The 2021 Paso Robles Spring Classic will be a $70,000-added event held in April at the Paso Robles Event Center in Paso Robles, California. * Photo by Molly Montag.

New $70,000-Added Cow Horse Derby To Be Held in Paso Robles

High-caliber derby-age reined cow horses will have a chance at some big money in the Golden State this year at the $70,000-added Paso Robles Spring Classic presented by Borjon Auto Center.

The new National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA)-sanctioned show will be held April 14-18 at the Hearst Equestrian Center at the Paso Robles Event Center in Paso Robles.

The show, which will be run by the California Reined Cow Horse Association (CRCHA), was a way to bring a lucrative reined cow horse limited-age event back to California, said CRCHA President Murray Thompson.

“I think we’re all excited about trying to keep more of a presence of a major reined cow horse event here in California … to try and sustain the sport here in California,” he said.

Community Support

Murray said the show was made possible by the support of the Paso Robles Event Center Board of Directors, and specifically Board member and local businessman Mark Borjon.

Borjon, who has owned reined cow horses in the past, provided major sponsorship through his Borjon Auto Center.

“He put up a substantial amount of his own money and took responsibility to secure additional money from other people in the Paso Robles area,” Murray said. “And then our affiliate agreed to match what he was putting in.”

Paso Robles Event Center interim CEO Colleen Bojorquez said in a statement that the CRCHA is “near and dear to our hearts.”

“The Hearst Equestrian Center was specifically built to host world-class entertainment like the Spring Classic, so in our minds, April can’t get here soon enough,” she said.

Cow Horse Country

Paso Robles is located in California’s Central Coast roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The region is home to several top reined cow horse trainers and breeding farms.

Murray said the core of the CRCHA’s membership is just east of there in the state’s Central Valley, scattered roughly from the city of Bakersfield to the state capital in Sacramento. However, it does have members living as far south as the San Diego area and as far north as Red Bluff.

Before 2021, most of the CRCHA’s recent shows were held at the International AgriCenter Heritage Complex in Tulare, a city about 50 miles south of Fresno. This year, the CRCHA will have shows in Tulare as well as at the Hearst Equestrian Center in Paso Robles.

The last large-scale reined cow horse limited-age event to call the city’s Hearst Equestrian Center home was the NRCHA Derby. An NRCHA premier event, it was held in Paso Robles for the past several years, but last year was moved to WestWorld of Scottsdale due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

Officials later announced the NRCHA Derby would remain in Scottsdale, Arizona, at least through 2023, leaving California without a major reined horse aged event.

Response to the creation of the Paso Robles Spring Classic has been significant, Murray said, generating a positive response from exhibitors as well as sponsors.

“The other interesting thing is that we’ve had a number of people approach us wanting to be sponsors,” he said. “So, where we had tried in previous years just to secure sponsors [for a large event] without much success, now that this is out there — the scale of it — it’s motivating other people that hadn’t been interested in sponsoring this previously to now become sponsors.”

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