Reyning Cats & Russell Westfall • Photo by Ted Petit

Westfall and Cowan Pick Up El Rancho Mercuria/NCHA World Series Titles

The cattle must have felt the electricity in the air as the loud rock music played and large crowd of spectators enthusiastically expressed their support for the six finalists in the El Rancho Futurity’s Mercuria/National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Series Open finals. They were definitely “wound up,” trainer Russ Westfall said.

Westfall rode Reyning Cats to win the Open finals with a 225 score.

“The cows were tough that night and I got lucky enough to cut a couple good ones,” Westfall said. “My mare was really smart – if she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have held a cow that night because they were rank!”

Reyning Cats (Dual Rey x XY Zee x High Brow Cat), who has Equi-Stat lifetime earnings of more than $87,000, competed head-to-head with Hashtags, who Tatum Rice rode to second place in the Mercuria/NCHA World Series Open finals, in back-to-back shows at the Idaho Cutting Horse Futurity and El Rancho Futurity. While Hashtags came out on top and Reyning Cats took Reserve in the Classic/Challenge Open finals at Idaho, the roles reversed at El Rancho, said Westfall, who appreciated his help at the show as well as his sponsors that help get him down the road.

A big, strong and physical mare, Westfall said Jimmy Kemp-bred Reyning Cats, who collected $12,780 for owners Jerry and Suzanne Rava, “is really smart, is a great athlete and has a great look on a cow.”

“She’s really a fun horse and is an awful good mare,” he said.

Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting Non-Pro

horse and rider
Bill Cowan & Billies Catty • Photo by Ted Petit

By the time the El Rancho Futurity’s Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting started, Bill Cowan had already visited the winner’s circle twice. He had ridden full-siblings Catty Minx to win the Derby Non-Pro Championship and Catty Bluz to win the Classic/Challenge Non-Pro Championship on Thursday, Sept. 13. Friday’s Mercuria Non-Pro Championship on Billies Catty was just the cherry on top for Cowan, who has ridden the mare to three Mercuria Non-Pro titles in 2018 – the Mane Event V Mercuria, the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Derby Mercuria and the one at El Rancho.

“It kind of started in Idaho and it just got better and better – I’m a little afraid to go to the next one,” said Cowan, whose show success at the El Rancho Futurity, unofficially, moved him to Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider status.

The horse that showed just ahead of Cowan and “Billie” marked a 222 and with such a tough pen of cattle, Cowan said he knew they could either take him out of the competition or really give him a high score.

 “I think [the situation] just kind of begged me to come on out and be aggressive, and it worked out. That mare just doesn’t ever let me down!” he said.

James Payne has helped Cowan with the mare, who is out of Little Bonnie Blue (by Mecom Blue), on and off throughout her aged-event career, Cowan said.

“He gave me a lot of help with her,” said Cowan, who admittedly felt some nervousness in starting the mare because she was out of the first crop of foals by his stallion Catty Hawk, and he really wanted everything to “go good.”

Having raised and trained Billie, whose lifetime earnings – before winning the Mercuria at El Rancho – were more than $178,102, Cowan said her show career has been pretty exciting.

“And, we’ve also got a couple foals by her now,” he added. “Her oldest is a 2-year-old filly by Once In A Blu Boon, who is a really a nice filly. After this year, we’ll probably taper off and just show her limitedly. In a nutshell, she has just done a really good job for us.”