PUEBLO, Colo. – The first cut for The 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast has arrived with five events officially in the books.
Riders ranked 1-30 from the 2017 final world standings still have a guaranteed three events, while the remaining five draw spots and any alternate riders will be filled for the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City, Missouri, via injury exemptions, invites and the 2018 world standings.
Therefore, here is a look at some of the winners and losers at the first cut.
No. 8 Valdiron de Oliveira: The No. 8 man in the world standings has proven that age is not a number. The 38-year-old returned following a year of retirement riding better than when he originally decided to hang up his bull rope.
Oliveira was given five exemptions by PBR CEO Sean Gleason and he would only need that one to prove he deserved a spot on Unleash The Beast. The 10-time PBR World Finals qualifier went 4-for-4 at the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden in New York for 343.33 world points and he has not looked back.
“Oh yeah,” Oliveira said. “The riders are scared of the first cut. I knew this wouldn’t be easy for me to stay on the top. I had to make more points, but I feel great to be riding again. It is hard to stay at Velocity events. It is more difficult.”
No. 20 Brady Oleson: The 21-year-old made his Unleash The Beast debut last weekend in Anaheim, California, with an impressive 86-point ride on Make-N-Magic before his weekend was ended by a Deep Water buckoff (5.61 seconds) and a concussion.
Oleson earned his way to the Unleash The Beast by going 11-for-16 (68.75 percent) with a victory and five Top-5 finishes on the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour.
“I am excited for what is coming these next couple of events and I hope they go well,” Oleson said.
The Blackfoot, Idaho, bull rider is ranked 20th in the world standings, but it will be worth watching to see how long he can compete with his injured left shoulder (torn labrum), which Oleson likely needs to get repaired via reconstructive shoulder surgery.
It was the price he paid when he rode Blurred Lines for 84 points during his Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour win in Oakland, California.
Last season, Koal Livingston battled his way through an unstable free arm to finish tied for 35th in the world standings. Livingston then underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery in the offseason and remains out of competition.
No. 21 Tye Chandler: Two years ago, Tye Chandler won the Goliad, Texas, Touring Pro Division event on Nov. 12 and seemed poised to make a run at qualifying for the PBR’s top level in 2017.
However, Chandler was unable to build any momentum off that TPD victory and didn’t win another event until May 6.
Chandler hadn’t forgotten about that fact after repeating as the event winner in Goliad this season and made sure he didn’t have to wait another six months for a victory. Instead, it took the 22-year-old two months to win his second event, this time the North Charleston, South Carolina, Velocity Tour event to earn 120 world points and a Top 15 world ranking.
Since making his debut in Sacramento, California, Chandler (1-for-6) has dropped to 21st in the world standings.
“This is the Top 30 guys in the world and to be among them does say something,” Chandler said. “It makes you feel like you are at a different level. It pushes me to go to the next level and try and compete with these guys.
“I have been working from this since I joined the PBR. It is a dream come true and we are here and now it is time to make it.”
No. 24 Keyshawn Whitehorse: Whitehorse will be making his season debut in Kansas City after grinding away at the Velocity Tour level in January.
The 20-year-old has competed in seven premier series events in his career, and he is no stranger to the ups and downs and of one weekend making the top tour and the next one being sent home.
Whitehorse is 9-for-18 (50 percent) this season and has really turned it up a notch the past two weeks. He first won the Lexington, Kentucky, Velocity event by riding Slow Ride for 87 points and his 88.5-point ride on Peep Show last weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan, propelled him a third-place finish.
Whitehorse made his debut at the Iron Cowboy two years ago and his victory in Lexington guarantees him a spot in this year’s Winstar World Casino & Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, on Feb. 24.
“I was 18 years old,” Whitehorse said. “It was a dream event that changed my outlook on a lot of things in my career. It showed me that when you are growing up, you always believe and envision yourself being there. But actually being there and getting qualified rides on ones that buck at a top-notch level and actually compete at a high level with everybody else let me know there is something I can push for and perform at a whole other level.”
No. 24 Cody Campbell: The 30-year-old spent six years working his way back to the PBR World Finals, so he dang sure wanted to make sure he started 2018 on the right foot.
Campbell is 24th in the world standings because of his 12th-place finish in the season-opener in New York when he went 2-for-4.
The Summerville, Oregon, bull rider then posted another two rides at the Chicago Invitational the following week, but he has since bucked off nine consecutive bulls.
“Go to Kansas City,” Campbell said. “No looking back now. It felt good to get a few good rides under my belt and get some points.”
Campbell also helped his push into the Top 30 with a victory at the Peoria, Illinois, Velocity Tour event in December. The PBR had yet to make its rule change for the 2018 season to award Velocity winners 120 world points, but Campbell still earned 80.
The veteran earned 43.27 percent of his world points last year on the Velocity Tour to help him finish 34th overall in the world standings.
“It ain’t that bad now at the Velocity,” Campbell said. “Shoot, there are a lot of points to be had, especially since they raised them points. I dang sure rather be here and am happy that I am. I just need to keep things rolling and keep moving forward.”
This year’s first cut involved less riders than past seasons with four of the six riders subject to being cut either choosing to compete at non-PBR events or are sidelined with an injury. Those riders -- 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, J.W. Harris and Sage Kimzey -- no longer are holding draw spots. Livingston will have five injury exemptions.
However, Lachlan Richardson has bucked off all 11 of his Unleash The Beast bulls and is being relegated to the Velocity Tour.
Riders that finished 1-30 in last year’s final world standings have three remaining guaranteed events before being subject to the cutline.
As of today, there are two healthy riders outside the Top 35 from last year’s Top 30: No. 64 Marco Eguchi and No. 117 Mason Lowe.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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