Hott Rod and Corey Cushing at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions
Hott Rod and Corey Cushing delivered a 668 in the finals to become Open Derby World Champs. (Photo by Primo Morales)

Hott Rod Gets the Job Done for Corey Cushing in Usual Otherworldly Effort

Corey Cushing and Hott Rod paid tribute, per se, to the 5-year-old stallion’s Equi-Stat Elite $3 million sire Hottish, who died earlier this month, by winning the 2020 Tres Osos Derby Open championship on Monday.

Hott Rod (out of Sugars Smart Kitty by High Brow Cat) and Cushing displayed true consistency throughout the competition — winning the title with a 668 composite score at the John Justin Arena, on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The victory marked Cushing’s third Derby Open championship title. He also won it in 2008 aboard Soula Moolah and in 2019 riding Shining CD Light.

It was all cause for another “fuzzy feeling.”

The athletic and cowy Hott Rod and Cushing tied to win the herd work with a 225, placed second in the reined work with a 226 and completed the cow work, while determinedly dealing with slippage, with a respectable 217 score, to win $27,874 for the stallion’s owner, Lynne Wurzer of Tacoma, Washington.

“The thing about Hott Rod is that I know he can handle anything that is thrown at him,” said Cushing, the Scottsdale, Arizona, trainer and Equi-Stat Elite $3 million rider. “We’ve had our little ups and downs, but the everyday enjoyment of just being on him is what makes this [win] real special. He means a lot to me.”

Getting through the fence work, the Derby’s final event, proved a challenge with slick ground causing slippage, said Cushing, who added he didn’t mean the sand wasn’t good. It was more indicative of the honest effort he consistently gives.

Thus far, the 5-year-old stallion has done very well for Cushing during their three-year show career. They placed third in the 2018 National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finals — a victory that credited their show records with $62,500 in earnings. In 2019, they placed fifth in the NRCHA Derby Open finals and, later in the year, added an American Quarter Horse Association World Show Junior Reining World Championship. At the end of the 2019 show season, Hott Rod’s lifetime earnings totaled $84,088.

Cushing bought Hott Rod as a 2-year-old “on a whim” from Austin Adams, whose brother Dustin and wife Deena owned Hottish. 

“I don’t know why, maybe it was God, just something telling me to try this horse and I grabbed him up to ride,” Cushing said. “I just loved the way he traveled and the way he handled himself. I called Lynne [Wurzer] about him and she told me, ‘Well, if you get that fuzzy feeling, then bring him home!’ And the rest is history.”

Cushing, clearly one of Hott Rod’s biggest fans, said he would one day like to bring the horse back to Fort Worth for the World’s Greatest Horseman event.

“I’ve thought about doing that with him ever since his 3-year-old year because no matter what you try to do with him — good, bad, different or you’re just going for a lope on him  — he just puts his full heart and desire into it. He’s so good, so strong, thinks so pure, I promise you if something goes wrong or is not working right, it’s not because he’s not trying.

“I enjoy going out there [to ride him], whether we are at home or here at a show, I’ve always enjoyed taking him somewhere just because of his dedication. His desire is something that I wish a lot of horses had.”

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