SALT LAKE CITY — Well, the money doesn’t count but it spends the same.
Elko steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge bested all but one competitor Wednesday during the Days of ’47 Rodeo — placing second with a time of 4.22 seconds in the gold medal round — earning $25,000.
The money will not count toward Eldridge’s hunt for a sixth appearance in the National Finals Rodeo, as the Days of ’47 Rodeo is not a sanctioned event of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Days of ’47 is currently a World Champions Rodeo Alliance event.
Eldridge held the lead for the gold medal and the grand prize of $50,000 for all but two bull doggers, when Matt Reeves jumped to the front of the pack with a blistering run of 3.92 seconds.
“Altogether, I won a little more than $27,000. These (WCRA) rodeos pay well,” Eldridge said. “They don’t have entry fees either, so that’s awesome.”
He qualified for the gold medal round — which takes the top-two finishers from each of four performances and two wild cards (the next two-best overall) — with a second-place run of 5.01 seconds on Monday night for $2,4000.
Eldridge’s big paycheck came while riding his traveling partner’s horse, sliding off the back of three-time NFR steer wrestler Clayton Hass’ 13-year-old gelding “Benz.”
With $53,298 in winnings during the 2019 PRCA season, Eldridge is currently in place to make his sixth trip in seven years to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, in Las Vegas, but he does not have a ton of breathing room.
With the top-15 competitors of the world standings in each event making the NFR, Eldridge is currently in 13th place.
He has a $2,877 lead on 16th place, which is manned by three-time NFR bull dogger and 2017 world champion Tyler Pearson.
After falling to 18th place after the Reno Rodeo, Eldridge sprung to 13th on July 3 with a big win.
With a three-run total of 11.9 seconds, he claimed the victory at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede, cinching the win with a time of 4.1 seconds in the short-go — splitting first in the round for $1,166.
His average check was worth $4,255.
The total was aided by a $2,836 payoff for a first-place time of 3.7 seconds in the second round, adding $1,357 for a three-way split for fourth place in round one with a 4.1-second run.
Altogether, he raked $9,614 out Greeley.
Eldridge nearly filled his money bag during the Snake River Stampede, in Nampa, Idaho.
In the first round, he tied for the win with a time of 3.6 seconds for $3,342.
He followed with a 4.7-second run during the July 17 performance, coming back to the final round in second place with a two-steer total of 8.3 seconds.
On Saturday, they chute workers accidentally let out Eldridge’s steer — the draw of the bunch — an animal which had been thrown four times in four seconds or less throughout the week.
Instead of running the steer back up the pen, the judge determined he would run the extra steer — actually the second extra — the first man of the short-go given the first extra when his draw would not stand up in the chute.
Eldridge went from having the pick of the pen to the crap of the den.
The faster, stronger animal took him down the arena and slipped a horn, no-time.
Eldridge qualified for the finals of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, in Colorado Springs, winning $1,104 in the first performance on July 10.
On July 13, he chartered a plane and flew back to Colorado Springs.
However, he was unable to run his final steer — lightning delaying his landing — turning out his chance to run at $10,000.
Eldridge was slated to run two steers Thursday during the Chief Joseph (Oregon) Days and take his second steer Saturday in the Deadwood (South Dakota) Days of 76 Rodeo, also scheduled for a Saturday run in Helena, Montana.
He will wrap up the month with a pair of July 31 runs in Dodge City, Kansas.