The NRHA Derby broke records for entries, purses and more. • Photo by Kelsey Pecsek Hruska.

NRHA Derby Breaks Records in 2020

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) said the 2020 Derby broke records for the number of horses, riders and entries. 

The NRHA Derby Presented by Markel, which resulted in A Vintage Smoke winning the NRHA Triple Crown, took place last week to new health and safety protocols due to COVID-19. This included increased stall spacing, face mask requirements for staff, mandatory social distancing, and closing the event to the public.

All those measures were followed, but they didn’t have any adverse impact on the size of the show or the level of competition as the event became the largest in the history of the Derby.

Not only was there a record number of horses, riders, and entries, the total purse for the show was also record-breaking, surpassing $1.1 million.

The combined payout for the Open and Non-Pro derbies set another record at $1,012,581. The Derby Non-Pro had an all-time high payout of $354,620. The Open Derby had the third-highest payout in history, awarding $657,961.

“Our members were very happy that we were able to have this show and their enthusiasm was felt throughout,” NRHA President Mike Hancock said in a statement. “Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the exhibitors for their spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. Not only was it a huge show – it was a great one!”  

Ancillary Classes

That off-the-charts momentum continued in the Adequan® Arena, where the traditional horse show classes held during the Derby sometimes went well into the night or even the early hours of the next morning. 

“When the unprecedented entries became apparent for the first weekend, we were able to shorten two extremely long days by showing concurrently in Arena 6,” said NRHA Events Manager Cheryl Cody. “Once the Derby competition began, we could not do that. Thanks to the commitment of our staff and officials and the cooperation of our exhibitors, we were able to get through those incredibly long days.”

In 2020, there were 1,433 stalls filled – another record. That translated to 820 horses actually entered in the show – up from 664 last year.

The number of riders competing at the event rose substantially as well, going from 499 in 2019 to 637 this year. All that equated to record entry numbers, up to 3,301 entries from 2,750 the previous year.

Other Achievements

The huge show led to several career achievements, including three unofficial millionaire milestones. Andrea Fappani’s Open win in the Adequan® Arena early in the week made Rancho Oso Rio LLC an NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner. 

When Jason Vanlandingham won the Derby Level 4 Open Championship with A Vintage Smoke, he not only won the Triple Crown – having previously won the NRHA Futurity and National Reining Breeders Classic – but also surpassed the NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider mark in earnings, and his horse’s sire, A Sparkling Vintage, became an NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire.