By: James Youness
PUEBLO, Colo. – Already 10 events in, the best bull riders in the world continue to exceed expectations and put on quite the show as PBR’s main attraction continues to sell out arenas throughout North America.
No two events the same, yet starting to see what the pack has in store for the season, it’s been a hell of a ride so far.
With the first half of the 2024 Unleash The Beast schedule nearly in the books (as the tour approaches event No. 11 of 23), PBR.com is taking a look back at some of the biggest takeaways from the 2024 premier series season.
Once again counting to 8, we’re diving into topics like the Dias Dominance™, 2024 YETI World Champion Bull race updates, Rookie of the Year drama and beyond as Unleash The Beast prepares to get back at it this weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah!
What are some of your top takeaways from the first half of the UTB campaign? Tag us @PBR on social media channels with some of your biggest storylines and here’s to a rank second-half slate!
Still No. 1: Just like the standings, we’ll start with No. 1, as Cassio Dias has been the definition of dominant in 2024. While the world has watched on as the Jose Vitor Lemes and Jess Lockwoods of the world come in an enjoy some early-career success, we’d be lying if we said it was to the same extent as Dias, as the Brazilian is crafting up quite the resume during his first trip around the circuit. Sitting an insane 365.33 points ahead of No. 3 Eduardo Aparecido (with No. 2 Austin Richardson recently sharing that he’ll be missing the remainder of UTB competition due to injury), Dias is now 19-for-31 on the year after turning his eighth Top 11 finish of the season last weekend in Sacramento, California. While Leme is slated to finally return to action this weekend after missing the past two months of events with an injury of his own, Dias seems primed to enter the 2024 World Finals: Unleash The Beast ahead of Leme and the pack. The biggest question that remains isn’t how long Dias can keep it up, rather who will lay it all on the line in attempting to catch up to his runaway rookie effort?
Ups and Downs: Is the best part of the roller coaster ride the slow, dramatic crawl up to the top? Or is it about the thrilling fall down? While the answer in the bull riding industry isn’t 1:1 to that of an amusement park ride, the journey to UTB is always worth waiting in line. The best part about UTB, proven once again this season, is that it factually features the best 40 rides at any given time. That means, naturally, the best in the world Week 1 aren’t going to be the same in Week 11, only to be replaced by an updated group again in Week 20 and so on. This year’s standard to stay above the cut line seems to have drastically increased, as the kids are coming in and staying on.
Just look at a guy like Clay Guiton, who got his shot on the big stage in mid-January and hasn’t looked back, now ranked No. 24 and 6-for-12 on the season. Australian native Callum Miller just bought himself another weekend on UTB courtesy of a career-best, third-place showing last weekend. Marco Rizzo, Cort McFadden, the list of up-and-coming riders making their way to the top and finding success continues. On the flip side, recent premier series regulars and PBR Teams pieces in Andrew Alvidrez, Ezekiel Mitchell and beyond find themselves competing on the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour. With PWVT providing a few riders an opportunity to qualify for World Finals, it’s important to not only grind for the opportunity to get back up to UTB, but also to position themselves for a chance to win either the PWVT Finals event or the tour itself. With two more teams being welcomed to the 5-on-5 circuit and rosters featuring up to 12 riders, Pendleton, Touring Pro Division and Challenger Series continue to introduce riders to see what it’s like competing against some of the best in the world. From there, the cream always rises, and with the delicious desserts of rides being featured these days throughout UTB, we salute all of the riders, stock contractors and tour personnel at all levels of the sport who keep this thing trending in a great direction.
13 of 30: If 2024 isn’t Year of the Rookie, then the tour’s scriptwriters need to get on the same page, because this batch of UTB first-year competitors are lighting up the scoreboard so far, with no mercy for anybody in their way! With rookies currently occupying 13 of the premier series’ Top 30 spots, it not only pays to be young, but it pays to be new and fresh to the best bovines in the world. With a majority of the pack having endured at least a season or two of what it takes to travel the world, stay above the cutline while exiting these epic head-to-head showdowns in the win column roughly every other time, they also understand the risks and potential for injury that comes along with each and every ride. And the fun doesn’t stop there, as even when riders make the 8, there’s no guarantee of a painless dismount, let alone run-ins with the bulls themselves. From No. 1 Dias and No. 4 John Crimber to No. 10 Leonardo Castro Ferreira and No. 13 Caden Bunch, we aren’t talking about the first-years sneaking into that Top 30 mark. They’ve invaded the standings top to bottom at this point, including No. 15 Julio Cesar Marques, No. 17 Kaiden Loud and beyond.
Every Other: Rookies aren’t just finishing in the Top 10 of events these days, by any means. Podium appearances are becoming more and more prevalent for the new kids, with guys like John Crimber, Clay Clayton and beyond coming pretty close a few times now. But with rookies capturing event titles in five of the first 10 events of the season, Top 3 isn’t even a goal at this point. They’re here to collect buckles! Seeing Caden Bunch start the season out on a spicy note, winning the campaign-opener in Tucson by edging out a pair of veterans in JRV and Sage Steele Kimzey by a gutsy half of a point (.5), he made a name for the rookie class while winning his first premier series buckle during his UTB debut. With the table set for an epic season, Dias went on to claim the next two event buckles before picking up his tour-best third win of the season in Chicago. Winning three of the first seven UTB appearances to his name, he became the quickest cowboy in PBR history to win his first three events. Furthering the class’s accomplishments, Leonardo Castro Ferreira just became the third different rookie to win big this season (and only to capture a PBR Major this season) courtesy of his flashy 4-for-4 showcase in Sacramento. With rookies claiming the win in every other contest so far, are the veterans are due to kick it in gear over the back half of the stretch? Or are we actually witnessing the next great wave of talent take over?
18 & Counting: There’s been an awful lot of noise surrounding 18-year-old John Crimber for quite some time now. Hyped up as a generational talent and arguably projected as the No. 1 overall selection in the upcoming 2024 PBR Teams New Rider Draft all while being the son of PBR standout Paulo Crimber. He’s had quite the pile-up of expectations to live up to, and since taking an early-season break to heal up his hand, Crimber appears to be the real deal in living up to them. Ranked No. 4 overall entering this weekend’s PBR Salt Lake City showdown, he’s managed a pair of runner-up finishes in two of his last three events, coming up short to veteran Joao Ricardo Vieira in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and most recently in Sacramento, California, to fellow first-year Leonardo Castro Ferreira just last weekend. Now 6-for-9 in his last two events and 9-for-19 on the season, there’s no doubt one of the soon-to-be 10 PBR Teams organizations will land a solid contributor come May. But the youngster has his eyes on a world championship before those adventures begin to unravel themselves!
Teams “Offseason”: Of course Unleash The Beast will continue to provide riders an opportunity to secure the greatest prize in bull riding, the elusive gold buckle. But with the summer series quickly approaching, trades already in full swing and draft dates being discussed for this spring’s talent-ushering and league-expanding events, the 5-on-5 series is picking up plenty of steam as the 2024 calendar continues to count us down to a third season of epic camaraderie-drive action. With the Missouri Thunder acquiring Boudreaux Campbell while sending its 2024 first-round draft selection to the Carolina Cowboys (who haven’t been afraid to mix things up now since a blockbuster trade during the inaugural PBR Teams Draft in 2022), there’s no doubt that teams have already begun strategizing for the upcoming Expansion and New Rider Drafts.
With teams able to protect three riders from being selected by either of the expansion teams, plus this year’s draft order still yet to be decided, there’s never been so many puzzle pieces to North America’s most captivating new sports league. Which is a good sign for Commissioner Sean Gleason and company, who expect the new format to soar to even greater heights in year 3. While the riders themselves don’t have any official affiliations during the premier series slate, each and every out continues to serve as a scouting opportunity for coaches and owners around the league, who are typically there to watch on in-person in various roles such stock contractors, tour personnel and beyond. IS IT SUMMER YET?! Considering the Kansas City Outlaws have five riders ranked within the Top 15 this week, fans of the orange and black contingent could be getting a glimpse of the future right now.
Unleash the Books: Record books, that is, as riders continue to set and reset the bar as the sport continues to get ranker and ranker. While this time of year is very much the individual season, short round competitors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, May have teamed up for the most epic round of bull riding in … well bull riding history. Our books or the rodeo world, this one stood out, and it’s an ode to the insane amount of talent that the toon tour continues to attract. Featuring seven 90-point rides, including conversions from Dawson Branton (91.25), Cassio Dias (90.75), Clay Guiton (90.25), Dalton Kasel (91.5), Wingson Henrique da Silva (90), John Crimber (91.5) and Joao Ricardo Vieira (91.75), this one is worth watching over and over and over and …
No doubt, the riders have been putting on quite the show, but with No. 1 Man Hater recording an epic 47.75-point bull score during the first PBR Major of the season in New York City, the elite efforts are coming on both sides of the equation. Recording not only the highest bull score of the 2024 Unleash The Beast campaign, but the highest bull score since Woopaa and Jose Vitor Leme teamed up for their historic 98.75-point journey (48-point bull score) during the 2021 World Finals, it was a dance with Guilherme Valleiras that opened the record books once again.
Best of the Best: Sure, there’s a race going on to figure out who will be crowned the 2024 YETI World Champion bull, but if Dias hadn’t already run away with the competition, then world No. 1 bucking bovine Man Hater sure has. Collecting YETI “Built for the Wild” Bull of the Event titles in each of the five UTB appearances he’s appeared in, his 5-0 record and 45.18-point average bull score have not been matched thus far in 2024.
He’s like a walking designated hitter, expect with plenty of rank scores already in the books for the year, including 45.75, 46.25, 46.5, 47.25 and 47.75-point outs, Jane Clark and Gene Owen don’t have to put the talented bull at the plate for many more hits this year, and when doing so, it will be to keep the revered bovine in shape and hungry for World Finals. Truly a wonder to watch, he’s even more of a threat to provide some rank scores … the day someone rides him!
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
© 2024 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.