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4:13 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

WORLD'S OLDEST RODEO: 'Scoreboard watching' a no-no on final day

PRESCOTT - Bull riders Elliot Jacoby, Trey Benton III and Howdy Cloud of Texas weren't necessarily "scoreboard watching" on Saturday afternoon at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.

As the 2013 Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo entered its second-to-last day of competition, their focus turned strictly to the bulls they were going to mount in the chutes and not the leading riders here.

After all, these pro rodeo cowboys realize that you have to tune out every distraction, even when a buckle and a potentially big paycheck are on the line.

"You've just got to ride your bull," said Jacoby, who came to Prescott rated fifth in the world standings for bull riding. "You can't worry about what you're going to score. If he's not going to perform, then you're going to get a re-ride.

"These bulls here are really good, so you should have a chance to ride somethin' and get a higher score than the guys that are in the lead."

Prescott Frontier Days falls in the middle of the so-called "Cowboy Christmas," a time during the summer when a substantial number of rodeos with major payouts are taking place simultaneously across the country.

This past week alone, Jacoby rode in rodeos in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and South Dakota, and he said he's been performing well since late June.

Jacoby and fellow bull riders Chandler Bownds of Lubbock, Texas, who's presently ranked 12th in the world, and Lucas Guilbeau of Golden Meadow, La., travel together in a van. They didn't want to miss out on the "World's Oldest Rodeo."

"I just know Prescott has one of the better rodeos over the Fourth," Jacoby said, "and it's kind of hard to pass this one up."

The 21-year-old Benton III, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's (PRCA) Bull Riding Rookie of the Year in 2012, said if he's looking at the scoreboard in Prescott, he's only "gazing" at it.

"Your main goal in rodeo is: 'Stay on your bull,' " said Benton III, who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) and finished ninth in the world in his first season of pro bull riding. "The judges handle the score, and you can't do nothing about it. Just stay on, and whatever they mark you it's fine and dandy, you know."

Benton III, who can also tie-down rope and saddle bronc ride, has had a rough 2013 thus far. Several weeks ago, he suffered a fracture to the orbital socket of his right eye and broke some bones under his nose, too, when a bull jerked him down and hit him. He has also fought through two knee ligament tears he suffered last year that weren't surgically repaired.

Despite his ailments, things are beginning to improve for the young man from Rock Island, Texas. Since last Sunday, Benton III has traveled from St. Paul, Ore., to Red Lodge, Mont., to Cody, Wyo., to Prescott for rodeos. He'll start back up again next Tuesday through Sunday with four more rodeos.

"This past week, it's finally starting to look up," he said. "I've been placing almost everywhere I've went over the Fourth of July. It's changed from riding two bulls in the month of June to riding almost every one in July."

Howdy Cloud of Kountze, Texas, a summer travel partner of Benton III who's currently listed 25th in the bull riding world standings, has attended more than 20 rodeos this year and completed rides on about half of the bulls assigned to him.

Cloud, 33, said he has been competing at Prescott Frontier Days since 2001. He's headed to Casper, Wyo., for his next ride and added that he hopes to return to the NFR for the fourth time this fall.

"You've got to go ride your bull to get paid, so that's what I'm going to do," he said. "I've really been feeling pretty good, pretty confident, and I just need to keep going and gettin' on some bulls."