The Professional Bull Riders World Finals kicks off 6 p.m. Thursday night with a free party at the Fremont Street Experience near the Golden Nugget.
The gathering of the top 45 bull riders in the world will feature a first-time Finals “draft” of Bulls and a free concert.
The Finals begins 6 p.m. Friday with competition through Sunday before picking up Nov. 6 for a four-day run to crown the World Champion who wins a $1 million bonus for being the year’s best in the Built Ford Tough Series.
Riders will be ranked in order of the points standings with leader Guilherme Marchi getting the first choice of which bull he wants to ride in the first go-round. Drafts will be held for each round at various locations. (See the event schedule on this page).
It’s not known if the first bull picked has to wear a giant jersey and hat like No. 1 picks do in NFL and NBA drafts.
It’s a concept that began at some PBR events this year and will be used for the first time at the Finals, which offers a $3.2 million prize fund.
The draft rewards the top riders by giving them the right to pick their bulls instead of the traditional random drawing.
“I love it,” McBride told me last week. “If it had been this way for my whole career I’d have made a lot more money.
“I always pick the rankest bull because that’s how you can win the most money,” said the rodeo athlete who last month became the first to earn $5 million in a career.
The Fremont Street bash includes a concert by the Zac Brown Band and a possible singing performance by reigning world champ Justin McBride. Last year McBride released “Don’t Let Go,” his first CD. Go to JustinMcBride.com to hear it.
LAST RIDES FOR MCBRIDE, MORAES
This will mark the end of the careers for McBride and three-time world champ Adriano Moraes, each of whom will retire after the Finals.
ALL ROUNDS AT THOMAS & MACK
The PBR expanded its World Finals from four to seven days in 2005, and this is the first year all rounds at the Thomas & Mack on the UNLV campus.
The past three years the opening weekend was held at Mandalay Bay, which remains the site for many Finals activities including the Fanzone, Marketplace and after parties.
PBR boss Randy Bernard said the decision to hold all performances at the T&M were made to accommodate more spectators for the opening weekend.
He told me last week that eventually the Finals will be a 10-day event, but not for another three or four years.
When the PBR World Finals opens Friday night at 6 in the T&M, tickets as low as $15 will be available.
If you can’t go, Versus (Cable 67 in Las Vegas) will offer live telecasts each night.
All telecasts will later be offered on DVD (PBRnow.com).
According to the PBR, 100 million viewers tune in each year to watch its events on Fox, NBC, Versus and foreign networks. It says about 500 hours of prime time programming are provided annually.
The PBR has more than 1,200 bull riders competing in more than 300 PBR sanctioned competitions in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.
IN THE R-J
Read all about Adriano Moraes in Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal or on LVRJ.com.