When Bittersweet stepped in the arena at the Breeder’s Invitational (BI) for the Derby Non-Pro finals, she and Chad Bushaw had only shown at two prior shows, where they were named 2017 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Non-Pro Champions and 2018 NCHA Super Stakes Non-Pro Co-Champions. When they rode out of the pen in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they had marked a 223, garnered $23,758 in earnings and secured yet another title as the Derby Non-Pro winners.
“I’ve only shown her in three events, but she feels like I’ve been showing her for years,“ Bushaw said. “Bittersweet just has a very special feel about her – I have a lot of confidence in her. If I do my job, I know she’s going to be right there, which is such a great feeling.”
Bittersweet did her job, as well, leading out from the first hole of the second set in the finals.
“Kenny Platt drew first yesterday in the Derby Open Wildcard round – and he’s one of those guys that I always like to watch, he’s just a winner – and he was telling me that he was so thankful to draw up first, because he felt that that was the best place to be. So, I had that thought in my head when I saw my draw flash up on the screen,” Bushaw explained.
“Casey Green, who has helped us for a long time, was there to settle those cows, so that was a good feeling – being first in the second set, knowing you had somebody out there who was sure going to do a good job of getting the cattle ready,” he continued. “[It] was right where Bittersweet and I wanted to be.”
Bittersweet, bred by Marilyn Jo Franz, of Stillwater, Oklahoma, is the leading offspring out of Miss Sea Rey (by Dual Rey), who has produced eight money-earners. She is a half-sister to Heza Sea Hawk ($57,193, by EBR Kitty Hawk), Lu Sea Lu ($29,731, by Smart Mate) and others. Bushaw purchased the daughter of Metallic Cat, who had $113,106 in lifetime earnings on her Equi-Stat record prior to the BI, as a yearling. He has trained the mare throughout her career.
“It’s sure been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned a lot. Bittersweet’s very smart, very honest, very pure-minded,” he said. “She’s got a real big heart. She’s a very, very good athlete, good stopper and mover, very cowy. I’ve been doing this a long time, and every horse I’ve had over the years, I’ve wished that they could have done this or that a little better, but she just feels like the complete deal. She’s one of those special ones… one that I’ve spent 30 years waiting on.”
Bushaw doesn’t have plans to show the mare again before the NCHA Summer Spectacular, where they will chase cutting’s Triple Crown title in the Non-Pro. Instead, he intends to support his sons at youth cuttings, focus on getting his 3-year-olds ready and taking care of things at the ranch.
Weatherford, Texas-based Bushaw, who boasts nearly $3.5 million in earnings, said the BI holds a special place in his heart.
“It’s the show that I really attribute to getting my boys hooked on cutting, with the BI kids cutting, which Jan Seago is so gracious and generous in putting together,” he said as he drove to Nebraska to meet his family at a youth cutting.
The Derby Non-Pro Reserve title went to Ashley Flynn, who marked a 221 aboard Smooth Lines. The gelding (Smooth As A Cat x Okie Skyline x Mr Skyline Peppy), bred by Kevin and Laura Radford, of Alva, Oklahoma, and his Weatherford owner earned a $20,317 paycheck for finishing second, pushing the horse’s Equi-Stat record past the $50,000 mark.