The-final-run-for-a-million-qualifier
Tyler Merrill and Bet Hesa Boon * Photo By Amy Olson

Tyler Merrill & Bet Hesa Boon Top Final Qualifier For The Run For A Million

Tyler Merrill and Bet Hesa Boon have been a great story this year. They put in another great performance at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Hackamore Classic to qualify Merrill for The Run For A Million.

Their composite score of 446 (221.5 rein/224.5 cow) on Friday, July 28, made Merrill tops of the five riders who qualified for $200,000 Cow Horse Invitational, which will be held Aug. 18 during The Run For A Million at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Calling the win “a dream come true,” Merrill thanked owner Beverly Servi and Bet Hesa Boon‘s regular trainer, EquiStat Elite $1 Million Rider Clayton Edsall, for allowing him another chance to ride the son of Bet Hesa Cat and out of Flo N Blu Boon (by Blue Bayou Boon).

Merrill and Bet Hesa Boon kicked off their partnership earlier this year in the World’s Greatest Horseman, where they had an eye-catching performance to place third. They got back together for The Run For A Million qualifier because Edsall already qualified for the $200,000 Cow Horse Invitational back in March aboard Bet He Sparks.

“I just want to make sure that Clayton Edsall and Beverly Servi know how much this means to me — the opportunity they have given me,” he said. “I can’t put it into words how thankful I am.”

Back In Action

Although Bet Hesa Boon has been occupied by stud duties, he relocated to Merrill’s barn about three weeks ago to prepare for The Run For A Million qualifier in Tulsa, OK. The trainer credited the staff at Oswood Stallion Station for keeping the stallion, whose first foals were born in 2021, in great shape with a fitness regime that included swimming.

“He was ready to go when I got him. We just did mental work and stuff to get him ready to go show again,” said Merrill, who trains in Weatherford, Texas. “With a horse like that, it’s pretty easy because of his training — Clayton did a phenomenal job training him — and I was just getting his mind right for the show pen and go show.”

Some people have referred to Merrill in this situation as a catch rider — which he takes as a compliment — but he thinks of himself more in terms of just trying to be a better horseman every day.

“When you lay a leg over that horse or whatever horse you’re getting on, you just try to be with that horse and make that horse the best and bring the best out in him,” he said. “And, that was easy to do with [Bet Hesa Boon]. He’s got a great demeanor, he’s talented, he’s easygoing and he doesn’t mind pressure. I can ask for his life and then we walk out in the arena and [he’s so calm that] I could put my kid on him.”

Other riders who qualified at Tulsa for the lucrative Cow Horse Invitational at The Run For A Million were Kelby Phillips, Lee Deacon, Phillip Ralls and Chris Dawson.  The Hackamore Classic was the last chance for reined cow horse riders to qualify to compete at The Run For A Million. Previous qualifiers were held in March at the NRCHA Stallion Stakes and in June at the NRCHA Western Derby.

Though reined cow horse riders have tended in the first few years of the $200,000 Cow Horse Invitational to ride the same horse they rode in the qualifier, which is Merrill’s plan, they don’t have to do so. The rules allow them to ride any bridle horse.

Reined Cow Horse Riders Qualified for The Run For A Million

Riders who qualified for the 2023 $200,000 Cow Horse Challenge and the *horse they rode in the qualifier.

  • Chris Dawson (Smart Chic An Tari)
  • Sarah Dawson (Smart Chic An Tari)
  • Lee Deacon (Back In The Blue)
  • Clayton Edsall (Bet He Sparks)
  • Shawn Hays (Moonshineandtwoadvil)
  • Lance Johnston (Annies Smart Cat)
  • Tyler Merrill (Bet Hesa Boon)
  • Randy Paul (CD Highlights)
  • Abbie Phillips (Peptos Stylin Time)
  • Kelby Phillips (Kreyzy Horse)
  • Phillip Ralls (Call Me Mitch)
  • Ron Ralls (Tabasque O)
  • Boyd Rice (Quahadi)
  • Justin Wright (Scooter Kat)
  • Shane Steffen (Sprinkld ConfettiCat)

* Riders do not have to ride the same horse at The Run For A Million that they rode in the qualifier. The rules allow them to ride any bridle horse of their choosing.

lee-deacon-back-in-the-blue
Lee Deacon and Back In The Blue * Photo By Amy Olson