California horseman Justin Wright and the gritty gelding Lil Bay Hawk each won their first premier title at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby on Saturday.
“He’s just been incredible,” said Wright, of Santa Maria. “He’s never given us a bad show and this is his last major aged event and he finally got to do it, so it’s pretty cool.”
He and the 2012 gelding (Catty Hawk x Little Gray Freckles x Playgun) took the Championship with a 672.5 (225 herd/220.5 rein/227 cow). Their win at the event in Paso Robles, California, earned $29,588 for owner Stephen Silva.
Derby Open Reserve Champions Boonlight Roan Bar (Bet Hesa Cat x Cat Boonlight Jewels x Boonlight Dancer) and Todd Bergen scored a 666.5 (216 herd/218 rein/221 cow). They earned $22,391 for owner Tony Grover.
Nee On Lights grew up in trainer Shawn Hays’ backyard in Nocona, Texas, and on Saturday helped bring another accolade to the family in the form of the Derby Intermediate Open Championship. They took the event with a 655 (216 herd/218 rein/221 cow) and earned $6,981.
The 2012 stallion by CD Lights was bred by Hays’ wife, Tammy Jo, and her parents, who still own Nee On Lights’ dam, the Shining Spark mare Shine Smartly. Hays had a lucrative career with Shine Smartly, riding the mare to the 2010 NRCHA Derby Open Bridle Spectacular Championship and an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championship, among other accolades. The mare retired with $128,850 to her credit and has already produced earners of more than $200,000 including Thecrowslovesme ($102,920).
Thecrowdloves me was the 2013 AQHA Junior Working Cow Horse World Champion, 2014 NRCHA Open Two Rein World Champion and 2015 AQHA Senior Ranch Riding World Champion. He is owned by Yellow Rock Ranch, who also bought Nee On Lights.
“He’s just been a good little trooper,” Hays said of Nee On Lights. “Just a good horse overall.”
Trainer Brendon Clark took home a second title in a row at the NRCHA Derby, this time with a victory in the Limited Open. Clark, of Hollister, California, piloted Metal Cat (Metallic Cat x Tipofthestar x Grays Starlight) to the win with a 632.5 (215 herd/210.5 rein/207). The win earned $5,836 for owners Kersh, Fine and Clark.
“I won the Level 1 here last year and I was reserve in the Limited, so to come back this year and be able to win the Limited, it’s really exciting,” Clark said. “I’m really happy. I’ve worked really hard over the last few years to try to learn as much as I can, and I’m still learning something every day.”