Austin Gamblers’ Jose Vitor Leme solidifies No. 2 rank in his quest for a record-tying third gold buckle compliments of a runner-up finish
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the 2023 PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Unleash The Beast regular season concluded Sunday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, Dener Barbosa (Paulo de Faria, Brazil) further established himself as a World Championship contender. Barbosa went a perfect 3-for-3 inside the KFC Yum! Center to win the PBR Cooper Tires Invitational, presented by Kubota, and vault to No. 5 in the world standings.
Barbosa travelled to the Bluegrass State ranked No. 9 in the 2023 gold buckle battle.
The Nashville Stampede rider in the separate PBR Team Series was quick to strike in Round 1, delivering the top marks when he rode I’m Legit Too (Hart Cattle Co./Hale) for 89.5 points.
The reserved Brazilian then maintained his spot atop the event leaderboard compliments of an 85.75-point effort aboardCrunch Time (Sterk Bucking Bulls) in the second round.
With the first selection in the championship round bull draft, Barbosa elected to go head-to-head with animal athlete powerhouse Blue Duck (Cord McCoy/Grin/Jacobson/Davis Rodeo Ranch/McCoy Rodeo).
Barbosa remained centered aboard the bull en route to the whistle, erupting into celebration once on the dirt. However, the arena quickly quieted as the ride was reviewed for a slap. Upon careful review, the qualified ride stood with Barbosa awarded a monstrous 90.25 points, his second 90-point ride of the season.
The golden finish garnered Barbosa a check for $45,712.67, along with a pivotal 139 Unleash The Beast points. He catapulted to No. 5 in the standings, now within 354.17 points of Stampede teammate and No. 1 Kaique Pacheco (Itatiba, Brazil), who did not compete in Louisville due to injury.
Two-time PBR World Champion Jose Vitor Leme (Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil) made a statement in his return to competition after missing the six most recent tour stops due to injury. Going 2-for-3, the Austin Gamblers’ Leme finished second, solidifying his No. 2 rank and decimating Pacheco’s lead.
Leme failed to convert in Round 1, called for a slap atop Hostage (Hart Cattle Co./Hale/Randy Wood) at the 1.24-second mark.
The resilient contender, however, was fast to rebound, winning Round 2 with a commanding 90-point ride aboard Wild Card (Mike Miller Bucking Bulls).
Remaining white-hot in his return, Leme delivered his second-consecutive round-winning, 90-point score in the championship round, covering Ivy League (Jane Clark/Gene Owen) for a mammoth 91 points, securing the runner-up finish.
Thus far in 2023, Leme has registered four 90-point rides and seven round wins, the second-most of any PBR rider in both statistical categories.
Leme returns to Texas having earned 108 points to conclude the regular season. After he began the Louisville event 182 points back of No. 1 Pacheco, he is now within 74 points of the top position as he continues to chase his record-tying third PBR World Championship.
Third, and one of the biggest stories in Louisville, was 19-year-old rookie sensation Brady Turgeon (New River, Arizona), who has yet to declare for the 2023 PBR Team Series Draft on May 17. The deadline for riders to declare their eligibility to be selected by one of the new league’s eight teams is midnight (MT) Monday night.
Turgeon was electric in the opening rounds of action, riding Bomb Diggity (Davis Rodeo Ranch) for 88.25 points and Train Station (Cornwell Bucking Bulls) for 86 points to punch his ticket to the championship round second in the event.
The Arizonan, however, was no match for YETI World Champion Bull contender UTZ BesTex Legend (Blake Sharp/Chris Utz/Carey Brothers), upended in 2.9 seconds.
With the podium finish, Turgeon earned a crucial 67.5 Unleash The Beast points, and he rose from No. 46 to No. 41 in the rankings.
Eduardo Aparecido (Gouvelandia, Brazil) was fourth.
The Arizona Ridge Riders’ all star began his outing in Louisville in dismal fashion, tossed by Mississippi Madness (Blake Sharp/CB & Traci Lee) in 4.99 seconds.
Aparecido, however, reversed course in Round 2, riding Smooth Kat (Cornwell Bucking Bulls) for 86 points to earn one of 12 berths to the championship round.
Continuing his momentum, the veteran Brazilian capped his event with an 88-point ride on Medicine Man (TNT Bucking Bulls/Hart Cattle Co.).
Aparecido netted 51.5 Unleash The Beast points in the tour’s regular-season finale. He remained No. 8 in the World Championship race, now 384.5 points back of No. 1 Pacheco.
Rounding out the Top 5 in fifth was the Austin Gamblers’ Lucas Divino (Nova Crixas, Brazil).
With an 85.25-point ride on Ninja Cowboy (Universal Pro Rodeo/Rachel & Dustin Powell) and an 87.5-point score aboardRed Mosquito (Cord McCoy/Zach Muegge/McCoy Rodeo), Divino earned 48 Unleash the Beast points.
Divino rose from No. 42 to No. 32 in the standings, clinching a berth to the 2023 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast, May 12-21 in Fort Worth, Texas, at Dickies Arena.
In the bull pen, UTZ BesTex Legend earned his second YETI “Built for the Wild” Bull of the Event honor for his trip with Turgeon. The animal athlete was marked a tour-stop best 45 points.
The season will conclude May 12-21 in Fort Worth, Texas, with the 2023 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast when the 2023 PBR World Champion will be crowned, receiving the coveted gold buckle and $1 million bonus.
The 2023 PBR World Finals opening weekend will take place at Dickies Arena on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, at 7:45 p.m. CT, and Sunday, May 14, at 1:45 p.m. CT. The action continues Thursday, May 18, Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, at 7:45 p.m. CT, concluding on Sunday, May 21, at 1:45 p.m. CT.
Elsewhere in the PBR, Dylan Smith (Ararat, Virginia) won the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour’s final regular-season event at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
Smith was explosive in Round 1 of the Aggieland Classic, delivering the fourth-best score when he outlasted White Lightning (Flying C/Flying P Bucking Bulls) for 83.5 points. Despite being tossed by Risky Business (CO Cattle Co./Bob Whisnant) in a swift 1.66 seconds in Round 2, the Virginia native dominated Lemonade (JQH/TDS/Buentello Bucking Bulls) for 85.5 points in the championship round to rocket to the top of the event leaderboard and clinch the victory.
Smith earned 124 Velocity Global points for the win, surging to No. 34 in the race to be crowned the 2023 PBR Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Champion.
The 2023 PBR Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour concludes May 5-6 in Corpus Christi, Texas. The PBR Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals begins nightly at 7:30 p.m. CDT inside American Bank Center Arena.
PBR RidePass on Pluto TV will offer re-airs and on-demand replays of every PBR Unleash The Beast and Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour event. PBR RidePass is available on desktops, laptops and mobile devices via www.pluto.tv. Click here for on-demand PBR programming.
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