A lot of bull plus a lot of bull rider added up to a surprising victory for Dener Barbosa at Saturday night’s Professional Bull Riders Unleash The Beast Las Vegas Invitational at the MGM Grand Garden.
The 27-year-old from Paulo De Faria, Brazil, scored 87 points on Copperpoint Swagger (Hart Cattle Company/Hale) and was the only rider to cover all three of his bulls during the two-day, three-round event. He also exacted a bit of revenge on Copperpoint Swagger after having suffering significant injuries in a previous attempt to ride him.
“I’ve ridden him three times before (Saturday) and the first time he broke my face,” said a grinning Barbosa, who started the evening in a distant ninth place en route to collecting the third victory of his career, pocketing first-place money of $24,486 and climbing to fourth in season points.
First-round leader Cody Jesus, the Native American rider from Window Rock, Arizona, was bucked off and stepped on by his bull in the second round and had to be helped from the arena by the PBR medical team. But he came back to ride in the championship round and scored an event-high 92.5 points aboard the bull Bentley (Viducic Bucking Bulls) and finished second.
Austin Richardson, Jose Vitor Lema and Marco Eguchi rounded out the top five. Lema, the reigning PBR champion who increased his 2021 earnings to $197,869, overhauled Brazilian countryman Kaique Pacheco atop the world standings which he now leads by 18.5 points.
Only two of the 12 riders who advanced to the championship round covered their mounts.
It came down to the last scheduled ride of the night with 21-year-old rookie Austin Richardson needing 81¾ points for the win.
The peachy-cheeked Texan stayed aboard his bull I’m Legit Too (Hart Cattle Company/Hale) for 5.71 seconds before being tossed. That handed the victory to Barbosa, who earned 84 and 84.25 points for his first- and second-round rides.
The two-day show marked the return of the PBR to Las Vegas and one of its most historic venues after a 2020 hiatus caused by the pandemic. A modest but enthusiastic crowd estimated at 3,500 was on hand at the Grand Garden, site of the inaugural PBR World Finals in 1994.
The MGM’s Western themed weekend concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday with the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the season-opening event for the nation’s premier all-Black cowboy series.