Corona Tag and Trevor Dare won the Novice Open Horse Levels 3 & 2 at the 2021 NRHA Derby. • Photo courtesy of the NRHA.

Corona Tag & Trevor Dare Top NRHA Derby Novice Horse Open

The first slate of Novice Horse Open classes took place Tuesday, June 22, during the 6666 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

The champions received prizes, including NRHA bronzes, presented in the Adequan Arena.

Novice Horse Open Levels 3 & 2 Champion

Corona Tag is a special mare to a lot of people, said trainer Trevor Dare after piloting the mare to the Novice Horse Open Levels 3 and 2 championships. The duo took the wins with a score of 148.5, netting $1,719 for owner Courtney Battison.

“She’s everyone’s favorite horse,” Dare said. “[Courtney] doesn’t even keep her in training anymore, just keeps her at home. I asked if I could steal her for a quick joy ride, and she said absolutely. I’m glad she let me. It was pretty neat.”

The talented mare by Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Sire Whiz N Tag Chex and out of Kachina Oak Olena (by Smart Chic Olena) battled some lamenesses when she was younger, so she didn’t have a chance at a big career as a limited-age horse. Dare said he took his time bringing the mare along so she could heal properly, resulting in a horse that is now sound and full of talent.

“She’s got a special mind,” Dare said of the mare bred by Lance C. Griffin, of Edmond, Oklahoma. “You can go and show as hard as you want to show her, then turn around, go through the gate, and she’s there to give you 100% again. She’s a really big, stylish stopper, so that’s really fun when you’re showing.”

Novice Horse Open Level 1 Co-Champion

With a score of 146.5, Dreaming Of Guns and Bobby Avila, Jr. tied for the win in the Novice Horse Open Level 1, placed second in Level 3 and took third in Level 2, garnering a total of $1,744. The mare, who is owned by Richard Louis Nelson, is by Equi-Stat Elite $7 Million Sire Magnum Chic Dream and out of HH Steady Gun (by Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner]).

Avila has been showing Dreaming Of Guns since last fall. He said the mare bred by David Pratt, of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, has been slow coming along, but she has steadily improved.

“At one point, I thought she would just be a 72-type horse, but she’s been consistently marking 73s and 73.5s,” Avila said. “Her strength is definitely her circling, but she’s a big stopper. She can turn a [plus-] half, circle a [plus-] one and stop a [plus-] one. If we can put it all together, we can be really big.”

Avila plans to keep showing the mare to try and put more earnings on her. He thanked Nelson for giving him the opportunity to train and own the mare, who will eventually join her owner’s broodmare band.

Novice Horse Open Level 1 Co-Champion

After placing second in the AQHA Open on Saturday and taking top honors in Monday’s second slate of the Limited Open, Gunnatwistya and Doug Milholland earned top marks again, tying for the Novice Horse Open Level 1 with a 146.5. The stallion banked $547 for his owners and breeders, David and Lecleta Aitken.

Milholland knew “Ranger” was capable from the get-go, but the pair had some challenges to overcome when he started riding him a year ago.

“He’s a stallion, and he knows it,” Milholland said. “I knew he had talent, we just had to get on the same page and have an understanding. Yesterday and today, he started really feeling like a show horse. I stepped him up a bit.”

Ranger is by Equi-Stat Elite $4 Million Sire Gunnatrashya and out of Totally Dun Twistin (by Dun It With A Twist). Milholland is looking forward to the stallion’s future now that the pair has synced up in the show pen.

“We’re not quite to the point where I can ask him for a lot in the show pen, but we’re almost there,” Milholland said. “The talent is definitely there.”