College senior Kevin Murray and Travelin Smooth won for the second night in a row Aug. 3 at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Summer Spectacular. This time they topped the Derby Non-Pro finals with a 221 to earn $20,870.
Murray, 21, is a University of Denver student and he will start his senior year in a few weeks. He and a 4-year-old gelding nicknamed “Travis” won Friday’s Derby Limited Non-Pro finals in the same Fort Worth arena with a 220 to earn $11,956.
“I think the most I’d ever won at a show before was about $5,000,” Murray said. “It’s really surreal. We got better all through the show.”
The horse, sired by the stallion Smooth As A Cat and out of the Travalena mare, Travalano Missy, had competed just once before with Murray at one small show. The son of horse owners Brian and Karen Murray, who live in Mission Hills, Kan., took over riding one that trainer Michael Cooper of Weatherford, Texas, had earned more than $100,000 with at prior shows.
This time, Cooper stepped out of the saddle and told Murray it was his turn. The young rider grew more confident each time he hit the Will Rogers Coliseum arena. The new duo qualified for Derby Amateur, Derby Unlimited Amateur and Derby Non-Pro Gelding finals at the event. Then they lit up the scoreboard with their two best efforts – a 220 Friday and a 221 Saturday – to earn back-to-back titles.
Murray had won $13,042 in his entire cutting career before the July 13-Aug. 3 show. He and Travelin Smooth earned $35,456 at the NCHA Summer Spectacular.
“When are you going back to college?” Cooper jokingly asked Murray soon after the Derby Non-Pro finals ended. The longtime trainer actually said he does not mind giving up the horse to the hard working and rapidly improving young rider.
Weatherford, Texas rider Mary Ann Rapp and Reyzin were the Derby Non-Pro Reserve Champions with a 218 to earn $20,171. Reyzin, a mare sired by stallion Highbrow CD and produced by the Dual Pep mare, Miss Reycine, also earned 10 NCHA Non-Pro Horse of the Year points. She remained second in that ongoing race.
Reyzin has 56 Horse of the Year points. Light N Lily, a mare who finished as the Classic/Challenge Non-Pro Reserve Champion at the same show, leads the NCHA Non-Pro Horse of the Year race heading into early August with 64 points. Kaitlyn Larsen shows Light N Lily, a horse bred by her father, Billy Martin of Millsap, Texas.
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