Travelin Jonez & Chris Dawson Top NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby


Chris Dawson & his mother

The National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions Derby wrapped up Sunday, Jan. 27, in San Angelo, Texas. After three action-packed days, Chris Dawson and Travelin Jonez emerged victorious as Open Champions.

Dawson, Jacksboro, Texas, knew he had two good derby horses in Travelin Jonez (Smart Chic Olena x Travelin With Sass x Travalena) and A Spoonful O Sugar (Hes A Peptospoonful x Poco Smokum Oak x Smokum Oak), and he proved it Sunday, Jan. 27.

Dawson won the Celebration of Champions Derby Open title aboard his own horse, Travelin Jonez, with a composite score of 440.5 (herd: 146/rein: 142.5/cow: 152). He also took the Reserve Championship on Cryin’ Coyote Ranch’s mare A Spoonful O Sugar with a 440 (herd: 147/rein: 145.5/cow: 147.5). Dawson’s combined paychecks totaled $16,615.

“It was just unbelievable,” Dawson said. “It’s my first major win, and to be first and second – it was amazing.”

The highlight of Dawson’s Derby performances was a scorching cow work on Travelin Jonez, which marked a round-high 152.

“The hardest thing is to just go in there and work your cow, and not trying to force something to happen,” Dawson said.

About two months before showing in San Angelo, he had sought advice from master horseman Don Murphy to improve his fence scores.

“I’ve been [at past shows] where I was in a pretty good situation, but then I try to force something down the fence and it all comes apart on me. I went to Don, and he told me, ‘You’re trying to force stuff. Don’t worry about it. Just work your cow, and let the judges do the work.’ That’s what I was trying to do on all my horses,” Dawson said.

The Derby Championship represented another significant win in a successful career for Travelin Jonez, a 2008 stallion Dawson purchased as a 2-year-old.

“He’s a cool horse. I don’t know if everybody would get along with him, but we get along. People say we’re just alike. He’s kind of an obnoxious rascal that pesters you all the time, but he’s good-hearted about it,” Dawson said, laughing. “I’ve been real blessed to have him. He was in the top five at everything last year – except the NRCHA Derby. Our goal is to try to do it again this year.”

Travelin Jonez won’t be on Dawson’s sales list anytime in the near future.

“He’s been paying the rent. I don’t know if my operation would work without him right now.” he said.

Dawson’s Reserve Champion horse, A Spoonful O Sugar, is owned by Danny and Sherri Rumph of Cryin’ Coyote Ranch, Hempstead, Texas. Dawson wore a bright pink shirt to show in the Derby in honor of Sherri Rumph’s status as a cancer survivor. A Spoonful O Sugar and Travelin Jonez are frequently neck-and-neck at the top of the results sheet, which is confidence-inspiring for Dawson.

“It’s nice to have two bullets,” he said, smiling.

Dawson’s mother, Sandy Jirkovsky, an NRCHA and AQHA judge, was scribing for the Celebration of Champions judges. She nervously watched every move her son made in the show pen.

“I just try to be real quiet when he’s showing. It’s great to see him do so good, but my hand does shake a little. Any time he shows, the adrenalin really rushes. It’s really wonderful. We love the cow horse,” she said.

Intermediate Open

Jay Holmes and Robert Chown rode horses owned by Dominic Conicelli to the top placings in NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby Intermediate Open.

Dom Conicelli calls his Collegeville, Pennsylvania, cow horse operation Kinda Silly Farm; however, there was nothing silly about his horses in the in San Angelo. They claimed the top two spots in the Intermediate Open division!

Yep Pretty Purdy (Pretty Boy Cat x Purdy Pistol x Peppy San Badger), shown by Sarasota, Florida, professional Holmes, and Chickarey (Dual Rey x Sonita Lena Chick x Smart Chic Olena), shown by Chown, Gainesville, Texas, both earned identical composite scores of 432.5 to tie for the top spot in the Derby Intermediate Open. The high fence work score broke the tie – Yep Pretty Purdy had a 144 to Chickarey’s 142.5.

Holmes and Yep Pretty Purdy claimed the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby Intermediate Open Championship.

“It’s a great start to the show for Dom!” Holmes said.

Yep Pretty Purdy earned combined paychecks totaling $2,919 in the Intermediate and Open divisions, while Chickarey banked $2,446.

“She’s nice to work with. She’s willing to get along with you. A little bit spooky, a little bit quirky, but she really wants to have a job and do it well. The cow was tough down the fence today, but she gritted up,” Holmes said of Yep Pretty Purdy, a 2009 mare he has ridden for Conicelli since late in her 2-year-old year.

Limited Open

A composite 428.5 secured Mylights (CD Lights x A Genuine High Brow x Genuine Doc) and Winston Hansma the Derby Limited Open Championship. The 2008 stallion, owned by Hansma and Danny Motes, Weatherford, Texas, and bred by Marsha Karioth, Weatherford, scored a 146 (herd), 141.5 (rein) and 141 (cow).

Mylights earned $1,344 for his Limited Open win and $1,147 for finishing third in the Intermediate Open.

$5,000 Novice Horse Open

The top two spots in the Celebration of Champions Derby Novice Horse Open division belonged to horses shown by Hanford, California, professional Jake Gorrell.

Riding Stylish Drifter (Playin Stylish x Gold Cloud Miss x White Lighting Ike), Gorrell marked a 141 in the herd work, 144.5 in the rein work and a 150 in the cow work, the second-highest score of the round. The gelding won the Novice Horse Open Championship, placed sixth in the Derby Open, and collected some go-round money – $6,602 in all.

“He’s a cool horse. He’s a full brother to Playin Ace High, the horse I had a few years ago that I won the NSHA Futurity and the preliminaries on at Reno. He’s been a really good horse,” Gorrell said. “He’s good down the fence, he can run and stop, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Gorrell also rode CD Sparkle (CD Olena x Whiz N Spark x Topsail Whiz) to the Novice Horse Reserve Championship and 10th place in the Derby Open for owner San Juan Ranch. Their scores of 143 in the herd work, 142.5 in the rein work and 148.5 in the cow work were good for a combined $4,727 payday.


The NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby in San Angelo, Texas, exceeded Stuart Bozeman’s wildest expectations. The Idalou, Texas, competitor made a clean sweep of the four Derby Non-Pro divisions and also won the Level 1 Limited Open Championship – five titles in all!

In the Derby Non-Pro, Bozeman, 30, piloted his 2009 gelding Merada In Style 09 (Cats Merada x Stylish In White x Docs Stylish Oak) to a 144 in the herd work and the rein work, to win both rounds in all the Non-Pro and Amateur divisions. Then, he earned the high-scoring cow work, a 147.5, for a 435.5 composite.

Bozeman had to make another set of runs on “Squiggy” in the Level 1 Limited Open, where he once again topped the herd work round, this time with a 142.5, and won the rein work with a 144. He had the second-highest cow work score, a 139. His 425.5 won the Level 1 Championship.

Bozeman landed $3,942 in go-round money alone, and then netted another $5,744 in combined Championship checks for a whopping $9,686 payday. His prizes included five Gist buckles, sponsored by Smart Boons and Kevin and Sydney Knight, and five monogrammed jackets courtesy of Gardiner Quarter Horses and Hes Wright On.

“I really just wanted to win the herd work,” Bozeman said, laughing. “I hoped to do good enough to get by and win, but it didn’t matter – I just wanted my horse to be good. It’s more about the horse, making him the best he can be, than me showing and winning.”

His 147.5 fence run in the Derby Non-Pro was the highlight of his San Angelo trip, he said.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had showing a horse. It was just awesome. I never actually really smiled after showing a horse until after the fence work today.”

Bozeman had shown in cutting, ranch horse and Stock Horse of Texas competition, but had limited experience with reined cow horses until his mom signed him up for a clinic with legendary trainer Don Murphy about a year and a half ago. He bought “Squiggy” from Don and his daughter, Nelle, and has trained the gelding with their help.

“He is really good at applying what he’s taught,” said Nelle, who jokingly credited Stuart’s success to the good-luck keychain she gave him to carry in his pocket while showing.

Bozeman admitted he was at a disheartening point with his horsemanship when he met the Murphys, but their guidance turned everything around.

“When I got this horse, it clicked a whole lot easier. I had been getting frustrated with the cow horse,” he said. “I have to thank Don and Nelle for helping me and getting me going again. I had kind of burned out on it because I hadn’t had very good horses to ride.”

When he’s not training his show horses, Bozeman helps operate his 1,200-acre family farm, does day work on other ranches and runs cattle for himself in the wintertime.

He has a shot at another championship in San Angelo – Bozeman qualified Shiney Pixie Dust (Shiners Lena Doc x Hollywood Sure Stop x Pines Fourway Stop), a mare owned by his parents, Vick and Susan Bozeman, for the Limited Open Bridle World Championship finals on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

The Reserve Champion in the Derby Non-Pro, Intermediate Non-Pro, Novice Non-Pro and Amateur divisions was Sandra Kaskey, a Florida horsewoman who showed her gelding Dunitontopoftheworld (Dun It Big x Photons Cowgirl x Photon) to a composite score of 420. She earned paychecks totaling $4,366.

Non-Pro Limited

The Derby Non-Pro Limited Champion was Garrell Reilly, Temecula, California, riding her gelding, Shootn Starlight (Finalight x Miss Remachex x Bueno Chex Doc).

Reilly and Shootn Starlight won all three rounds of competition with a 142 in the herd work, 141.5 in the rein work and 142 in the cow work. Their total 283.5 score was worth $910 in combined paychecks.

For complete results from the Celebration of Champions Derby in San Angelo, Texas, click here.