By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jose Vitor Leme may just have a new best friend in the PBR. He has four legs and is a great 90-point dance partner for the reigning World Champion.
Leme won this past weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle at the PBR Nampa Invitational with a 92.5-point ride on Top Shelf – a bull who has treated Leme exceptionally well in 2021. The two athletes have matched up three times this season, and Leme has ridden him every instance for 91.75 points or higher.
The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world first rode Top Shelf for 91.75 points at the PBR Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City, Missouri, to win the championship round. He then came back to placed second in the PBR Express Ranches Invitational 15/15 Bucking Battle in Oklahoma City with 92.5 points.
Leme, who was the only rider to post a qualified ride in the 15/15 in Nampa, is averaging 92.25 points per ride on Top Shelf, and it is no surprise he called the D&H Cattle Company athlete his “buddy.”
“He will be a good buddy for me right now, so he is a great bull,” Leme told CBS Sports Network’s Kate Harrison. “I thank God to draw him for tonight and to win the 15/15. I am so happy, and I am so blessed.”
The 24-year-old has only ridden one other bull in his career for more 90-point rides than Top Shelf, going 4-for-5 against Cochise. All four rides went for 91 points or higher.
The 2017 World Finals event winner also ended The Right Stuff’s streak of 25 consecutive buckoffs on the premier series, and 26 overall, by riding the Chad Berger bucking bull for 89.5 points in the championship round.
Leme has five career 15/15 Bucking Battle victories, and he will look to take over the world No. 1 ranking this coming weekend at the PBR Union Home Mortgage Invitational in Omaha, Nebraska. Leme heads into the CHI Health Center 66 points behind world No. 1 Kaique Pacheco.
No bull rider other than three-time World Champion Silvano Alves has ever won back-to-back world titles.
“It is a lot of pressure when you win a world title and you need to go back to work and fight again for that gold buckle,” Leme said. “I just try to enjoy this moment, enjoy my life bull by bull, and try to make my work. I thank God for all of that, and I hope to continue all of that.”
Here are some other noteworthy statistics from the weekend in Nampa.
9: Leme’s ride on Top Shelf was his PBR-leading ninth 90-point ride of the season. He has needed only 21 outs to get to nine 90-point rides. In comparison, single-season 90-point ride record-holder Cody Hart (16) notched his ninth 90-point ride on his 33rd out.
6: Leme won two of the four rounds in Nampa to overtake the PBR lead for most round wins on the Unleash The Beast (6). Leme has won at least one round in four of the seven events he has competed at in 2021.
4: Kaique Pacheco was once again on top of the shark cage as event winner this past weekend, notching his PBR-leading fourth win of the season. Pacheco is now halfway toward the PBR single-season record for event wins (8). Two-time World Champion Justin McBride won eight events during his 2007 championship season. Leme won seven events last year on the way to the world title. McBride won his fourth event during his 11th event on the premier series in 2007. Pacheco also won his fourth event during his 11th event this season.
5: Pacheco’s career-high for event wins is five, which he accomplished during his 2018 World Championship run. He did not record his fourth event win that season until September 23, 2018. It is no secret by now, but Pacheco is riding at an even better rate than he was three seasons ago, and he very well could surpass five, six, or maybe seven wins by the end of this year.
3: Pacheco won Nampa with a 90.25-point score on Chiseled in the championship round. The 2018 World Champion is the third rider to post multiple rides aboard Chiseled. Cooper Davis and Eduardo Aparecido are also a perfect 2-for-2 against Chiseled on the Unleash The Beast. Aparecido also rode Chiseled for 91.5 points at a Touring Pro Division event in Allen, Texas, on August 3, 2019.
46: Smooth Wreck made quite the statement during the 15/15 Bucking Battle by thrashing 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis to the dirt in 2.64 seconds. Smooth Wreck was marked a season-high 46 points to move up to No. 5 in the 2021 YETI World Champion Bull race, and the 8-year-old bovine was the high-marked bull in Nampa.
2: Dener Barbosa has not been a 90-point home run hitter during his PBR career, but the 27-year-old has recorded multiple 90-point rides for the first time. Barbosa notched his second 90-point ride of 2021 by riding Talking Smack for 90 points in the championship round to finish the weekend 2-for-3 and in third place. Barbosa, the No. 5-ranked bull rider in the world, has earned world points in either a 15/15 Bucking Battle or regularly formatted UTB in six consecutive weeks.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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