By: Andrew Hatfield
With Unleash The Beast primed to begin its 11th event of the season Feb. 9 inside Delta Center, PBR.com is taking a closer look at the rankest rides, biggest stories and beyond ahead of the PBR Salt Lake City:
RETURN OF THE CHAMP: Several notable names return to action on the elite Unleash The Beast this weekend, headlined by two-time PBR World Champion Jose Vitor Leme. The Brazilian superstar began his season going a perfect 3-for-3 in Tucson, Arizona, capped with an incredible 90.75-point ride on Highwire in the championship round, before continuing his flawless start in Round 1 in St. Louis, Missouri, in December. However, Leme suffered a lower-body injury during his 86.25-point ride on Buffalo Chip, sidelining him for the next two months. After missing the first couple of months of the season in 2023, the former World Champion showed no rust, winning his first two events of the year in New York and Chicago. The Brazilian cowboy, who won the event the last time the top tour bucked into Salt Lake City, is tasked with Modified Ride in Round 1 on Friday.
WELCOME BACK: In addition to Leme returning from injury, Kyler Oliver, Keyshawn Whitehorse, Ezekiel Mitchell and Daniel Keeping punched their tickets back to the top tour courtesy of standout efforts in recent Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour (PWVT) events. Hailing from Roy, Utah, Oliver went 1-for-7 to start the season and was cut from the elite Unleash The Beast. Undeterred, the resilient cowboy re-found his form on the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour, going 5-for-10 and recording three Top-10 finishes in five events over the last month, including winning the event in Spokane, Washington. Fellow Utah native Whitehorse also struggled to start the year but returned to form at the PWVT event in Bakersfield, California, going a perfect 2-for-2 to win the event. Oliver battles High Plains Drifter in the opening round in front of his home-state crowd while Whitehorse shares a chute with Lapua.
Mitchell, who started the season 1-for-9, also proved why he has been a staple among bull riding’s best. Undeterred by a four-out buck-off streak on the PWVT, the ebullient cowboy bounced back and caught fire. He has covered five of his last six bulls, finishing seventh in Reno, Nevada, before going a perfect 3-for-3 to win the PWVT event in Greenville, North Carolina. Another Texan joins him back on the premier series, as Keeping went 2-for-3 and finished second in Laredo, Texas, to earn an invite to Salt Lake City. Mitchell faces off with Trump Train in Round 1 while Keeping takes on Dropping Gears.
Photo courtesy of Todd Brewer/Bull Stock Media
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