The champ is back


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Sept. 21, 2009)  In case you forgot, his name is Guilherme Marchi, and he's the defending World Champion.

This weekend in Springfield, Mo., Marchi won his second Built Ford Tough Series event of 2009, and more importantly, legitimized his chances of becoming the first back-to-back champion in PBR history.

With Kody Lostroh and J.B. Mauney accounting for three of the past four event wins prior to this weekend, Marchi was in danger of becoming an also-ran. Instead, he covered all three bulls, won the PFIWestern.com Invitational and is within 1,000 points of the overall lead.

Marchi's win comes just one week after his worst outing since early in the 2007 season.

The Brazilian native admitted more than once this weekend that he was fatigued last week in Reno, Nev., after a long trip to his home country for the PBR World Cup. But the 27-year-old had what he called a "good draw," and certainly made the most of his weekend.

In the opening round, he had a rematch with Grey Dog, and the used the familiarity to his advantage. Marchi was 89.25, which was good for second place in the round, and looked equally strong on Too Tall in Round 2 for 84.75 points.

With one of the four lowest bull scores  41.25  in the second round, Marchi went into the championship round in the second spot behind only Mauney.

Mauney used the first pick in the draft to Deja Blu, while Marchi went with Top Notch.

Zack Brown, Sean Willingham and Kasey Hayes also went into the short go having covered two bulls. The other 10 riders had only covered one.

After a few lead changes in the round, Marchi dominated Top Notch on the second-to-last ride of the event for what would be the final lead change of the event.

The PFIWestern.com Invitational balso became the third of the past four events to end with a replay challenge.

Mauney was brought down off of Deja Blue (who notched another bull score over 45 points) at 7.5 seconds. The North Carolina cowboy called for a replay, but seemed to know that unlike a week ago, he hadn't made the whistle.

He shrugged his shoulders, smiled, pushed the replay button and proceeded to make his way back to the locker rooms. In fact, Mauney, who had ridden eight in a row to that point, had made it all the way back to the room and was watching on a monitor with other riders before officials confirmed he had indeed bucked off in 7.5 seconds.

The buckoff gave Marchi the win with a 264.75 points on three bulls, including a 90.75 point effort on Top Notch, with Willingham, hometown hero L.J. Jenkins, Cody Nance and Mauney rounding out the Top 5 finishers.

"I tried hard this week," said Marchi, who also noted that it was important for him to clear his head after last week's disappointment, "and God blessed me with good bulls. &Kody Lostroh and J.B. can ride everything so I have to stay focused."

With bonus points, Marchi earned a total of 779.75 points compared to Mauney's weekend total of 504.25. Lostroh notched just 141 points as the standings among the Top 3 tightened all that much more.

Although Marchi has the third-best riding percentage  58.44  he's been inconsistent, to say the least. Going into the summer break he failed to make the short go in both Des Moines, Iowa, and Pueblo, Colo., but followed with a fifth-place finish in Tulsa before failing to make the short go in San Antonio.

He then showed prowess in Nashville when he finished second, but two weeks later he went 0-for-3 in three long rounds for the first time since the Charlotte event in 2007.

Lostroh currently has 10,410 points, with Mauney now only 398 points off the lead. Marchi closed to within 949 points of the top of the leader board.

For the second week in a row, Lostroh came down hard in the championship round and left the arena holding the shoulder of his riding arm.

After last week in Reno, he had it taped, but it popped partially out of place Saturday night. With Sunday's possible shoulder sprain, he is expected to have it examined after returning home to Colorado.

Lostroh, who is already competing with an injured elbow that will require surgery at some point, is the only rider to have qualified for the past seven short rounds. In fact, the last time the current leader failed to appear in the championship round was the event he missed in Worcester, Mass., after injuring his elbow the week before in Omaha, Neb.

Former Champion Michael Gaffney said that unfortunately, Lostroh "has got a lot to do" in the next few weeks if he plans to hold onto that lead, especially with the pressure from both Mauney and Marchi.

The Road to Vegas continues this coming weekend in Ontario, Calif., when the Top 40 riders in the world compete in the Dickies Invitational.

For more on the PBR, check out out www.pbrnow.com.