as to try and overcome the 7.5-point deficit between him and No. 35 Fraser Babbington.

Babbington was bucked off by Paradise City Slinger in 7.49 seconds.

Barbosa only rider 2-for-2 and close to qualifying for the World Finals

Dener Barbosa has one thing on his mind, and that is a trip to the World Finals on Wednesday night.

It is why he turned down a re-ride option following his 51-point ride on Clifford.

“I watched a lot of video of the bulls before I come over,” Barbosa said with the help of Valdiron de Oliveira translating. “I know the re-ride bulls are not too easy to ride at this event. You watch this event. Today, not many guys ride.

“I didn’t want to take a re-ride because I am guaranteed to be 2-for-2. Right now, I am the only one 2-for-2.”

Not only is Barbosa leading the event average, but, more importantly, he is the top international rider heading into the final night of action Monday.

The top finishing international rider receives an automatic bid to the World Finals, which is something Barbosa said he is very much aware of.

“The other guys I am competing with to qualify for Wednesday, only one guy stay on his bull (tonight),” Barbosa said. “I wanted to guarantee to be 2-for-2.”

Cody Heffernan tied with Sage Kimzey (85 points on Scary Harry) for fourth-place in Round 2 with his 85-point ride on Red Fury.

“I should have rode that bull (King Buck) last night,” Heffernan said. “I had a kind of similar bull tonight, and I was able to get out of the well. He was getting me in there just a little bit toward the end and I was able to get back to the center. I was unable to do that on my first-round bull.”

Dakota Buttar is the only other international invite with a qualified ride thanks to his 84-point ride on El Guerrero in Round 1. Buttar was bucked off by Scotty’s Crossroads in 2.48 seconds during Round 2 and came up severely favoring his left knee.  

The path to the Finals is simple for Barbosa.

He just needs to make the 8-second mark on Monday night.

He takes on Wiley (5-4, BFTS) in Round 3. 

“Tomorrow, I stay on another bull and I am guaranteed to ride at the Finals,” he concluded with a smile.

Heffernan closing in on Top 35

The other scenario working in Barbosa’s favor is the fact that Babbington is 0-for-2.

Yes, Babbington is not in the running for one of the international wild card spots, but Babbington is the current holder of the 35th spot in the world standings.

Heffernan’s Round 2 performance has him tied with Buttar for 37th in the world standings. The two international wild card contenders are only 13.34 points behind Babbington.

If either rider cracks the Top-35 of the world standings, they would no longer be eligible for the international wild card position because they would have already qualified for the World Finals.

Heffernan knows he is right on the cusp of qualifying for his first World Finals.

“It isn’t really bothering me,” Heffernan said. “I have just been fighting with my head lately. That is all that has been worrying me, just getting some bulls rode. Not the points.

“It is pretty close. One bull will make a big difference. I know that much.”

Heffernan has never qualified for the World Finals. A ride in Round 3 may go a long to helping him get to T-Mobile Arena Wednesday night.

“It has been pretty well documented that I went back to Australia and won the title and then the goal was to be on the Built Ford Tough Series,” Heffernan said. “It didn’t quite pan out the way I wanted it to during the second half of the season. I am just trying to gain some confidence and ride some bulls tomorrow night and crack the Top 35.

“That would mean the world to me.” 

Injury Updates

According to Rich Blyn of PBR Sports Medicine, world No. 11 Paulo Lima is out of competition Monday night because of a fractured jaw he sustained in Tucson, Arizona.

Michael Lane is questionable for Round 3 because of a left ankle sprain. 

Vieira earns no points; but still can make world title race closer

LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the BlueDEF Tour Finals on Saturday night at South Point Arena.

The ride wasn’t anything special in regards to rider score or flash, but Fabiano Vieira’s 80-point ride aboard Brown Town was exactly what the 34-year-old needed to begin his PBR Finals week.

Vieira is seventh in the world standings and is trying to overcome a deficit 2,430.84 points in the world standings.

“I feel good,” Vieira said. “He put a horn in my shoulder, but I am a cowboy. He bucked pretty good on video, but he didn’t buck good today. This is good for my head. I need two more. This is a big event too. I was a little sore and didn’t come to the BlueDEF Finals last year. This year, I had a chance to come.”

The last thing Vieira needed was another shot into his left shoulder.

Vieira is 6-for-26 at all levels of competition since dislocating his left shoulder at the Calgary Stampede in July.

“After the break, I haven’t rode very good,” Vieira said. “Earlier this year, before I dislocated my shoulder, I rode very, very good. I was strong and I was OK.”

The Perola, Brazil, bull rider said earlier in the day that his left shoulder dislocation has been much worse for him to ride with than his unstable right shoulder (free arm) that has plagued him since 2014.

“This hurts more and causes more problems than my right,” he said.

Vieira said when bulls spin to the left, like Brown Town did on Saturday before turning to the right at the last second, he can get by relatively OK. It is when bulls spin away from his hand that he has had trouble with the injury.

He can still earn 440 points at the BlueDEF Finals and get to within 1990.84 points of Kaique Pacheco.

Any rider within 2,000 points of the world lead has a significantly greater mathematical chance of winning the world title.

“I am going to start riding good here this week and then I will ride all of the good bulls (at Finals),” Vieira said.

Vieira likely needs six more rides at the World Finals if he hopes to come-from-behind to move ahead of the six riders ahead of him in the world standings.

“There are a lot of points for the guys in front,” Vieira said. “If I win here and I win the Finals of the PBR, maybe I still will be 500 points back, but, of course, maybe I can win.”

Sage Kimzey bucks off in PBR debut

Two-time PRCA champion bull rider Sage Kimzey had all of the confidence in the world inside South Point Arena, but what he didn’t have was the comfortability.

Kimzey was bucked off by Switch Hitter in Round 1 in 4.52 seconds, getting swiped off to the side with relative ease in a dismal PBR debut.

The 22-year-old was quick to take responsibility for his buckoff.

“I left all of my talent at home,” Kimzey said. “You have to ride bulls moving with their momentum. Whenever he was rearing, I got caught sitting on my pockets. You can’t ride a bull of that caliber sitting down.”

Kimzey had been pacing back and forth behind the bucking chutes earlier on Saturday night, trying to find some sense of normalcy in an environment that was very much different than the normal rodeo scene he is accustomed to.

Kimzey likes to arrive an hour before an event starts. He will warm up his rope and get changed into his riding gear before hanging out prior to the saddle bronc riding at a rodeo. Once the saddle bronc riding begins, Kimzey then get his boots tied on and prepares to ride.

At the PBR, Kimzey learned he quickly had to figure out the timing between section breaks and the overall production.

“It is no excuse and I would never blame my level of competition and the way I compete on that,” Kimzey said. “It is definitely a little different atmosphere. The timing deal is the main thing. I have a set routine that I do every time before I get on. I was asking all of the questions and trying to figure out how long the perf was going to be.

“Though, like I said, it comes down to riding and I was prepared to ride. I was ready to ride and I just didn’t perform.”

Kimzey expects to bounce back in Round 2 on Saturday night.

“It won’t take too long,” he concluded.

Resende builds on BlueDEF lead; Silva wins Round 1

Emilio Resende capped off the night with an aggressive 85.5 points on The Lunatic to extend his lead atop the BlueDEF Tour standings to 28.33 points on No. 2 Derek Kolbaba.

The ride helped tied Resende with Dener Barbosa for third place in the round for 25 world points.

“I am trying to qualify for the World Finals,” Resende said. “I know I have qualified before. I fixed my head. This is my best deal. I am ready. My heart says I am ready.”

The lead may seem slim, but Resende was one of only two riders inside the Top 10 of the BlueDEF Tour standings to secure a qualified ride in Round 1. He is a full bull ahead on his closest challengers with two days of competition remaining.

The Top-2 riders in the BlueDEF Tour standings earn two of five wild card spots for the World Finals.

Barbosa’s ride has him leading the way to earn the top international wild card for the World Finals. PBR Canada invite Dakota Buttar is fifth in the event with an 84-point ride on El Guerrero.

Juliano da Silva jumped to fourth in the BlueDEF Tour standings with 89.5 points on Cracker Breaker to win Round 1.

The ride is tied for his season-high.

“I am really happy because this is the best I have ever rode in the BlueDEF Tour,” Silva said with the help of Robson Aragao translating. “Thank you H.D. Page for this bull. It was a good opportunity to draw this bull.”

 The Top-2 riders in the BlueDEF Tour event standings earn two of the five wild card spots for the World Finals.  

“I am real happy and focused to go to the Finals this year,” Silva said. “I am focused and very happy. I have worked the whole year in BlueDEF and Built Ford Tough to try and come to the Finals.”

Resende is trying to qualify for the Finals for the first time since 2014 after undergoing reconstructive right knee surgery following the 2014 Finals.

The 29-year-old has battled confidence issues ever since the surgery, but he finally seemed to have the sense of urgency and mental swagger that he had during three previous trips to the World Finals.

In fact, Resende finished second at the 2012 Built Ford Tough World Finals behind Robson Palermo.

“I was second in 2012 in Las Vegas,” Resende said. “Many, many times I have needed to ride my bulls. Right now, this is the same. God said, ‘Let’s go Emilio. You can fight. Never give up. You can fight.’”

Resende understands he has to finish the job in Las Vegas and ride all of his bulls if he wants to have the opportunity to ride on the PBR’s biggest stage once again.  He doesn’t want to buck off and have to hope for the best, especially seeing as he has lost out on three event victories in his last three events with buckoffs in the championship round.

“Maybe if I rode those bulls over there and I would have stayed (Top 35),” Resende said. “I have won lots of times in my life. I won one truck, two cars, 13 motorcycles in Brazil. I never in my life won one bull ride with a buckoff in the short go. Every time I have won, I rode my bulls.

“I need to ride my bulls. I don’t care if anyone is behind or in front of me. I need to ride my bulls. Let my work bless me.”

Injury Updates

Alexandre Cardozo raised some eyebrows when he turned down a re-ride option following his 36.5-point ride on Gus.

However, Cardozo said he simply didn’t want to risk losing a score on the board while competing with a torn ligament in his riding hand that he sustained at the Allentown, Pennsylvania, BlueDEF Tour event last month.

“I don’t think I was going to come here because my hand hasn’t felt good,” Cardozo said. “I keep the re-ride because I know we have tough bulls. If I ride every bull, I can do good. That is more important. Here are young, rank bulls. That is why I kept the score. Every place is important, but if I ride all of my bulls, that is more important for me.”

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