LAS VEGAS – Tonight’s round is a draft rather than a random draw, so quite a few riders have great matchups. The riders drafted in the order they placed in Round 2, so in the title race, Jess Lockwood got a much higher pick than Jose Vitor Leme. That may play in his favor, but Lockwood needs Leme to buck off two or three bulls this week, and that’s a lot to ask.
Round 3 also features the most rider-friendly bulls the riders will see at this event. We should see a lot of qualified rides tonight. Last year, there were 21 rides in Rounds 1 and 2 combined, and another 21 in Round 3. Look for something similar here.
Cliff Richardson on 58A Finning Lil’ Shorty:
Richardson is third overall with two qualified rides on the board, and he used his draft pick wisely. This Canadian bull is one of the nicest bulls to ride we will see all week. He typically goes to the right, into Richardson’s hand, but he’s been ridden a lot by lefties, too. The top-ranked riders make the whistle on Lil’ Shorty better than 75 percent of the time.
Alan de Souza on 517 Space Force:
Souza used his pick to grab a nice bull that goes into his hand. Jose Vitor Leme was 88.5 points on Space Force in Minneapolis about a month ago. This should be a third straight qualified ride for Souza.
Mason Taylor on 4C Audacious:
Taylor is on fire here. He’s a half-second away from the lead in this event. He made a nice ride last night and came down right at the whistle in Round 1 on what may have been a round win. He’s got a good matchup here. Audacious was the 2017 ABBI Futurity champ, and he’s a rock-solid spinner. Taylor should get along with him.
Cody Teel on 436 Midnight Rain:
This bull hasn’t been that active down the stretch, but he’s a smart pick for Teel. Cooper Davis and Lucas Divino were both 90-plus on this bull in Bismarck over the summer. Midnight Rain is a fast spinner who should go to the right – into Teel’s hand.
Jose Vitor Leme on S40 Birthday Cake:
Although Leme didn’t pick at the top of the draft, he still got a bull he should ride easily. He may not be able to win the round on this bull, but he should stay in contention for the aggregate, and that’s what he needs.
Chase Outlaw on 311 Mason’s Missouri Golden:
This bull is 27-1 in his career. He’s not the best fit for Outlaw, and he’s not easy to ride, but he’s a cut above a lot of other bulls in the round. Outlaw won the Mason Lowe Memorial in St. Louis, and this bull is named for Mason Lowe. There may some synergy there.
Jess Lockwood on 323 Biker Bob:
This should be a slam dunk for Lockwood. He was 90 on this bull in August. Picking this bull in the draft has double value for Lockwood. Picking Biker Bob early is good for him and bad for Leme, because Leme surely would have picked him if he was still on the table. Leme has two round wins on Biker Bob this season.
Dalton Kasel on A19 Bezerk:
Like Outlaw, Kasel has a bull with a little extra gas in the tank. Bezerk can be hard to ride, but he can be worth a couple of extra points, too. Jess Lockwood was 92 on him in Tulsa. Kasel bucked off last night, but you haven’t heard the last of him this week. He’s here to win.
Joao Ricardo Vieira on 391 Slingin’ Tears:
Vieira was 88.5 points on this bull back in May. Most of Slingin’ Tears highlight reel consists of him slinging cowboys. He’s not easy to ride. Vieira is one of just two riders who have ridden him before.
Cody Jesus on 51 Safety Meeting:
Jesus used the top pick in the draft to choose a bull that should fit him perfectly. Safety Meeting goes to the left, and he’s been ridden a few times this year for good scores. Stetson Wright won the Cheyenne rodeo on him this year. But if there are a lot of rides, this bull may not be good enough to win the round on.