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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Updated: May 24, 10:06 AM ET
Strike Buster

By Neal Reid
PSN Managing Editor

Storylines abounded at the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out in Tulsa, Okla., with virtually every event producing compelling drama that ended with exciting results. Lost in the shuffle, perhaps, was a feat by 2004 World Champion Bull Rider Dustin Elliott, who turned heads in the semifinal round on May 14 before the eventual champions were crowned.

Elliott (North Platte, Neb.) conquered one of the PRCA's rankest and most talked-about bulls, David Bailey's Lucky Strike. It was Elliott's third try on the 1,700-pound black-and-white Brahma cross, and the successful ride helped heal his two previous buck-offs on the bull.

Dustin Elliott (PRCA/Jeff Belden)
Elliott became the first PRCA bull rider to cover the talented 5-year-old bull in nearly two years.
Elliott survived Lucky Strike's initial onslaught in the ride's first three seconds, a flurry that usually turfs most riders, then held on for the eight-second whistle. The ride brought the Tulsa Convention Center crowd to its feet, gave Elliott second place in the round with an 82-point mark and awarded him some hefty bragging rights.

"He made a couple of rounds to the left, and I felt him give me the big jerk and didn't know what was going to happen," Elliott said. "I just stayed forward on him and matched him jump for jump until I heard the whistle. Some guys wanted to draw around him in the eight-round, but I wanted him, actually. I always want to be the first one to do something."

Elliott became the first PRCA bull rider to cover the talented 5-year-old bull in nearly two years. Jarrod Ford had last ridden the bull in Casper, Wyo., in 2004, and it hadn't been covered again until Elliott climbed aboard in Tulsa.

The 25-year-old Elliott praised the bull and said there are many reasons why he's so hard to handle.

He's smart too and plays head games with you. He knows the game and plays it well.
Dustin Elliott

"He's a big bull and really, really athletic," he said of the Lucky Strike, which was named the top bull at last year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. "I got on him in Fort Worth and in the Tour finale in Omaha the year before last, and both times he jerked the rope out of my hand. He's smart too and plays head games with you. He knows the game and plays it well."

The ride was doubly important for Elliott, who had not successfully ridden a bull since having surgery on his left (non-riding) hand on April 13.

"I was excited because it was the first bull I'd ridden in a little while," Elliott said. "Looking back on it, it was only six bulls I hadn't ridden, but there was a lot of time in between."

Doctors inserted two screws into Elliott's left wrist to repair a broken scaphoid bone and did other reconstruction to the damaged joint, and he has been riding with it wrapped in a cast ever since. Elliott originally injured the wrist four or five years ago after falling on it hard following a buck-off and had been wearing a specially made brace for support in past years.

"It just got to hurting me pretty bad where I couldn't even hold a cup of coffee, so I realized it was time to get it fixed," Elliott said.

Dustin Elliott (PRCA/Jeff Belden)
"I was excited because it was the first bull I'd ridden in a little while," Elliott said.
The former world champ had struggled to last eight seconds on a bull since the surgery, but broke out of his slump in fine fashion aboard Lucky Strike.

Bailey was somewhat disappointed to see one of his prized bulls conquered, but gave Elliott credit for the ride.

"He didn't have his best trip there in Tulsa and didn't buck like he normally can, but Dustin was good enough to make the whistle," said Bailey, who also owns 2002 and 2003 Bull of the NFR Super Cool. "He usually throws guys off pretty quick, but when he doesn't he needs to learn to continue that extreme hard pace for eight seconds."

Lucky Strike, which owns a buck-off percentage hovering around 98 percent, bucked off more than 40 consecutive riders before Elliott's eight-second trip. Part of the bull's prowess is owed to breeding, considering he comes from the highly touted 1993 Bull of the NFR Gunslinger.

"He's bred on both sides to buck," Bailey said of Lucky Strike, who turfed both Steve Woolsey and Bryan Richardson at last year's Wrangler NFR. "He's just a big, solid bull that wants to buck. He's pretty easygoing and gets along with other bulls and seems like he wants to save his energy for the arena. He's not a bull that goes after the cowboys after eight seconds is up, he just wants to do his job."

Elliott touted Bailey's pen of bulls, as well as his history of producing some of the PRCA's rankest stock.

Some guys wanted to draw around him in the eight-round, but I wanted him, actually. I always want to be the first one to do something.
Dustin Elliott

"It all starts back with Playboy and Gunslinger," Elliott said of Bailey's bulls. "It just goes to show that the breeding programs work. David's bulls are notorious for being tricky, and his bulls are definitely there at the top. I'm sure Lucky Strike's going to rebound because he's just a great bucking bull."

Bailey agreed that the bull would be back to deadly form soon.

"The ride definitely didn't hurt him and might have woke him up a little bit," Bailey said. "He's still got a lot of good years left."

That's one thing the bull undoubtedly has in common with Elliott.