Phillip Ralls and Call Me Mitch came into the 2023 Western Bloodstock | High Brow Cat | Hashtags World’s Greatest Horseman finals in the second spot, thanks to a composite score of 889 in the prelims. But after a solid finals effort, including an electrifying cow work performance and a final composite score of 902 (H:224/S:226/R:224.5/C:227), Ralls and “Mitch” were crowned the champions, taking home the sweet $150,000 prize.
This was Phillip Ralls’ fifth attempt at the World’s Greatest Horseman title—his third with Mitch, but this year’s event was a little bit magical. Ralls has worked with the 2011 bay roan stallion (Metallic Cat x Miss Hickory Hill x Doc’s Hickory) bred by James Eakin of Hondo, Texas, and owned by Estelle Roitblat Living Trust, for over a decade.
“We bought him as a yearling at the Western Bloodstock Sale, and I have shown him his whole career,” Ralls said. “He’s been absolutely incredible. He was a great futurity horse, a really good derby horse, and an even better bridle horse.”
Torrential rains at Ralls’ training location in Paso Robles, California, derailed Mitch’s preparation leading up to the event. With these challenges, Ralls focused on fitness.
“I was out of my arena for almost seven weeks before this event, and I had two weeks before we came out here to actually practice, so we were long trotting him through the river, just getting him fit and strong after breeding season,” Ralls said. “I think it’s a big testament to his longevity that it’s not a lot of practicing, it’s more fitness and strength training. This year, he felt stronger, faster, more explosive and better than he ever was.”
Going into the finals, Ralls made sure to set up each run. He was first out in the cutting.
“I knew I needed to have a strong run, and I got some strong cows, and it was fast, and it was tough,” Ralls said. “He was absolutely amazing. I had wanted to come out guns blazing, because everybody here, there are so many great horses and the guys are incredible. So I knew that if it’s going to be your night, you’re going to have to knock it out of the park in all four events so you don’t leave any wiggle room. And he was exceptional.”
Mitch and Ralls started by earning a 224, the high score, in the herd work. In the steer stopping, the pair earned a 226, the second-highest score.
“He came back in the steer stopping and I had a hard-running steer, and he was really, really good there,” Ralls said.
The pair scored a 224.5 in the rein work for second in the event.
“He showed lights out in the reining, he was amazing,” Ralls said. “He let me ask for everything, and he gave me everything he had.”
And in the cow work, their exciting performance earned a 227 — the second-highest score.
“I think to come back and to really show who he is, and his heart, and soul, and determination, it was the fence work for me,” Ralls said. “That was a really good cow, a strong cow, and it was a cow that you could win on—and he really put a stamp on it. The cow came out and had a lot of feel, and gave me a good opportunity to get the run set up. Once that first turn happened, the second turn was really good, and the cow was set up in the right spot. Then I knew we had a really good shot at getting it down. And he finished super strong.”
Phillip Ralls’ win adds to a family tradition: his father, Ron Ralls, has won the World’s Greatest Horseman title twice, and Ron’s wife, Patty Ralls, won the World Greatest Horsewoman competition held at Art of the Cowgirl in 2020.
“This is a dream come true for all of us,” Phillip said. “For Estelle, who allowed me to go and buy him as a yearling and start the process. I grew up watching my dad win this event twice. It’s always been a dream of mine to have an opportunity to show at this level. We’ve won second twice. We’ve been so close, so close twice on this horse. But this horse has just been absolutely incredible. He’s been so consistent, and such a big time, big game horse. It’s all come full circle—it was a dream of Estelle’s to have a horse like this, and a dream of mine to ride one and be able to compete on one like this. It’s been an amazing process with an incredible team.”
“It’s just a testament to his consistency, and his heart, and try,” Ralls said. “He’s such a unique individual. It’s truly a blessing.”