World's Greatest Horseman Champions Hickory Holly Time & Kelby Phillips • Photo by Kelsey Pecsek

Hickory Holly Time & Kelby Phillips Are the World’s Greatest

The World’s Greatest Horseman is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Every February, the best cow horse competitors gather in Fort Worth, Texas, to showcase their bridle horses in four events with hopes of claiming the prestigious title on the last day of the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions.

After exhilarating performances in the herd work, rein work, steer stopping and cow work, Hickory Holly Time and Kelby Phillips topped the field of talented competitors with a composite score of 890.5. Their strong runs all night were enough to earn them the esteemed designation and a $40,000 check for owner and World’s Greatest Horseman event sponsor DT Horses LLC.

Phillips and the stallion (One Time Pepto x Hickorys Holly Cee x Doc’s Hickory) kicked off the evening with a 220 out of the herd, which put them in second behind Call Me Mitch and Phillip Ralls going into the rein work. They returned in the second phase of the show to lay down a reining run worth an impressive 222.5. Although Randy Paul put in a 224.5-point run aboard Linda Katz’s Lenaliltothewright (Lenas Wright On x Shining Survivor x Shining Spark), Phillips and Hickory Holly Time found themselves at the top of the leaderboard with a 442.5 total on two.

The steer stopping, an event not seen at the majority of NRCHA events, proved to be no problem for the duo when they posted the event’s high score – a 224.5 – besting Blind Sided (Peptoboonsmal x Lil Miss Shiney Chex x Shining Spark) and Jay McLaughlin’s 222.

The final leg of the competition – the fence work – brought a series of thrilling runs. Hickory Holly Time and Phillips drew second and put in a stellar performance that was eventually awarded a 223.5 to tie with Lenas Buddy Nic (PT) (Nic It In The Bud x Dual Lena [PT] x Mister Dual Pep) and Jake Telford for the second-highest cow score.

All told, with four solid runs marked no lower than a 220 throughout the four-event finals, it was enough to clinch the title, even with Call Me Mitch and Ralls’ epic 225-point fence run.

“He just stayed hooked the whole time and let me handle him when I needed to,” Phillips, who surpassed $500,000 in lifetime earnings with this win, said of his fence work in the finals. “He took ahold of the cow real good down at the end. He’s, by far, the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”

“It was so exciting,” said DT Horses LLC owner Dean Tuftin, who purchased Hickory Holly Time from Gardiner Quarter Horses a few years ago. “It was really just the pinnacle for the horse to have an opportunity to show on this level with all these horses and perform at his best.”

Hickory Holly Time now has an Equi-Stat record of more than $230,000. In 2013, Phillips rode the 2010 stallion to the Intermediate Open Championship at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity and finished 10th in the Open finals. The following year, they took top honors in the Open at the NRCHA Derby. In 2015, they finished as the Open Reserve Champions at the NRCHA Stallion Stakes, and they also topped the Open Hackamore at the 2016 NRCHA World Championship Show. This was the second time Hickory Holly Time had competed in the World’s Greatest Horseman. They drew a check in last year’s prelims, but were unable to make the finals.

Call Me Mitch and Ralls, who is nearing the $1 million mark in earnings, finished as the Reserve Champions with a composite score of 888 (220.5 herd/221.5 rein/221 steer/225 cow). They sent home a finals check for $25,000 to owner Estelle Roitblat, plus an additional $3,250 for their performances in the prelims. Call Me Mitch (Metallic Cat x Miss Hickory Hill x Doc’s Hickory) pushed his lifetime record to more than $150,000 while in Fort Worth.

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