ST. LOUIS – The Mason Lowe Memorial marks the first time since the inaugural Iron Cowboy in 2010 that only two countries were represented at an Unleash The Beast event.
Round 1 on Friday night featured 20 American bull riders and 16 Brazilians, while the 2010 Iron Cowboy event consisted of 24 riders – 20 Americans and four Brazilians.
You then have to go back another 10 years to find a premier series event with only two countries represented. In 2000, multiple events featured only American and Canadian bull riders.
The PBR has evolved into a global sport from its humble beginnings 26 years ago. The Unleash The Beast has become a natural home for riders from the United States, Brazil, Australia and Canada. There have also been a handful of riders from Mexico, Costa Rica and New Zealand that have reached the highest level of professional bull riding over the years.
However, this weekend is another reminder that the two most powerful nations in bull riding are Brazil and the United States.
Injuries to Canadians Tanner Byrne and Dakota Buttar have left the Maple Leaf unrepresented, and a broken collarbone for Nathan Burtenshaw and visa issues for Lachlan Richardson have taken the two Australian mainstays off the PBR’s top tour. Meanwhile, No. 12 Aaron Kleier and No. 25 Jason Mara are competing in Australia.
It was only a week ago, though, that the bull riding powers of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and two United States teams descended upon AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the third edition of the Global Cup.
Team Brazil once again reigned supreme for the second consecutive Global Cup, but the other countries refused to bow out and surrender despite the Brazilians’ 7-for-9 start to the competition.
The South American power went on to win the Global Cup USA by one bull ride over the USA Eagles, but the 47 riders that competed in Arlington put forth a performance that rivals the PBR World Finals.
The six teams went a combined 42-for-108 (38.8 percent) against bulls that had a 76 percent buckoff rate in 2018 on the premier series. Bulls on the Unleash The Beast in 2018 had a 69 percent buckoff rate.
The Top-three finishing Global Cup teams (Brazil, Eagles, Wolves) were even more impressive, going 29-for-54 (53.7 percent).
2016 World Champion Cooper Davis went 3-for-4 to win the individual event aggregate, and he said the team deal certainly causes each rider to elevate their game unlike a standard Unleash The Best event.
“It is the whole team aspect of having everybody behind you and pumping you up,” Davis said. “When you are out there by yourself, you don’t have someone constantly picking you up the whole time. The whole team aspect dang sure helps everything out in that deal.”
Brazil’s Eduardo Aparecido went 3-for-3, and he said the ability for teams to choose which rider gets on which bull during the event once the team receives their bullpen goes a long way toward their success.
“The way everybody draws the bulls, and also the way the coach can select and put each rider on,” Aparecido said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “Because you have right-handed riders and left-handed riders, and they all kind of match up good. It was expected to be ranker, but I think the draw came out really good and really even, and then the guys were set up in the right bulls.”
Below is a quick view of the Top 3 teams at Global Cup
Average Ride Score: 85.39 points
Top Ride: 90 (Jose Vitor Leme on Frequent Flyer)
Round Wins: 2
QUICK SUMMARY: Team Brazil’s decision to turn down a re-ride option and keep Marco Eguchi’s 79-point ride on Stars & Stripes wound up to be the difference-maker as no team in the competition reached 12 qualified rides.
However, in another example of the bull power at Global Cup, Team Brazil’s 11 rides came aboard the rankest opposing bulls of the Top 3 teams.
The 11 bulls they successfully covered entered the Global Cup with a combined career buckoff percentage of 72.51 percent (95-36).
The rankest bull the Brazilians rode was Leme’s ride on Frequent Flyer, who had only been ridden twice in 27 career UTB outs.
TEAM USA EAGLES
Average Ride Score: 86.7
Top Ride: 89.5 (Cooper Davis on Hard & Fast)
Round Wins: 1
QUICK SUMMARY: The Eagles averaged 1.31 points more per ride than Brazil, which would have easily pushed them atop the stage as Global Cup champion if they had reached the 8-second mark one more time.
Instead, the Eagles could look back to their disappointing start on night one, where they went 4-for-9 as a big part of their shortcomings. The team’s Sunday showing (6-for-9) was a far better example of the Eagles’ potential.
The Eagles’ 10 rides came aboard bulls (64-34) with a combined buckoff percentage of 65.38 percent.
Cody Teel posted the Eagles’ top ride against an eliminator when he covered Gambini, who had been ridden only four times in 32 UTB outs, for 87 points.
Percentage: 44.44 percent
Average Ride Score: 86.41 percent
Top Ride: 89.25 (Ryan Dirteater on Bezerk)
Round Wins: 1
QUICK SUMMARY: The Wolves – a team of all Native American riders – lived up to the hype of the last few weeks with a third-place finish behind the likes of Ryan Dirteater (3-for-3) and Cody Jesus (2-for-3).
Coach Wiley Petersen opted to use rookie Cannon Cravens in the first Bonus Round following Round 1, while Jesus decided not to compete in the final Bonus Round because of his right ankle injury seeing as the Wolves were out of contention for the event victory.
The Wolves, though, were right up there in average score with the Eagles (-0.29 points), and finished ahead of the Brazilians in average score by 1.02 points.
The eight bulls the Wolves rode were 44-22 (66.67 percent) in their UTB careers.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko