This year’s National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity marks 40 years since the legendary Peppy San Badger, aka “Little Peppy,” was ridden by another cutting legend, Buster Welch, to win the prestigious Futurity Open Championship. The stallion (Mr San Peppy x Sugar Badger x Grey Badger III), owned by the King Ranch, of Kingsville, Texas, went on to win the 1978 NCHA Derby Open Championship and three years later, in 1981, claimed the NCHA World Finals Open Reserve Championship.
There were 330 entries who competed for a record $230,892 purse in the 1977 NCHA Futurity. That event was the first that utilized the five-judge scoring system, with the high and low scores dropped. The Dec. 11 Open finals also set a record with the world’s largest audience recorded to date. Little Peppy tied for third place in the semifinals, then won the Open finals with a 220.5 for a premium share of the purse – $48,208.
Little Peppy became a legend among performance stallions. According to Equi-Stat records, he sired 1,124 money-earners who have won a total of $25,403,558, for average earnings of $22,681. His top five money-earning performers include Little Badger Dulce ($668,461), Haidas Little Pep ($425,174), Little Tenina ($394,327), Brigapep ($343,128) and Dual Pep ($307,384).
In the 2017 Equi-Stat Lifetime Cutting Statistics, Peppy San Badger ranked sixth among the leading cutting sires (all ages/all divisions), third among the leading paternal grandsires (all ages/all divisions) and fourth among the leading maternal grandsires (all ages/all divisions).
In 1996, Little Peppy was no longer able to breed and lived out the remainder of his life in a paddock behind the King Ranch’s Creek Barn. He was put down in 2005, at the age of 31, following a bout with colic.
In the book “King Ranch & Little Peppy: the Legacy and the Legend,” Welch shared some of his insight on Little Peppy:
“He would have been outstanding any way you treated him,” Welch said. “He just had a way of coming to the top. I’m not saying you could have turned him over to a coon hunter and he’d been good, but given any kind of a fair shake, his greatness would have been known. I honestly believe he could have outrun a racehorse for a quarter of a mile; he was fast and so quick. I think he could have been a champion roping horse or a polo horse. He just had that speed and quickness and strength. He had it all. But he was lucky that so many people helped him to realize his full potential. I had a lot of respect for him and a lot of appreciation for him.”