The first round of Professional Bull Riders Unleash The Beast, returning to Minneapolis, MN inside the Target Center for the first time since 2005, was an intense round with plenty of surprises and excitement along with 15 riders making the 8-second whistle.
Cooper Davis opened the event and wound up bucking off shy of the 8-second whistle. The other surprise was that Ezekiel Mitchell was unable to connect on the 8-second whistle— a bit of a shocker since he went 2-3 in the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour event in Portland, ME last weekend. Mitchell bucking off does not mean he should be counted out of making it to Saturday’s championship round. He does need to connect on a ride and place within the top 15 but it is not impossible to happen. Cody Jesus made his return at this event Friday night, and Tulsa Time bucked him off in 2.13 in the bull’s debut out on the premier series. Cody will be looking to avenge bucking off and given his ability to put up high point bull rides he might surprise everyone and be in the championship round.
Dalton Kasel won the round with his ride and gained 100 world points to tighten the Rookie of the Year race. The points are important given Ezekiel Mitchell is currently World No. 1 in the Rookie of the Year race. Dalton will look to carry the momentum of the round win in to round two tomorrow and to gain even more ground on the Ezekiel in both round two and championship round.
There was a bit of a shocker in the world champion race as well, Jose Vitor Leme bucked off his bull in 3.39 seconds and opened the door to the other contenders – Jess Lockwood, Chase Outlaw, Joao Ricardo Viera – to gain ground and shrink the gap between them and the world No. 1. The buck off by Jose may have opened the door a little and denied Leme the ability to widen his lead in round one. It might just give Jose the desire and fire to respond to bucking off in round two and possibly be one more round win closer to making PBR history.
Jess Lockwood did buck off his bull in round one and took a reride he was granted after being fouled on his first bull. His second bull did not go much better and he was still unable to gain on world leader Leme in round one. This may cause him to respond tomorrow in round two and focus on snapping his cold streak. He will be a rider to watch and see as he has won an event on two bulls at a two-day event previously this season. That could happen here with 15 rides; if Lockwood’s ride scores high enough, there is a chance he could make it back to the championship round.
The reason there is a chance for riders who bucked off to still ride in round two tomorrow is because Marco Eguchi, the 2018 World Finals event winner, was offered a reride after scoring 76 points on his ride. He opted to keep the score and not take a reride, which opens the door to the riders who bucked off to possibly make the championship round.
The final 15/15 Bucking Battle of 2019 was full of great rides as the top 15 bull riders were matched against the top 15 bulls at the event, and Jess Lockwood put up a big ride to narrow the world title race. It was certainly a fitting way to end the bonus round for this season. There were overall seven rides in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Derek Kolbaba was able to ride Biker Bob and gain a ride again after Biker Bob had bucked him off during their last few pairings. But Derek notched a ride on Biker Bob and gained 90.25 points in bringing the great crowd inside the Target Center to their feet. Derek was able to gain 90 world points as he finished the bonus round in second place moving from 9th to 7th place in world standings.
Joao Ricardo Viera was also able to make the 8-second whistle on Soup in a Group for 89.25 points that were worth 75 points towards his hunt for his first PBR World Championship. His showing in the bonus round may make him a contender for a round two win tomorrow and one rider to watch as he may carry this momentum of a ride into the round tomorrow.
Eager to gain a ride in the bonus round as he bucked off in round one, Jose Vitor Leme came out on top on his ride on Space Force for 88.50 points that were able to place him fourth in the bonus round and he gained 60 world points with this ride. With these points, he may be able to lessen the damage that bucking off in round one had done to him.
Cooper Davis was able to ride Black Cat in this pairing for 88 points in this matchup, not enough to win the bonus round but still he netted 45 world points and maintained his world No. 5 ranking which keeps him in the hunt for the world championship at World Finals inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
Jess Lockwood was paired up with Bad Beagle, and this matchup led to 91.5 points — his eighth 90-plus points ride of the 2019 season. This out was the second time the two have been paired up in Lockwood’s career. The first pairing of the two was in 2017 in Nashville, which had Bad Beagle besting Jess in 5.3 seconds. The win of the final 15/15 Bucking Battle of 2019 netted Jess 150 world points to shrink world No. 1’s Jose Vitor Leme lead from 1,031 points to 941 points, making a Championship Saturday all the more intriguing.