Hickory Holly Time & Kelby Phillips
After winning the Derby Open rein work preliminaries with a 225.5 and scoring a 219 in the herd work, Hickory Holly Time and Kelby Phillips made a strong finish at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby in Paso Robles, California, scoring a 220 in the cow work to lead the field of 20 Derby Open finalists with a total 664.5.
The clean-slate finals are Saturday, June 20. It took a 651.5 score and above to qualify in the Open division.
Hickory Holly Time (One Time Pepto x Hickorys Holly Cee x Doc’s Hickory), owned by NRCHA Breeder Sponsors Garth and Amanda Gardiner, is the defending Derby Open Champion. He won the 2014 title with Phillips aboard.
The last horse to win consecutive Derby titles as a 4- and 5-year old was NRCHA Million Dollar Sire Very Smart Remedy (Smart Little Lena x Remedys Response x Doc’s Remedy), owned by Million Dollar Rider Anne M. Reynolds. He accomplished that feat in 2003 and 2004, with another Million Dollar Rider, Jon Roeser, in the saddle.
Eighteen riders qualified for the Intermediate Open finals, and the minimum score to advance was a 641.
In the Limited Open, five riders will compete for the Championship on Saturday, and the bubble score was 635.5.
Reys A Shine and Chris Dawson win Open Novice Horse Championship
The Champions in some Derby divisions were decided by the preliminary round scores, including the Open Novice Horse. Reys A Shine (Dual Rey x Lil Miss Shiney Chex x Shining Spark), a 2011 stallion shown by Chris Dawson for breeder/owner Carol Rose, scored a total 659.5 (214.5 herd/219 rein/226 cow) to win the division. The championship came with a $3,188 check, a gift certificate from Platinum Performance, and a cooler tote bag and gift certificate from San Juan Ranch.
“I’m just getting him figured out. This is the first time we’ve taken him to the horse show and felt like we had the same horse we do at home,” Dawson said. “He’s a phenomenal show horse, just like his momma.”
Dawson rode Reys A Shine’s dam, Lil Miss Shiney Chex, to some of her $88,000+ in show earnings.
“She was the first horse I made the Open Snaffle Bit Futurity Finals on, and she was a great mare. The best show horse, as far as a show horse goes. She caught new gears when you went in the pen,” he said.
Lil Miss Shiney Chex’s mare power was evident in Paso Robles as Reys A Shine and another of her foals, Blind Sided (x Peptoboonsmal), both marked a 226 to share the high score in the Open cow work preliminaries. Blind Sided, a 2010 stallion owned by Aaron Ranch and shown by Jay McLaughlin, was also bred by Rose.
Justa Doin It and Russell Probert win Level 1 Limited Open Championship
The Level 1 Limited Open Champion was Justa Doin It (Smart Little Pepinic x Justa Hot Chic x Just Plain Colonel), shown by Russell Probert for owners JJ and Teresa Fisher, Nipomo, California. They scored a total 633.5 (207 herd/212.5 rein/214 cow) which also qualified them for the Limited Open finals on Saturday. The Level 1 title came with a $3,444 check, a Gist buckle from the NRCHA, and a gift certificate from Platinum Performance.
It is the second Premier Event Championship for Probert and the 2011 gelding this year. In April, they won the Limited Open Championship at the NRCHA Stakes in Las Vegas.
Justa Doin It does double duty in the show pen; JJ Fisher also showed him in the Derby Non Pro, and the pair made Saturday’s finals. Probert said he takes that into consideration when preparing Justa Doin It to show.
“He’s got a big motor, but you can’t over-work him. Mostly I try to get him prepared even better at home, so when we get to the show, we can just kind of cruise through and not overdo it on him. It’s not a problem for him [to show in two divisions], but it could be if I hound him all the time,” he said. “He’s so easygoing, he doesn’t try to do anything wrong, and he does the best that he can do at whatever he is asked.”
Probert, who previously was an assistant trainer to Justin Wright, took a full-time job with the Fishers at the beginning of the year. The Nipomo, California, couple are serious non pro cow horse competitors with an expanding program, Probert said.
“They have probably 12 horses that we’re riding right now, and they have a bunch more coming. They’re wanting to support me and get some open horses. I’m very lucky. I haven’t been doing this very long. There are a lot of people who have been doing it longer than me who haven’t had an opportunity like this, and I’m very thankful,” he said.
Gregg Lafitte Wins Derby Amateur Championship
The Derby Amateur Champion was Gregg Lafitte, who rode his 2010 mare, Shes Playin Rey (TR Dual Rey x Playin Acre x Playin Stylish), to a composite 633.5 (207 herd/212.5 rein/214 cow). They also earned a spot in Saturday’s Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro finals. The Amateur Championship paid $1,364 and came with a Gist buckle from the NRCHA, a gift certificate from Platinum Performance, and a gift certificate and cooler tote bag from San Juan Ranch.
It is Lafitte’s second consecutive NRCHA Premier Event Amateur title. He also won that division at the Hackamore Classic in Pueblo, Colorado, in May. That success prompted him to enter the Derby.
“I wasn’t sure I could handle this showing two-handed stuff. I had only shown bridle horses before, and I didn’t start showing cow horses until I was 50,” Lafitte said, smiling. “It’s been a challenge competing against the ‘kids,’ but we started getting along better this year. She’s an amazing little horse.”
Lafitte thanked his wife, Jan, his trainer, CJ Shopbell, NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy, and Don’s daughter, Nelle, who all had a role in his relationship with Shes Playin Rey and his development as a rider.
Claire Armstrong Wins Derby Non Pro Limited Championship
The Derby Non Pro Limited Champion was Claire Armstrong, who rode Hal O Matic (Halreycious x Miss Hickory Hill x Doc’s Hickory) to a total 643 (213 herd/209.5 rein/220.5 cow), earning $1,876. The title also came with a Gist buckle from the NRCHA, a gift certificate from Platinum Performance, and a gift certificate and cooler tote bag from San Juan Ranch.
“That boxing run was pretty exciting. I had heard a couple of the scores of the riders before me, and I knew I had to be aggressive. The cool thing about this horse is, she was trained as a cutter when we got her, and she definitely takes care of me on the cow. I was really, really excited today,” Armstrong said.
She bought Hal O Matic a year and a half ago after she found the mare on Facebook. Armstrong has been working with Millsap, Texas, horseman Tom Neel to learn how to show a limited-age event cow horse. It’s Armstrong’s second consecutive Premier Event title this year. She also won the Hackamore Classic Non Pro Limited Championship with Hal O Matic in May.
“This is a dream come true. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve only had her a year and a half. I’ve learned all the way. I’ve never done herd work until I got this horse. It’s been awesome, the learning experience. I’ve never shown two handed, either. Tom has taught me everything I know, so it’s been great.”
Armstrong thanked the whole Neel family – Tom, Lorna, Jennifer and James – and thanked her husband, who doesn’t ride, but “supports me all the way,” she said.