Idaho’s Dillon Holyfield and Jaylen Eldridge roped their way from the top 60 round to the top four Championship round at the inaugural America’s Team Roping Challenge at Rancho Rio in Wickenburg, Arizona, on Feb. 18, 2021, produced by Yost Events.
Holyfield, 23, and Eldridge, 18, took home the $10,000 prize money after then roped their top-four steer in 6.64 seconds to secure the America’s Team Roping Challenge, Tour Stop No.1 Championship title.
“This is probably the biggest check that I’ve ever won,” Holyfield said. “It couldn’t have been at a better time. Jaylen wanted to rope and when he wants to rope you can’t say no. We both stay at Jeff Flenniken’s (2020 Wrangler NFR qualifier) and we’re roping every day. I rope with him every chance I get.”
Holyfield and Eldridge barley made the cut to advance to the top 30 round after roping their first steer in 7.00 seconds, plus a 5-second penalty.
“After the first one that I broke the barrier on, I was pretty bummed,” Holyfield explained. “I didn’t think that we’d make it back and we ended up squeezing back. I just thought that if I get out on the barrier and turn them, we’ll be good.”
After that bobble they got their runs just right. They advanced from the top 30 round placing sixth with a 7.24-second run, worth $500, advanced from the top 15 round placing seventh with an 8.69-second run, worth $500 and advanced from the top 10 round after placing third with a 6.87-second run.
“When they bring 30 back, you can kind of bobble in the first round, but then no mistakes from there on out,” Eldridge said. “The steers were good—some strong, some were slower—and if you drew good you use them.”
Holyfield headed on an 11-year-old chestnut gelding, named Chester, which he partnered with his grandpa, Frank Dillon, on. The gelding is by their stud, The Dualler.
“Me and my grandpa bought him six or seven years ago and he had just been ridden on,” Holyfield said. “He’s been great ever since. My grandpa has kept me on great horses.”
Eldridge tapped Jeff Flenniken’s 7-year-old buckskin, named Spirit.
“He’s been letting me ride him while I’ve been down here,” Eldridge said. “I don’t know much about him. He just had him sent out here this winter but, he’s great. I think this was the second jackpot that I’ve ridden him at.”
Flenniken purchased the strong gelding from the 2016 PRCA All-Around World Champion Junior Nogueira.
“He’s kind of wild,” Flenniken said. “Jaylen is about the only guy that can get by him, really. I head on him a little bit. He’s just a little too aggressive for me to heel on, so I let Jaylen heel on him. He only has one horse, so I let him ride him quite a bit”
The America’s Team Roping Challenge was one of the first events where ropers had to pre-enter online through GlobalHandicaps.com, and Holyfield was the main man behind the entering, making sure they didn’t miss the cut.
“I had to go to the office and have the ladies at Rancho Rio help me set up my account,” Holyfield laughed. “I got here at eight o’clock and figured I’d just pay with cash and just write out a note card. I didn’t have any idea on how to run it. She walked me through it, and it was really simple. It was an easy way to enter.”
Holyfield and Eldridge, who are fond of the “fastest team wins” format, will be likely to continue putting their name down at the America’s Team Roping Challenge tour stops when they can.
“We’re going to come when it’s 60 teams and 45 minutes from the house,” Eldridge said. “We can’t miss a kind of roping like this that pays $10,000. Just keep having them and we’ll be here.”