While many horsemen strive to earn as much money as they can in the cutting pen during their careers, sometimes the paychecks aren’t the most important aspect of the sport. Kindness, determination and dedication go a long way, and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association (PCCHA) has emphasized the importance of these characteristics.
Every year since 1995, the association has presented the Dave McGregor Award at the PCCHA Derby to a trainer who has “demonstrated good sportsmanship and the spirit of fair play.” In addition to his or her actions outside of the arena, the recipient should have “provided the example of making top performance horses in the cutting pen.”
This year, Chubby Turner joined an elite group of 20 other recipients, and the celebration of his accomplishments is sure to be remembered for many years to come. The award was presented at the annual Trainers’ Dinner the night before the finals, and Turner had no idea he would be honored that night.
“For some reason, all week I was wondering who was going to get it,” Turner said. “I never figured that I would get it. My wife and my daughter knew, and they kept a great secret.”
Turner’s history with McGregor goes far beyond the award he received. He worked with McGregor early on in his career and credits the trainer with teaching him much of what he knows today.
“In 1979, I took a job in Santa Ynez, California, with Stu Gildred,” Turner recalled. “The trainer there was Dave McGregor, and he was very popular at the time. His horses had such a style about them – low-headed and so solid and just really terrific. I had watched his horses and how well he was doing, so when I got the opportunity and Stu asked me if wanted to come work for him, I knew I’d get to learn from Dave and see what he was doing to make his horses stand out.
“He was so slow and so methodical about the way he did things. He didn’t train a horse fast. It would take him a while to get one trained because he would take a lot of time with each one. They had so much confidence, and they were so solid. It was like getting on a machine and putting a quarter in. It just worked.”
Turner adopted that training philosophy and has garnered more than $2.6 million since posting his first check to Equi-Stat aboard Vickie Smoke (Smoke 49 x Miss Victoria x Poco Soto) in 1978.
McGregor’s demeanor outside of the show pen also made a lasting impression on Turner.
“Probably the biggest thing he taught me was how to treat people right,” he said. “He taught me to be good to your horses and be a gentleman to the public.”
Turner was overcome with emotion on the night he received the award and said it was an extremely humbling experience.
“When they started this award, I thought, ‘Man that’d be cool to get that one day,’” Turner said. “I had no clue I would ever get it. I think Dave is 81 or 82 now, and we both blubbered all night about it. He is such a special person to me, and to be honored with an award named after him might be the biggest honor I’ve ever received.”
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