Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the St. Louis Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, Saturday night at the Scottrade Center.
Eldred gaining confidence with his injured groin
Brennon Eldred had a nice little jolt to his step when he walked into the Scottrade Center shortly after 5 p.m. despite the fact that he had bucked off his last four bulls and had begun the year 4-for-14.
Eldred has been battling a right groin injury for the last three months since partially tearing it during the PBR Global Cup and the nagging injury had begun to affect his mental confidence.
However, when Eldred arrived for Round 1 he said he felt like he was ready to turn to things around and knew he just had to trust himself and his groin.
Talking is one thing though. Following through is another.
Eldred did that by riding Constant Sorrow for 86.5 points to finish Round 1 in second place behind Derek Kolbaba (87.5 points on Cyclone) for 60 world points.
“That was big for me,” Eldred said. “I had been struggling here lately and I just finally am starting to feel good and confident in myself and my body. I feel like everything is starting to fall into place.
“That bull was really good. He went a couple and turned back to the right into my hand. He had me working and about halfway he switched it up and went back left. It felt really good to get tapped off and finish strong.”
Things got a little hairy following the ride as Eldred was stepped on by Constant Sorrow before Matador Jerky Bullfighter Cooper Waln took a horn to the face, shattering his glasses in the process.
“He just stepped on me once and I was a lot better off than Cooper,” Eldred said. “My hat is off to that guy. He saved my ass.”
Dr. Tandy Freeman had to stitch up Waln, who is filling in for Jesse Byrne this week, just below his right eye during sections 3 and 4 before Waln returned for the final 10 rides of the night.
Eldred will look to win his first career event on Championship Sunday and will attempt to get things started when he takes on Rising Sun (4-5, PBR UTB) in Round 2.
Kolbaba cracks Top 10 of the world standings with round win
Derek Kolbaba woke up on Saturday morning and looked outside his hotel room at Lumiere Place in downtown St. Louis and was happy to see remnants of home.
The St. Louis area had some snow showers on Saturday and Kolbaba could sit back and enjoy the fluffy snowflakes falling as if he was back in Walla Walla, Washington, not having to worry about any travel delays due to weather.
It was only a week ago that Kolbaba missed Round 1 of the Caterpillar Classic after mechanical issues with his scheduled aircraft prevented him from making it in time to Kansas City.
Kolbaba still finished in fourth place in Kansas City, but he ould only wonder what could have been if not for his travel issues.
Therefore, the 21-year-old made sure to make the most of his opportunity of arriving a day before the St. Louis Invitational by winning Round 1 with 87.5 points on Cyclone.
“I wasn’t going to miss it this time,” Kolbaba said. “Heck, I am just having fun. I feel like I know what the heck is going on. I have been here before and know you have to capitalize on that. A lot of it is just dumbing it down a little bit. You take it one bull at a time. Stick to the basics and let everything just kind of flow.”
Kolbaba’s second round win moves him up to ninth in the world standings after entering The Gateway City ranked 11th.
He takes on Uncle Si (6-0, PBR UTB) in Round 2 on Sunday.
This is the first time Kolbaba has been ranked inside the Top 10 since finishing runner-up to Jess Lockwood in the 2017 world title race.
Kolbaba trails world leader Dener Barbosa by 820 points. Barbosa (4.94 seconds on Little Bob) and No. 2 Claudio Montanha Jr. (6.76 seconds vs. Speckled Hat) both bucked off in Round 1.
“It fires me up,” Kolbaba said. “Last year I took the good with the bad. It was good because I made a lot of good rides and it helped me with my confidence. It was bad because you finish up second, it is going to put a fire in you. However many events we are into it nowadays, it time to start gunning for that top spot and finish it off.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 behind Kolbaba and Eldred was Keyshawn Whitehorse (86.25 points on Tractor Tippin), Paulo Lima(86.25 points on Bezerk) and Luciano de Castro (85.5 points on SpringerMountain).
Ueberson Duarte gets first career ride
Ueberson Duarte never, ever expected to find himself competing on the PBR 25th: Unleash The Beast and picking up the first qualified ride of his career – 82.5 points on High Roller – on Saturday night.
“There are no words for this,” Duarte said. “I just want to say thank you everybody to give me the opportunity to be here and just have fun. I wasn’t nervous. I was just calm and relaxed. I just want to enjoy every ride.”
At 31 years old, Duarte is not your standard Brazilian bull rider either.
The Itambacuri, Brazil, native actually never got on a bull in his home country. Instead, it wasn’t until he moved to Danbury, Connecticut, in the mid-2000s that he decided to get on a bull. He eventually moved to Texas a few years later.
A week after winning the Youngstown, Ohio, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event, the No. 38 ranked rider in the world standings will attempt to get a ride aboard Acting Crazy (14-5, PBR UTB) on Championship Sunday and pursue a full-time spot on Unleash The Beast.
St. Louis is only Duarte’s third event at any level this year after breaking his left foot and right ankle at an open bull riding event last November in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
“This is a dream come true,” Duarte said. “I just want to ride. When you put your life in God’s hands you can do anything. He has something better for us. You make a plan and his plan is always better than what we try to plan.”
LOCKWOOD RETURNS FROM TORN MCL/LEME TO MISS ST. LOUIS (2-14-18)
2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood learned this week that his left knee injury was worse than originally thought, but that still isn’t going to keep him from riding this weekend at the St. Louis Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals.
Lockwood confirmed Wednesday that he will be riding in Round 1 against Cut The Cord (22-5, PBR UTB) at the Scottrade Center after learning he has a torn MCL in his left knee. The 20-year-old originally believed the injury to be a partial tear.
“I saw Tandy (Freeman) Monday,” Lockwood said. “It is torn worse than he thought, but I am getting a brace tomorrow and as long as I wear it, I can ride.”
Lockwood missed last weekend’s event in Kansas City, and he has been rehabbing at the Fit-N-Wise Rehabiliation and Performance Center in Decatur, Texas, with Cliff Cooper.
The third-year pro says he can’t do any further damage to the knee and doesn’t believe he is rushing back to competition to fast.
Lockwood missed seven events in 2017 because of injuries.
The Volborg, Montana, is ranked 19th in the world standings and is 6-for-17 (35.29 percent) with two Top-10 finishes.
2017 World Finals event winner Jose Vitor Leme has also been rehabbing at Fit-N-Wise, but he will not be competing in St. Louis.
Leme said he is going to miss this weekend after injuring his groin and lower back attempting to ride Cochise (1.5 seconds) during the championship round in Kansas City.
Cochise fell on Leme at the end of the buckoff.
“He knocked me down and eventually fell on top of me, hurting my back,” Leme said with the help of Miriaham Garcia translating. “It's not a very worrying injury, but I'm still in pain and I'm not feeling my best to compete.”
“I'm already undergoing treatment at the Fit-N-Wise Sports Medicine physical therapy clinic to be 100 percent ready for the upcoming Arlington event.”
2016 World Champion Cooper Davis will miss another week as he continues to deal with an injury to the ring finger on his right riding hand. The 23-year-old has yet to see a hand specialist, but he returns from a mini vacation in Jamaica later this week.
Meanwhile, veterans Fabiano Vieira (sprained left knee) and Joao Ricardo Vieira (sprained left riding hand) are also going to be out this weekend because of injuries.
Both expect to be back in time for Iron Cowboy.
“My knee is better, but I will only compete next week because my brace is not ready yet,” Fabiano Vieira said.
Joao Ricardo Vieira is a two-time Iron Cowboy champion and wants to make sure he is as healthy as possible for the upcoming PBR major event.
“I am resting for Iron Cowboy,” Joao said. “I hurt my hand in Kansas City, but it is better today. Not serious. Just sore.”
Also not competing in St. Louis is Ryan Dirteater (fractured ribs), Gage Gay (reconstructive knee surgery), Dakota Buttar (flu), Matt Triplett (reconstructive shoulder surgery), Chase Outlaw (reconstructive shoulder surgery) and Shane Proctor (personal decision).
There will be seven alternate riders competing in St. Louis – No. 36 Tanner Byrne, No. 37 Edgar Durazo, No. 38 Colten Jesse, No. 38 Wallace de Oliveira, No. 38 Bryan Titman, Ueberson Duarte and No. 38 Alex Marcilio.
Titman is set to make his season debut and is in that four-way tie for 38th in the world standings courtesy of his Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour victory in Greenville, South Carolina, last weekend.
The 29-year-old rode Breaking Bad (84 points) and Bugle Boy (86 points) to earn the win. The two rides were his first of 2018 following five consecutive buckoffs to begin the season.
Titman has drawn Lightning Before (0-1, PBR UTB) for Round 1, and this will be the East Bernard, Texas, bull rider’s first premier series event since the 2015 Last Cowboy Standing PBR Major.
Duarte, who is 6-foot-2, is making his premier series debut after winning the Youngstown, Ohio, Velocity Tour eventafter going 2-for-3. The 31-year-old rode Otis for 87 points to clinch the victory.
He has only competed in two event this year after breaking his left foot and right ankle at an open bull riding event last November in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The Itambacuri, Brazil, bull rider has drawn High Roller (1-0, PBR UTB) for Round 1.
World leader Dener Barbosa takes a 419.7-point lead atop the world standings into the seventh PBR 25th: Unleash The Beast event and will faceLittle Bob (2-0, PBR UTB) on Saturday night.
No. 124 Stormy Wing and No. 124 Mason Lowe remain in the draw based on their 2017 world standings finish. Wing has five exemptions remaining, while Lowe has two.