By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – World leader Jose Vitor Leme hopes that later this fall, the check he is holding on the shark cage inside T-Mobile Arena at the conclusion of the PBR World Finals will have two more zeros on the end of it compared to the one he received on Friday night in Bismarck, North Dakota.
However, make no mistake about it, Leme was sure happy to chalk up another accomplishment to his 2020 and career resume.
Leme became the first man in premier series competition to ride Good Night Robicheaux when he reached the 8-second mark for 87 points to win the “Marquis Metal Works Duel in the Dirt” and $10,000.
Good Night Robicheaux had bucked off all 20 of his previous opponents at the PBR’s highest level of competition until Leme bested him.
“I just thank Chad for the opportunity to come here and make this matchup,” Leme told PBR in-arena announcer Clint Adkins. “He is a hard bull. I get on him before and he bucked me off. He is not easy. I am very happy to get on him today and rode him.”
Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger organized the special $10,000 bonus matchup between the two stalwart athletes to add more drama to the first night of his 20th annual Dakota Community Bank & Trust Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
Leme began the ride in pure control as Good Night Robicheaux left the chutes into his left riding hand. The ride then got a little hairy towards the end when Good Night Robicheaux broke out of the spin and took three leaps forward, sending Leme over his front end right at the 8-second mark.
The ride went to a judge’s review, but in Leme’s mind there was no doubt as he empathically celebrated inside the Bismarck Event Center.
“It got really close to the whistle, but regardless that was a rank bull ride from a rank bovine who has bucked off every single rider who has been on his back,” RidePass host and five-time PBR World Finals qualifier Colby Yates said on air.
Good Night Robicheaux was marked 42.5 points. The bovine athlete entered the match 35-0 at all levels of PBR competition, but Dusty Craig did ride the now 5-year-old bovine at an ABBI-sanctioned Bordertown Casino & Arena event in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, for 84.5 points on September 22, 2018.
Good Night Robicheaux had previously dusted Leme in only 1.79 seconds three months ago at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“He’s really strong, and we don’t know what direction he will turn,” Leme said two weeks ago about the matchup, “He can turn back in both directions. It’s very hard when he comes away from your hand. When I get on him, he turned back to the right very strong.”
It was Leme doing the work of domination Friday, though, ending the bull’s premier series buckoff streak at 20.
Good Night Robicheaux had the second-longest active buckoff streak on the PBR’s premier series before Leme hit the 8-second mark. Struttin Stuff currently has the longest with 25 buckoffs in a row on the PBR’s highest level of competition since Eduardo Aparecido rode him for 84.5 points in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2018.
Two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood – the No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world – is in Bismarck as an analyst for the RidePass broadcast. Lockwood tipped his hat to Leme, the man he knows he will need to try to run down once he returns to competition next month from his reconstructive left hamstring surgery.
“That was a great bull ride,” Lockwood said. “He went into his hand just as Chad did not want to happen. He rode that bull fantastic even when he jumped out of it and threw everything at Jose. He made it easy.”
LEME INCREASES WORLD LEAD AS CHALLENGERS LOOK TO STRIKE
Leme made sure to not to look too far ahead in Bismarck, and he took care of business in Round 1 before thinking about his $10,000 matchup.
The 23-year-old easily rode Sniper for 85.5 points to finish the round in seventh place. Leme earned five world points to increase his lead on Lockwood to 258 points in the world standings.
“I am not too worried about five points because I know he is going to be putting hundreds of points up before it is said and done,” Lockwood told Yates with a laugh after the round.
The ride is important for Leme seeing as fellow World Champion contenders No. 3 Joao Ricardo Vieira and No. 5 Colten Jesse also put scores on the board in Round 1.
Vieira – competing at his first event since returning to Brazil following the March 14-15 UTB event in Duluth, Georgia, because of the COVID-19 pandemic – rode Low Dog for 84.25 points away from his hand. The 36-year-old finished ninth in the round for three world points.
Jesse placed fourth in the round (8 world points) via his 87.25-point ride on Delbert.
There were a total of 10 rides in Round 1.
Lucas Divino won the round with 88.5 points on Safety Meeting. Divino is the only rider other than Leme to win two or more events on the Unleash The Beast in 2020. If Divino can notch a third victory Saturday in Bismarck, that would push the No. 7-ranked bull rider closer to the fringe of the title race. Divino is still 461.5 points behind Leme.
All of the action in Bismarck concludes Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, as well as at 7:45 p.m. ET on RidePass.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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