Heading into the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Finals Justin Rockey had the lead going into the year-long race for Amateur World Champion.
However, California rider knew the roughly $4,200 advantage wasn’t enough to assume victory, suspecting his closest pursuer, NCHA Hall of Fame rider James Vangilder, would sweep both go-rounds and make a run at the title with his horse, Metallic Legacy.
“James has a great horse and every time he showed that horse he was marking big scores,” Rockey said. “He did just what I thought he would, sweep the show, so my main focus was on getting a check.”
Rockey’s score of 225 in the first go paid $1,225 check for second place. That was enough to maintain his lead in the year-end championship standings, which count all money earned in a class throughout the year.
In the second go of the NCHA World Finals, Rockey marked 217, adding another $368, which not only helped him hang onto a lead in the World Standings, but also bumped the lifetime earnings for his horse, Metallic Tax, near the $100,000 mark.
“The people ahead of me in the first go were having heck with the cows,” he said. “My pickers put me on three good cows and that was the biggest 225 score anyone could get, because I knew I had the World title locked up. It took the pressure off the second and much more enjoyable just seize the moment and enjoy the ride a little bit.”
In the end, Vangilder sliced Rockey’s lead in half, but thanks to Rockey’s solid performances in the World Finals, it wasn’t enough to catch him.
In the World Finals, Rockey rode pinch hitter Metallic Tax (Metallic Cat x Miss Windy Rey x Dual Rey). They 4-year-old was a backup for his main horse, Dureyngo Kid, a son of Reys Dual Badger and out of Hissy Cat (by High Brow Cat) who had won $37,000 of Rockey’s cumulative $41,342 going into the World Finals.
With COVID interrupting the show season, Rockey and wife, Beth, entered weekend shows to “knock the dust off” Dureyngo Kid, who is known around the barn as “Jimmy,” and get a few of their 3- and 4-year-olds shown. He entered the $50K Amateur classes and started winning at most of the weekend cuttings. They also took home four championships at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association (PCCHA) Futurity in Las Vegas.
Then “Jimmy,” who has an Equi-Stat record of $228,972, got sick. Jimmy is more than just a cutting partner to the family — he originally belonged to Rockey’s father, John. After John passed away while in Las Vegas at a horse show, the horse meant more than any win so Rockey took the horse off the road to let him rest.
That’s when Metallic Tax had to step up. Rockey had purchased the horse at the El Rancho Futurity, intending him to be the mount for his brother’s kids before showing him.
“He is a nice consistent that is solid and easy to get along with,” he said. “He’s what I would call a war horse; he dang sure did his job.”
Rockey says he couldn’t have won the title without his family’s support—from his wife Beth’s talents as a horsewoman and mother, to his mother and brother holding down the family business while he traveled.
He also gave a shout out to his herd helpers, David Owen, Monty Buntin and Morgan Cromer.