Nelson Vivas was astounded. Not only had he just won the 2018 NCHA Super Stakes Amateur Championship with a score of 216, he’d done it on Playboy Is Smooth, a horse he’d only ridden three times, including the event go-rounds. And, it was the day after his birthday.
“Can you believe it? This is a dream come true,” said Vivas, laughing and hugging his wife, Mary. “I am the last guy who should be standing here in this position.”
Not, apparently, when you have good friends like David Taurel, owner of Valley View Ranch in Whitesboro, Texas. Seeing that Nelson was not getting along with another horse, David insisted his fellow native Venezuelan and long-time friend give Playboy Is Smooth, a son of Smooth As A Cat, a try, then actually gave the horse to Nelson.
Out of Mary Has Freckles (by Freckles Playboy), the sorrel gelding was shown by Taurel to the 2017 NCHA Futurity Amateur Co-Championship.
“David and his family are family to me,” Vivas said. “We bought a few acres very close to their place in Whitesboro after I moved from Miami, and they keep all my horses. He and Corey Courville have been helping me a lot, even the night before helping me with practicing and getting me ready.”
“Numbers,” as he is called, was acquired by Taurel shortly before the 2017 Futurity, but not with a plan to show him at the Triple Crown event.
“Even a week before the Futurity, we weren’t planning to show him,” Taurel said. “He wasn’t ready. But he’s so cowy and so easy to ride, he just got better and better, and I decided to show him. Nelson had been showing and had never finished a run in two years, and I knew that if this horse didn’t work out, he’d leave cutting. So I gave him this horse.”
Vivas admitted his help – including Courville, Clay Johnson and Lloyd Cox – were of tremendous value to him because when it comes to picking cows, he’s a bit color blind.
“Oh my goodness, when they tell me to get the black cow, they’re all black, right?” he said. “I really have to rely on those guys to help me get the right cattle. I just try to do my best. I just try to stay in the center and not think too much, because when I get in there and do this and do that, I know I am going to get in a wreck. I think we worked the first two cows pretty good and then on the third cow, there was 30 seconds left. I felt like I should hurry up, but they said no, just take it easy, and we did it. I can’t believe it.
“Yesterday was my birthday and I got myself my own present,” said Vivas, formerly of Homestead, Florida. “This horse is so easy to ride, very reliable. A really nice horse. So easy to show.”
Vivas continued to credit his horse for making the win happen.
“He’s very cowy and he does his job. I just love him. Like I said, just three rides and I am already here,” he said of Playboy Is Smooth, who earned $12,689 with this win to bring his lifetime earnings to more than $41,000.
After retiring from his business in Venezuela, Vivas left the South American country to move to Miami and support Mary’s goal to be an author. Three years ago, he decided to get involved with horses and, finding no opportunities to ride cutting horses in the Miami area, he moved to Whitesboro to pursue his dream.
“I did a little bit of team penning in Venezuela, and when I moved here, I didn’t know what cutting was,” he explained. “I liked it so much that I bought a little place close to David. There are a lot of Venezuelan folks here. I’m loving it.”
Taking the reserve with a score of 214.5 was John Rockey, of Palmdale, California, riding Dureyngo Kid (Reys Dual Badger x Hissy Cat x High Brow Cat). The pair, who earned $11,362, most recently won the Unlimited Amateur and Amateur divisions at The Cattlemens Derby and Classic in March.