Tuesday got off to a bad start for NRCHA Celebration of Champions Non-Pro Limited finalist Shiners Darby, a man who flourishes on familiarity.
Rider Barbara Cox’s usual routine is to get him in the arena early, before the start of competition, so he can acquaint himself with his new surroundings. It’s an essential part of their well-established playbook: Shiners Darby doesn’t like strange places.
He and Cox had competed in the Will Rogers Coliseum in the prelims, but the finals were in the John Justin Arena, a foreign land for the 2008 stallion who wasn’t shown much in his age-event years.
Well, when Cox had arrived Tuesday morning, the arena had already been closed for leveling.
“He likes to look around at everything. He has to get comfortable in the arena before he relaxes,” Cox said. On Monday, “He felt really good [at Will Rogers]. I gave him plenty of time to get comfortable over there. Of course, today was new sights.
“I thought, ‘well, you know what, if the arena is closed, it’s God’s will. It wasn’t meant to be.’ So, we’ll just have to make the best of it. It’s an honor to be here.”
The worry turned out to be needless anxiety.
Shiners Darby came out of his shell — if he was ever in one — at just the right moment, looking as comfortable as Norm Peterson at Cheers, ultimately edging DVA Smart Dually and Lori Frampton-Crafton in the squeakiest of Non-Pro Limited finals.
Both teams tied with a composite 428, but Shiners Darby and Cox outdueled their rivals in cow work — the tiebreaker — 217 to 216.
With that, the pair were crowned NRCHA Non-Pro Limited World Champions.
Shiners Darby, by Equi-Stat Elite $9 million sire Shining Spark and out of Tari Darlin (by Taris Cataylst), was bred by Carol Rose in Gainesville, Texas.
He is owned by Chris Cox, Barbara’s husband. They reside in Mineral Wells, Texas.
“He felt great out there,” Barbara Cox said. “When he saw the lights in here and felt that nice air-conditioning, he kind of perked up, and I said, ‘OK, be aggressive.’ That’s all I can do.
“He was awesome on that cow. There were a few times when I thought it was going to turn, but [Shiners Darby] waited on it and read it right. He ate up that cow.”
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