PUEBLO, Colo. – By now, bull riding fans around the world know that Rafael Jose de Brito made history by completing the first-ever Triple Crown sweep after capturing the 2023 World Champion honors, 2023 PBR Rookie of the Year title and 2023 World Finals event win when things came to a close on Sunday afternoon.
So, in an effort to save some of the best quotes and background stories leading to the historic finish, and in respect of the INSANE amount of numerical takeaways from seven rank days of bull riding action, we’re skipping right to the digits which helped dictate how everything shook out at the 2023 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast in this week’s By the Numbers:
425: Entering the 2023 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast 425 points back from then No. 1 Kaique Pacheco, who was forced to miss the season-culminating event due to injuries sustained during the Unleash The Beast regular season finale in Louisville, Kentucky, Brito had plenty of ground to cover in turning his dreams into reality. With Jose Vitor Leme trailing Pacheco by a mere 74 points entering the Fort Worth, Texas, based event, Brito knew he would have to give it his all in order to make it happen, and with a little help from the two-time champion, was able to pave his way to the championship. Going 4-for-8 overall, Brito first recaptured the attention of the pack with his Round 3-winning effort. As the first rider to meet the elite 90-point mark, he teamed up with the revered Chiseled for a then event-best 90.5-point conversion. Fueling him to the round win, he brought home a crucial 89 UTB points while moving up to the No. 7 rank, just 336 points back from Pacheco. Facing off with Ricky Vaughn in Round 4 as Weekend 2 began, he was dispatched from the animal athlete in a brief 2.05 seconds as the No. 5-ranked bovine reminded fans why he’s been considered among the best in the world this season.
Three-straight: Putting the rowdy out in the rear-view mirror and buckling down, the 2023 World Champion went on to meet the requisite 8 in his next three attempts. Kicking the successful streak off via his Round 5 matchup against Time Bomb, he bested the bovine for an 89.25-point score and would’ve won his second round of the event (shared with Texas Rattlers’ teammate Braidy Randolph), if not for an eventual World Finals-best 91.5-point strike from Andrew Alvidrez aboard Red Mosquito. Now No. 5 after the encouraging fifth-round placement, Brito kept the momentum rolling in Round 6 courtesy of an 88.5-point mark atop Short Circuit. This time tying Kyler Oliver for a second-place finish, he continued to occupy the No. 5 overall rank (after seeing No. 4 Dener Barbosa capture the round win), the Brazilian found himself atop the overall event standings, but just 4.25 aggregate points above Ramon de Lima, who had quietly assembled a similar 3-for-6 showcase throughout the opening six rounds, including rides paired with Renegade (87 points), Hoka Hey (88.75 points) and Skippy 88.25 points). Capping of his electric stint and ultimately sealing the deal for his Triple Crown feat, Brito went the distance in Round 7, dancing with Red Mosquito for a quality 88.25-point qualified ride. While he technically needed either a successful 8 in the championship round, or to see Leme buck off in the short go, to solidify his championship, it was the latter scenario which played out, leading to Brito’s 2023 World Champion honors.
Elite 8: Adding to the honors of becoming the first rider to win all three titles in the same season, Brito now represents just the eighth rider to capture both the World Championship and World Finals event win the same season, joining Daylon Swearingen (2022), Jose Vitor Leme (2021), Jess Lockwood (2019), Silvano Alves (2014), J.B. Mauney (2013), Renato Nunes (2010) and Mike Lee (2004). With 560 UTB points up for grabs this past weekend to the rider who exited the eight-round competition with the best aggregate score, Brito was able to secure his 2023 World Champion honors by inching out Jose Vitor Leme by 287 UTB points on the season, as Leme was only able to produce a 2-for-8 record en route to taking home 145 points for his eighth-place finish. In the PBR’s 30-year history, Brito is the 21st different rider, and just the eighth Brazilian, to claim the PBR World Champion gold buckle, while his trophy-earning effort represents the 13th time the winning athlete hails from Brazil.
8 rounds, 8 Winners: With $35,000 checks awaiting the winner of each of the eight competitive rounds, riders outside the Top 10 had plenty of reasons to meet the coveted mark, as this year’s World Finals saw eight different riders take home round-winning honors, including Derek Kolbaba (Round 1), Austin Richardson (Round 2), Rafael Jose de Brito (Round 3), Wingson Henrique da Silva (Round 4 tie), Joao Lucas Campos (Round 4 tie), Andrew Alvidrez (Round 5), Dener Barbosa (Round 6) and Josh Frost (Rounds 7, 8). While Brito, Silva and Alvidrez were the only riders who captured round wins with realistic shots at the world title, that didn’t stop Frost from ending his season with a bang (and corresponding $70,000 from his wins in Round 7 and 8). Going 3-for-4 throughout his last three days of competition, including rides matched against Ground Assault in Round 5 (86 points), DirtyBru in Round 7 (90.5 points) and Renegade in the short go (74 points, as a result of a 36.5-point bull score), he represented the lone rider to meet the 8 during the championship round and took home a whopping $157,700 in addition to his $54,800 pay day after exiting the regular season and punching his ticket to the big dance as the 2023 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Champion two weekends prior. Perhaps getting drafted No. 2 overall by the Carolina Cowboys provided a much-needed spark for the talented Randlett, Utah, native, who is now setting his sights on a PRCA gold buckle.
23’s Top 5: When the dust settled and checks were awarded, Brazilian riders ended up occupying four of the Top 5 spots in this year’s 2023 Unleash The Beast standings. Sweeping the Top 4 overall, it was Dalton Kasel who represented the lone Top 5 finish for the stars and stripes, albeit 545.35 UTB points back from No. 1 Brito after managing just a 1-for-7 performance at World Finals, with his Round 3 conversion aboard Hang Em High (89 points) marking his only qualified ride en route to tying Flavio Zivieri and Nick Tetz for 16th place. Working our way up the leaderboard, rookie Wingson Henrique da Silva turned in an impressive No. 4 ranking during his first go around the circuit, capped off by an encouraging 4-for-8 performance in Fort Worth as one of only two riders to go 50% at the showcase. Eventually finishing 5.75 aggregate score behind Brito, the Kansas City Outlaws have a whole lot to be excited about after trading for the talented Brazilian last week. Despite not being able to compete inside Dickies Arena, Kaique Pacheco finished the campaign ranked No. 3 amongst premier series riders, just 358 points back from Brito. As easy as it would be to play the “What If” game, there weren’t many predictable aspects from the 2023 World Finals, which if anything, should help Pacheco come to terms with ill-timed injuries. Able to compete, but just not showing up on the scoresheet anywhere near as usual, No. 2 Jose Vitor Leme watched on as his fellow countryman took home the honors after going 2-for-8 in Fort Worth. Finishing just 287 UTB points behind Brito, even after finishing a career-worst eighth place at a World Finals event, the 2022 PBR Team Series MVP will turn the page on a season in which he also racked up several injuries, and will look to get healthy leading into this summer’s action with the Austin Gamblers.
First-timers: With Brito taking home the 2023 Rookie of the Year title, and seeing fellow Brazilian Wingson Henrique da Silva apply some pressure as the year came to a conclusion, it was Brito’s PBR Team Series teammate in Braidy Randolph who rounded out the Top 3 thanks to his fourth-place finish at World Finals. Going 3-for-8 overall, he exited matchups against Twisted Steel (85.75 points), Taylor’s Cowtown Throwdown (87.25 points) and Cherry Bomb (89.25 points) en route to earning 264 UTB points for this Top 5 finish event finish. After making some noise during the 2022 PBR Team Series Championship in Las Vegas, despite spending most of the inaugural season on the Rattlers’ practice roster, he doubled down in the spotlight during 2023’s biggest event of the year while having an actively broken leg and banged up counterpart, yet able to hobble into each matchup with an unmatched attitude and willingness to compete. One of the biggest surprises of the World Finals, Daniel Keeping rounded out the Top 4 as the first-year competitor wasn’t able to find the ride column throughout the two-weekend event. Fresh off his breakout session during last summer’s PBR Team Series, also riding with the Texas Rattlers, the youthful standout was able to get things going early into the UTB season via an event win and holding the No. 1 overall rank for a few weeks, but wasn’t able to meet the 8 inside Dickies Arena.
Back-2-Back: As one of the industry’s biggest names, who contributed several flashy outs throughout the bovine-dominated season of Unleash The Beast action, it was none other than Ridin’ Solo who exited Dickies Arena Sunday afternoon as the 2023 YETI World Champion Bull. Becoming just the seventh animal athlete to earn the honor in multiple seasons, he joined the elite club of bovines to double down, which includes the likes of Dillinger (Herrington Cattle Co.), Bones (Teague Bucking Bulls) and Smooth Operator (Dakota Rodeo/Julie Rosen/Clay Struve/Chad Berger), while officially beginning his quest to join the exclusive club of three-time PBR World Champion Bulls in Little Yellow Jacket (Berger/Teague/Taupin), Bushwacker (Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls) and SweetPro’s Bruiser (D&H Cattle Co./Buck Cattle Co.). Finishing the year strong, Solo was also named the YETI “Built for the Wild” Bull of the Finals, bringing home an additional $25,000 bonus (on top of the $100,000 check Cord McCoy and company earned for the world title honors), as the animal athlete who posted the top combined score across his three outs logged during the 2023 PBR World Finals (46-point bull score against Dener Barbosa, 46.5-point bull score paired with Chase Outlaw, 45-point bull score bucking off Braidy Randolph in 1.95 seconds).
2023 = Year of the Bull: More so a bragging point for the world’s best bovines than the premier series’ talented riders, the 2023 World Finals was home to a pair of records that may never be broken (though as the efforts of bulls continue to reset expectations, is it safe to assume anything at this point?!). Seeing just four riders meet the buzzer during Round 2 (Austin Richardson, Nick Tetz, Colten Fritzlan, Braidy Randolph), with Jose Vitor Leme barely missing the requisite 8 after being dispatched from JAG Metals Grand Theft in a close 7.81 seconds, stock contractors throughout the arena were celebrating their wins as high-marked bull scores continued to be added to the board. A few nights later, in near impossible fashion, the best riders in the world managed to combine for just three (yes, 3 out of 42) qualified rides as the Round 5 audience witnessed one of the most memorable round of World Finals action ever. With Wingson Henrique da Silva (89.5 points aboard Flyin Wired), Joao Lucas Campos (89.5 points atop Moonlight Party) and Jesse Petri (88.75 points paired with Mr. Right Now) etching their way into the record books with favorable fashion, it’s riders like Dalton Kasel, Boudreaux Campbell and Cooper Davis, all who entered the year-end competition within striking distance, who had the most to lose in a wide-open round.
Article Courtesy of PBR
Photo courtesy of Todd Brewer/Bull Stock Media