- Created on Sunday, 17 June 2012
The brightest stars of the reined cow horse world, the bridle horses, dazzled a packed house at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby in Paso Robles, Calif., tonight as they competed for their share of the enticing $50,000-added Holy Cow Performance Horses Open Bridle Spectacular purse, and the right to add their name to the CD Survivor Memorial Trophy.
Two dozen of the very best equine and human athletes in the sport laid it all on the line in three grueling runs - herd work, reined work and fence work. In the final reckoning, the horse with the best score was one of the least experienced in bridle horse competition: Smart Luck, a 6-year-old stallion shown by NRCHA Million-Dollar Rider and two-time Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion Todd Bergen, Eagle Point, Ore.
"Man - what a class!" an elated Bergen said, following the win. Smart Luck scored a total 665.5 on three events to earn a jaw-dropping $30,800. The win was even more meaningful because it was the past NRCHA Stakes and NRCHA Derby Champion horse's very first time to compete in a cow horse event in the bridle, and he was up against some veteran champions.
Smart Luck, who is sired by Very Smart Remedy and out of the mare Gunna Be Lucky by Gunna Smoke, dominated the first two events. He won the herd work with a 224 and then marking the high score in the reined work round, a 223.5.
"The herd work and the reined work did not concern me because I've worked him one-handed at home a lot, and shown him at the big reinings one-handed, and taken him to cuttings before. But the fence work - anybody who's shown down the fence will tell you any time you go in there, something new happens," Bergen said. "Literally, that was my sixth trip down the fence in romal reins, and I'd never ever showed him in the bridle down the fence before."
His only regret was that Smart Luck's owner, Cindy Warn of Cable Creek Ranch, could not be there to see her horse compete.
"Her mom's very, very ill and in the hospital so she's having to deal with that. I was happy to be able to give her some good news," he said.
Bergen thanked his family, his sponsors and Phil and Nancy Crawford-Hall of Holy Cow Performance Horses, who sponsored the Open Bridle Spectacular.
"That's what makes this industry keep going, is people like them. Phil and Nancy are longtime supporters of the NRCHA, and to have something like this, for these older horses, is awesome," he said.
The Reserve Champion in the Open Bridle Spectacular was Olena Oak, who scored a 664 on three events to earn $24,200. The 10-year-old Smart Chic Olena stallion is out of the Doc's Oak mare, Fritzs Oak E Doakie. He is owned by Mel Smith and Nichole Scott.
The first leg of competition in the Holy Cow Performance Horses Open Bridle Spectacular, the herd work, wrapped up this afternoon. Leading the field with a score of 224 is Smart Luck, shown by Eagle Point, Ore., professional Todd Bergen. The 6-year-old stallion, sired by Very Smart Remedy and out of the mare Gunna Be Lucky, by Gunna Smoke, is owned by Cable Creek Ranch, Aurora, Ore.
Smart Luck and Bergen already have achieved two major NRCHA event wins together. They claimed the NRCHA Derby Open Championship in 2010, and then came back in 2011 to win the NRCHA Stakes Open title.
The $50,000-added Holy Cow Performance Horses Open Bridle Spectacular, featuring the CD Survivor Memorial Trophy, is the largest NRCHA-produced three-event contest for the highly trained, finely tuned bridle horses.
Contestants in the Non-Pro Bridle Spectacular also rode to the herd today, and the high score, a 214, belonged to Doug Granade, Shingle Springs, Calif., riding Wright On Ned. The 8-year-old gelding is by Lenas Wright On and out of the mare Smart Sally. Granade and "Ned" teamed up in 2011 to win dual championships in the Novice Non-Pro and Intermediate Non-Pro Bridle classes at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity.