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During these challenging times when athletes have been forced not to compete in recent weeks because of coronavirus concerns, Professional Bull Riders officials carefully conducted a closed-for-TV-only tour stop on April 25 and 26 at the Lazy E Arena near Oklahoma City.

“It went extremely well,” PBR chief executive officer Sean Gleason said. “We got everybody in and out of there safely. We were able to test everyone and confirm that nobody had coronavirus, which means nobody spread the disease. We were able to buck bulls, put on a great event for our fans and chart a path for sports on how to get back safely and responsibly.”

Fabiano Vieira, a Brazilian who is from Decatur, clinched the title and pocketed $11,000. He was the only cowboy who made a qualified ride on all three bulls throughout the two-day show that was called the Las Vegas Invitational.

Jose Vitor Leme, another Brazilian from the Decatur area, is ranked No. 1 in the PBR’s 2020 world title race. He finished third overall at the Oklahoma tour stop.

Gleason said two other PBR shows are scheduled for May 9-10 and May 16-17 at the Lazy E Arena, which is a massive state-of-the-art facility near Guthrie, Oklahoma, but is located in a quieter, rural area.

Prior to the April 25-26 tour stop in the Oklahoma City area, the PBR’s last event was a closed-for-TV-only tour stop on March 14-15 at Duluth, Georgia, in the Atlanta area. The April 25-26 show from the Lazy E Arena was featured on the CBS Sports Network.

“This is something that every American has had to deal with,” Gleason said. “But my feeling has been from Day 1 is if you have a business, or in our case a broader industry, that you are responsible for feeding, then you had better start working out ways to get back safely and responsibly.”

World class bull riders earn respectable prize money these days, but unlike pro baseball players they have not traditionally drawn an annual salary. Outside of sponsorship deals, bull riders and rodeo athletes get paid only when they finish in the money at a western sports event.

“The No. 1 driving force was to get back to where we could have events and put money in bull riders’ pockets,” Gleason said.

The Oklahoma tour stop featured high quality rides. For example, Vieira, the first place finisher, turned in attention grabbing scores of 87.25 (Round 1), 86 (Round 2) and 89.5 (Final Round). Second place finisher Colten Jesse, an Oklahoma cowboy, turned in scores of 87.25 (Round 2) and 90.25 (Final Round). Leme, the world’s No. 1 ranked rider who finished third in the title race, turned in an 86.5 (Round 1) and a 90 (Final Round).

“It was definitely different,” Gleason said. “But the sport at its core is still exactly the same. To be able watch those guys get on frankly one of the best pen of bulls that’s been assembled in a long time with some of best bulls in the world....it was great watching from a bull riding fans perspective.”

PRCA update

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association is targeting Memorial Day Weekend (May 23-25) for a return to competition, PRCA CEO George Taylor told The Cowboy Channel in an interview on April 25. For example, if that plan works out, the Ellis County Livestock Show & Rodeo  that’s scheduled for June 5-6 in Waxahachie likely will not have to cancel or reschedule because of COVID-19 concerns.

“You know, sooner is better, for sure,” Taylor said during the Cowboy Channel interview that also was reported on prorodeo.com. “We’re really hopeful Memorial Day weekend that we can get something started. We’re working very closely right now with Fort Smith (Arkansas) and the local officials there in order to have a rodeo. Whether that means it is a fan-less event or reduced occupancy style of event, that’s really our direction and what we are going to try to pull off because we do need to get the rodeo engine going and have everybody in these communities see some encouraging things. We are really excited about the potential of starting that on Memorial Day weekend.”

Hall of Famers

Six-time world champion Cody Ohl, a Texas cowboy, is part of an eight-member class that will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Aug. 1. Ohl snared PRCA world tie-down roping titles in 1997-98, 2001, 2003 and 2006. He also clinched the 2001 world all-around title.

Ohl will be joined by Grated Coconut, who won a PRCA-record six Bareback Horse of the Year awards; world champion bull rider Butch Kirby (1978); stock contractor Jim Sutton Jr.; secretary Suni Deb Backstrom; journalist Randy Witte; the Ellensburg (Washington) Rodeo and world champion barrel racer Martha Josey (1980).

Death of a legend

Matt Reeves’ horse, Do Get Famous “Rattle,” the 2019 Steer Wrestling Purina Horse of the Year presented by the American Quarter Horse Association, passed away April 17 of a ruptured stomach. She was 8. According to prorodeo.com, Reeves, a Pampa native who is from Cross Plains near Abilene, is leading the PRCA’s 2020 world title race with $77,580,and he earned all that money aboard Rattle. Reeves is a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier.

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos and horse shows for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than 35 years. Email him at bchoffman777@earthlink.net.

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