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Eldridge wrestles San Angelo lead

by User Not Found | Feb 12, 2018

Courtesy of Ted Harbin

SAN ANGELO, Texas – The 2018 ProRodeo season has started off rather slowly for Dakota Eldridge.

He’s not among the Top 50 in the world standings, but that can change within the next week or so after his two runs Feb. 10 at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Eldridge, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Elko, Nev., downed two steers in a cumulative time of 7.1 seconds to take the steer wrestling lead.

“I knew my first steer was pretty good, because they were good on that steer the first time they ran him here,” said Eldridge, who won NFR average championships in 2015 and 2017. “I knew I needed to use every opportunity I had. I scored good and bulldogged great, so it worked out.”

Yes, it did. His afternoon time of 3.1 seconds placed him into the first-round lead. He ran his second-round steer during the evening’s seventh performance and stopped the clock in 4.0 seconds. He is just one-tenth of a second out of placing in that round.

But the important piece of the puzzle is having a fast two-run aggregate time, because only the top 12 return next Friday for the championship round.

The key behind all of his success lies with Rusty, a 19-year-old sorrel gelding that has been his key partner each of the past six years. That includes all five trips to Las Vegas and the two average saddles.

“He’s getting a little age to him, but he’s feeling better than he ever has,” Eldridge said. “He’s seasoned, and now I’m getting seasoned. This horse has been with me since I was a little kid.”

He’s also been an important mount for others along the way. Clayton Hass, a three-time NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, has been riding the talented red horse this winter. He is second in the San Angelo average, just a tenth of a second behind Eldridge.

“With Clayton being right in there, Rusty should have a good day Friday when we head back over here for the short round,” Eldridge said. “It’s great to have a little momentum as we get ready for our set in San Antonio.”

He and others will compete at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo from Feb. 13-15, then return to San Angelo Coliseum for championship night.

“I’ve had a lot of luck at San Angelo,” Eldridge said. “You’ve always got a great crowd, and it’s a short, fast setup.

“I’ve finished second and third here in years past. You’re always trying to get the kinks worked out by the time you get to San Angelo. I’ve been drawing pretty good, but I’ve dropped the ball a little. Hopefully it’s all coming together at the right time.”

Sometimes things just don’t go a competitor’s way, but the Nevada cowboy knows how to take the roller-coaster rides that come with ProRodeo. He’s eager to return to the NFR for a sixth straight year, and he’s got the partner he needs to do it with Rusty.

“That horse has made 50 runs with me at the Finals, and it’s been six years of hauling him professionally down the road,” he said. “That horse has been there for me time and time again. For him to be that consistent is amazing.”

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