NEW YORK – If all had gone to plan, Francisco Morales wouldn’t be in New York City this weekend.
He wouldn’t have been riding in the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, presented by Ariat, nor would he be a member of Team Mexico and preparing for his third PBR Global Cup in February.
Morales retired in 2015 after severely breaking his arm when he was stepped on by Oklahoma Force.
“I got off my bull and landed face down in the ground and the bull stepped on my arm,” Morales told PBR.com in June. “It practically destroyed my humerus, shoulder and elbow. They had to put a plate in and take bone out of my hips and rebuild all that. It is pretty much made of metal.”
But after almost a year into his retirement, he got on a bull again and knew immediately that he wanted to go a few more years.
Still, the plan was just to ride in Mexico, and just because he loved riding.
There was only one problem.
“I did good,” Morales said. “I won the (Mexican) title the year I started riding so I got to come back to the states. I didn’t think I was going to be in the (Global) Cup, or here or in Vegas last year.”
Morales didn’t make the 8 seconds at the Velocity Tour Finals in Las Vegas in November, but the 2017 PBR Mexico champion was a special invite to compete in Madison Square Garden to kick off the 2019 season.
He went 0-for-2 in the first two rounds, getting bucked off by Two Point Oh in 2.02 seconds in Round 1 and Lab Rat in 2.39 seconds in Round 2, but he placed third in Round 3 with his 86.75-point ride aboard Detective Crockett. Chase Outlaw and Cody Jesus split the Round 3 win with 87.25 points on Kimes Jeans Church Bells and Sugar Boom Boom, respectively.
Morales earned 60 world points for his finish and is currently No. 31 in the world standings.
After his dismount, Morales jumped to his feet and threw both fists into the air.
Excitement is allowed when you’re 36 years old and every additional moment of your career is a bonus.
Morales is next expected to tentatively compete at the Velocity Tour event in Reno, Nevada.
Last week, Morales was named to Team Mexico for the 2019 PBR Global Cup USA, held Feb. 9-10 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It’s his third such honor, having competed in both prior editions of the Global Cup in Edmonton and Sydney.
But Morales’ international experience goes well beyond that. He also competed for Mexico at the PBR World Cups, held from 2007-2010. With Guilherme Marchi’s retirement, Morales is now the only rider to have been named to his country’s team for every World and Global Cup.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” Morales said. “It means a lot, but it’s a big responsibility at the same time. So it puts a lot of pressure on you and you have to do good, not just for you, but for your whole team.”
Mexico has finished in fifth place in both Global Cups thus far, and Morales thinks the team’s fix is a simple one.
“Ride our bulls,” he said with a laugh. “You’ve got to do your own thing. Stay on your bull. Do whatever you have to do to stay on for 8 seconds.”
The Global Cup is making its first stop in the United States in 2019 – the first international bull riding competition in the U.S. since the final World Cup in 2010 – and, while it holds the promise of home field advantage for the U.S. squads, Team Mexico might have its own advantage.
“I was talking to Gerardo (Venegas), our coach, and I was telling him it’s going to be like riding in Mexico,” Morales said. “I was there for Iron Cowboy last year. You look up in the stands, probably 60 percent of the people were Hispanic.
“There’ll be a lot of people cheering for Mexico there.”
Morales takes heart from those cheers, especially the ones from the men on the back of the chutes. With more experience riding for a team than any other rider, he’s well aware of what it means to be bonded by national pride.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “You always have them cheering for you. Even if it’s not your own countrymen, you always have your buddies cheering for you. But when it’s your own country, it pumps you up.”
In Arlington, Morales will be joined by Juan Carlos Contreras, Jorge Valdiviezo, Edgar Durazo, Alvaro Aguilar Alvarez, Francisco Garcia Torres, Luis Escobedo and Esteban Bustamante.
Team Mexico will have its hands full with loaded teams from Australia, Brazil and Canada, plus two from the United States – Team USA-Eagles and Team USA-Wolves, an all-Native American squad – all gunning for the title.
“Oh man, everybody’s riding so good,” Morales said. “These Brazilian guys, they’ve been kind of dominating last year. Any of the teams could win. They got really good riders. Just see who shows up.
“It’s like anywhere else. You have to stay on.”
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