Cox, Fort Morgan, Colo., has competed at Fort Worth limited-age cutting events more than 20 years. He is among the top 10 most successful cutting horse competitors of all time, with lifetime earnings right at the $5 million mark. Cox guided One Time Royalty’s mother, Royal Serena Blue, to her NCHA Futurity Open Reserve Championship in 1996, and he also finished as a Reserve Champion in 2003 aboard Twice As Reycy. Gail Holmes, Fort Worth, Texas, owns Royal Serena Blue, a Shorty Lena mare out of Jazabell Quixote. Holmes bred One Time Royalty and sold him to his sire’s owner.
This was the 13th time Cox made the NCHA Futurity Open finals. Winning his first title and $250,000 was a big deal, he said, as well wishers including fellow Hall of Fame Open riders offered congratulations as reporters and photographers surrounded him.
The trainer’s mood contrasted greatly from his attitude right after he and One Time Royalty marked a 215 during the third of five sets in Friday’s Open semifinals. When he and the horse marked that score, Cox thought their chances of making Saturday’s finals were bleak. They ended up landing directly on the bubble and narrowly made the finals.
"We didn't think that would make the finals," Matthews confessed. "When we heard [Matthews and his wife, Sheri] that the 215 held, we were driving down the street in Weatherford and we just started crying. This is wonderful! We are so happy; it's a dream come true."
Cox was also elated by the win.
“It was good to finally get it [his first NCHA Futurity Championship] done. I had a great horse. I hadn’t showed anybody that until tonight [Saturday],” Cox said. I knew he was good. I marked a 215 on him last night [in Friday’s semifinals]. I was pretty bummed because I didn’t think it was going to go. It was very, very fortunate that it made it. It wasn’t supposed to. It did and I was pretty relieved and happy. You never know what’s going to happen on this night. If you have a good horse, you always have a chance.”Cox knew since Jeffrey Matthews sent him the young stallion two years ago that One Time Royalty was a good one, Cox said. Matthews, a veteran horse owner and breeder, who married the former Sheri Forrest earlier this year, sent Cox two horses at the time.
One Time Royalty, nicknamed “Eli,” and a One Time Pepto a gelding nicknamed “Peyton” that looks like the Futurity Open-winning stallion, are the first two horses Matthews sent Cox.
While One Time Royalty and Cox dominated while prevailing by eight points over Reserve Champion Some Like It Hott and Wesley Galyean’s 222, their run included a particularly tense moment. Cox wasn’t sure at all how to get rid of an initially strong and then particularly dangerous second cow that didn’t seem like he would ever turn away.
“I was about as worried as I could be,” Cox said. “That cow was just coming at me. I was doing everything I could to fight her off.” His assistants in the arena, including the turn back duo of Boyd Rice and Tag Rice and herd holders J.B. McLamb and Jamie Snider, did a great job throughout the winning run and helped Cox and his horse the storm out.
“The help, you could see how they did there,” Cox said. “They were very good.” One Time Royalty and Cox also did a great job in avoiding Cow No. 2 as he returned from the back fence and nearly got in their way as they were attempting to cut their third cow.
The 230 score that One Time Royalty and Cox won with set an all-time NCHA Futurity Open record. It topped a 229 posted in 2000 by Royal Fletch and Kathy Daughn and then matched during last fall’s Open finals by Rockin W and Tony Piggott.
Asked if he’d marked a 230 before, Cox said, “In my dreams.” Regarding his reaction when that score was posted, following a No. 4 draw in the 14-horse second set, he added, “I was extremely happy. That’s for sure.” Tazs Dreamgirl (Pepto Taz x Montana Suenos x Montana Doc), a mare owned by Kathleen Moore, Madill, Okla., and also ridden by Cox later in the second set, also marked a 219 to place fifth and earn $60,614. That means that in five minutes of combined work Saturday, two horses ridden by Cox earned $310,614.
Reserve Champion Some Like It Hott (Spots Hot x Mighty Fine Sue x Smart Little Lena) and Wesley Galyean, a mare co-owned by her trainer and his wife, Kristen, marked a first-set 222 to finish as Reserve Champion and earn $93,770. Wesley Galyean and Some Like It Hott’s sire, the dynamic Spots Hot (Chula Dual x Sweet Shorty Lena) won the NCHA Futurity Open in 2004. Wagonhound Land & Livestock, Douglas, Wyo., bred Some Like It Hott. This was the second foal crop for the young Spots Hot.Smooth Peanutbutter, a mare trained by Gary Gonsalves, Millsap, Texas, and ridden by catch rider Tim Smith, Temecula, Calif., finished third in the Futurity Open with a 220.5. Tom Bailey’s Iron Rose Ranch, Carbondale, Colo., bred and owns Smooth Peanutbutter (Smooth As A Cat x Justa Smart Peanut x Smart Little Lena). Smooth Peanutbutter and Smith posted the Open’s top two-round composite and were part of a three-way tie for the top spot with a 219 in Saturday’s Open semifinals. They earned a $82,718 check and the top NCHA Futurity Open finish of Smith’s career in his sixth Open finals appearance.
“That will certainly make the drive back home seem a lot shorter,” Smith said, adding he and his wife, Diane, planned to celebrate by taking a trip to Hawaii later this week.
One Time Pepto (Peptoboonsmal x Royal Blue Boon x Peppy San Badger), a 9-year-old stallion and career winner of $331,097 during his own cutting career, enjoyed an outstanding end to the futurity season for his first foal crop. He also sired four horses that reached the 2010 NCHA Futurity Open. The new up and coming sired worked with Futurity Non-Pro Champion gelding One Rockin Pepto, who is out of the Freckles Playboy mare Rockin Playgirl
Hall of Fame Open cutting horse riders Lindy Burch, Roger Wagner and Tim Smith all guided horses to 219s during Friday’s Borden Milk/NCHA Futurity Open semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas, to tie for the top spot.
Five sets and 80 entries narrowed to two sets of 14 that will all enter today’s 6 p.m. Open finals in Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum with a completely clean slate. It took a 215 score in the semifinals to qualify for today’s finals.
Burch, Weatherford, Texas, celebrated the 30th anniversary of becoming the first woman to ever win an NCHA Futurity Open title in late fall of 1980 by making the finals again aboard Louellas Cat (High Brow Cat x Louella Again x Dual Pep), a mare she bought as a yearling two years ago from Reno, Nev., breeder John Harrah.
“I’m happy that we get to go again,” said Burch, who has competed at the NCHA Futurity every year since 1978. While she has made many finals and semifinals, this is her first trip to finals since making it aboard 2000 mare Play Like Clay in 2003.
“You know, Larry Reeder [another NCHA Hall of Fame rider] told me years ago, I think it was back in the mid 1990s, ‘It’s such a great thing to make the finals. Never take it for granted.’ I think that was really good advice,” Burch said.
After she won the 1980 title while in her 20s, Burch recalls legendary cutter Buster Welch also telling her to savor the moment. “That was great advice. Yes, I enjoy every time I make the semifinals or the finals.”
Burch singled out Cody Fry, a young trainer who has worked from Matt and Tara Gaines’ training base in Weatherford, Texas, for the past two years, with starting her finalist well.
“I’ve trained her all this year. She’s just been a delight to train,” Burch said. “Every once in a while you have just a really great horse and a cool horse, that’s fun to be around. Her mother was that way, too.”
Burch competed with her finalist’s mother and bought her back 17 years after selling her.
“She’s 20 now,” Burch said of Louella Again, a career-cutting earner of about $80,00. “She’s been a real good producer. I sold her when she was three. It’s kind of like all in the family. I have a full sister to this mare [Louellas Cat] as well.”Wagner, Aledo, Texas, is completing his first year as the lead trainer for the North Texas training wing of Jon Winkelried’s Marvine Ranch. It also features a home base in Meeker, Colo. Wagner, the 2004 NCHA Open Reserve Champion rider aboard 2001 mare Quintan Blue, now the star of the Marvine Ranch broodmare band, qualified two of the ranch’s fillies, Stylish Martini and Boons A Dreamin, for tonight’s Open finals.
Stylish Martini (Docs Stylish Oak x Miss Martini Play x Freckles Playboy) and Wagner matched the semifinals’ top score with a 219, while he and Boons A Dreamin (Peptoboonsmal x Dream Of Oak x Docs Freckle Oak) finished just .5 back with a 218.5.
If not for a problem that prevented him for showing a stallion son of Quintan Blue in Fort Worth, Wagner said he probably would not have competed with Stylish Martini at the NCHA Futurity. He still might have given her a shot with a catch rider.
“She was pretty green and she had some problems way back in her 2-year-old season with her legs. That made her get off to a late start,” Wagner said. “She struggled a little bit early [once he started working with her as a 3-year-old], but she was cowy and she let you train her. I probably wouldn’t have shown her if that stud had been ready. Now, I’ve been really happy with her. She’s tried real hard with me and she’s shown quite a bit of style. It’s good to have a backup like that.”
Boons A Dreamin is equally talented and ranked a notch above Stylish Martini on the depth chart prior to the first three Open rounds in Fort Worth, Wagner said.
Tim Smith, Temecula, Calif., widely regarded as one of if not the best catch riders in cutting, is doing his best to prove that again aboard Smooth Peanutbutter (Smooth As A Cat x Just A Smart Peanut x Smart Little Lena). Tom Bailey’s Iron Rose Ranch, Carbondale, Colo., owns and bred the mare. Millsap, Texas-based Gary Gonsalves has trained her. Gonsalves did not qualify a horse for the finals, but could end up having trained the Futurity Open Champion and handing it to a catch rider two years in a row. Gonsalves also trained 2009 Champion Rockin W, ridden by Tony Piggott last fall.
Smooth Peanut Butter and Smith had only practiced together three times, all shortly before they posted back-to-back 218.5s to lead the Open with a two-go 437. The consistent duo added a 219 during Friday’s semifinals to cruise into the finals.
Smith has ridden horses trained by Gonsavles before and said he considers his fellow trainer’s horses “Cadillacs” that are typically easy to take over and ride. “He had three in his string and he opted to show the two studs,” Smith said. “She [Smooth Peanutbutter] fell into my lap, which was pretty fortunate for me. She’s a very nice mare.”
Two more Hall of Fame riders, Phil Rapp, Weatherford, Texas, and Lloyd Cox, Fort Morgan, Colo., join Wagner with two horses qualified for today’s Open finals.
Reyvorce (Dual Rey x Look Never Mind x Squeak Toy), ridden by Tarin Rice, and bred and owned by Don Ballard, Sugar Land, Texas, marked a 218.5 to finish just below the semifinals lead. Tarin’s father, Boyd Rice, Spearman, Texas, made the Open finals with a bubble-sitting 215 aboard Smart Prince Moria (High Brow Cat x Smart Moria x Smart Little Lena), a stallion owned by Ralph Gray, Argyle, Texas, and bred by Gray Quarter Horses-Nevada, LLC.
Stallions High Brow Cat (6), One Time Pepto (4), Smooth As A Cat (3), Dual Rey (3) and Peptoboonsmal (2) had multiple foals make the finals. Broodmare Miss Echo Wood also produced two of the finalists.