With four horses in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finals in Reno, Nev., tonight, the odds were most definitely in Corey Cushing’s favor. He still had to work for every bit of the $100,000 Championship paycheck as he staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory on CD Diamond (CD Olena x Shiners Diamond Girl x Shining Spark), owned by San Juan Ranch.
It was an emotional night for the 32-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., trainer as he talked about his first Snaffle Bit Futurity Championship and the high-scoring 222 cow work that sealed the win.
“It always comes down to the fence work, and that’s what it came down to today,” Cushing said.
He began the finals performance aboard the palomino stallion with 214.5 in the rein work, and then scored a respectable 215.5 in the rein work. The 430 composite score still put him seven-and-a-half points behind Todd Bergen, who had built an imposing lead after two events with a 437.5 aboard This One Time (One Time Pepto x Katie Starlight x Grays Starlight), owned by Pamela Bailey.
Cushing drew first in the cow work and immediately put up the highest score of the Open Finals, a 222. Given CD Diamond’s natural talent for that event, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, Cushing said.
“He’s been a fence horse from day one. As the saying goes, great fence horses are born, they are not made. It’s been something that is so easy for him, to wrap himself around that cow. I wanted to put him in the best place I could and let him do his thing. He just gives a guy confidence.”
CD Diamond’s owners, John and Brenda Stephenson of San Juan Ranch, had been in Reno to watch their horse throughout the preliminaries. It was the second time they had seen a home-bred horse win the Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship; their mare, Stylish Little Oak (Playin Stylish x Shiners Little Oak x Shining Spark) won the title in 2010 with Tucker Robinson in the saddle.
“I still can’t believe it!” Brenda Stephenson exclaimed. “I’m really excited for Corey. He deserves to win this futurity. He’s a great trainer, he’s a great guy, and he’s good to his horses. He’s just a class act. We love working with him.”
The Championship came with a slew of prizes, including two Bob’s Custom Saddles sponsored by Jeffrey Matthews/One Time Pepto and Bob and Kate Ballew/Mattie Neal; a one-of-a-kind custom snaffle bit handmade by artisan Greg Darnall; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by Farnam Horse Products; Gist buckles sponsored by Hooker Creek Ranch/Matt & Lesley Day and Lone Oak Veterinary Clinic, Cinch jackets from Bob’s Custom Saddles/New West Country Store, Platinum Performance from Doug Herthel and CR Morrison Commemorative Medallions from NRCHA.
Bergen, who won the 2011 Snaffle Bit Futurity Championship aboard Shiners Dun Juan (Smart Shiner x Cremes Chic Olena x Smart Chic Olena), claimed the$80,000 Reserve Championship check with This One Time for owner Pam Bailey. He admitted it was disappointing to see the Championship slip away, but he couldn’t help being happy that his long-time friend and fellow trainer reached the winner’s circle.
“I was very close tonight to winning it again, but one little misstep is all it takes,” Bergen said. He scored a 650.5 composite to earn the reserve placing. “I’ve known Corey and watched him show since he was 12 years old. You just watched him and knew he was going to be here one of these days. You knew he was going to be one of the best in the industry.”