Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – For Brent Wright and Josh Hattig, the 2002 National Reining Horse Association Derby was a repeat of last year’s event. Both earned their second consecutive NRHA Derby Championships at Oklahoma City. This year’s derby, held May 14-19, offered a little more excitement, though, because both titles came only after tie-breaking runoffs!
Brent Wright of Ottawa, Kansas, rode his 2001 NRHA Futurity Reserve Champion, Custom Pistol, to the NRHA Derby Open title, after a runoff with NRHA Leading All Time Money Earner, Tim McQuay on Kid Whiz.
Both riders scored 223.5 in the finals, setting the stage for the tie-breaker runs. Wright went first, putting together another near-flawless pattern and marking a 226. McQuay’s hope for a title ended just as his run started, when a bobble on the first back-up negated his chances. The crowd gave McQuay an ovation, in part for his effort, and in appreciation of his comeback after last year’s bout with pancreatitis that left him on life support for over a month.
Wright was glad to win on a horse that has tied for first at every major event of his career. He showed Custom Pistol, owned by Steve Simon of Paxton, Massachusetts, at the 2001 All American Quarter Horse Congress Futurity and ended up co-champion. Then, at the NRHA Futurity, last December, his runoff with Andrea Fappani finished in a Reserve Championship.
This time, the win and $30,466, went to Brent and Custom Pistol. For Wright, the victory was sweet, especially after the runoff with a friend. “It couldn’t have been any better,” he said. “Tim’s a great competitor!”
Actually, the two trainers have more than just riding great horses in common. Brent’s son, Todd, is an assistant trainer for McQuay.
McQuay was thrilled with the finish on Kid Whiz, a stallion he’s been riding only since the first of the year. Kid Whiz earned $24,219 for owner Bryan Fix of Altoona, Iowa.
In the Intermediate Open finals, Ken Eppers of Whitesboro, Texas, rode Catomic to the title, marking a 221 to earn $5,986. Catomic, owned by Jim Dunn of Waterloo, Iowa, is a son of Boomernic out of Seven S Catalpa. According to Eppers, a former NRHA Saddlesmith Open Champion, the flashy 5-year-old stallion is “like a high-powered bass boat. The faster you go the better he gets!” It was a clean sweep for Eppers and Catomic. They also won the Intermediate Open first go and qualified for the Open finals, as well.
The Reserve Intermediate Open title went to Kim Diercks on Playguns Rose (Playgun X Bold Texas Rose) owned by Linda Stoner of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Diercks scored 219 to collect $4,753.
Marco Formentin rode Acting Smart, owned by M.R. Langdon & Sons of Benson, North Carolina, to a score of 217.5 to win the NRHA Derby Limited Open title. A transplanted Italian, Formentin was thrilled with his first major win on the 4-year-old gelding by Smart And Chromed out of Judge This Action. The Co-Reserve Limited Open Champions were Pierre-Luc Phaneuf on Ima Bay Boggie owned by Cynthia Rubens and Gary Roberts on The Sun Rises owned by Martin Shaughnessy.
It took a runoff to decide the championship in the Non Pro, but that was just business as usual for Josh Hattig and Fridays Gold Eclipse on their way to their newest title, and Hattig’s second NRHA Derby Non Pro championship. Josh had steered the Steady Tradition son to win the NRHA Futurity after a runoff with Mandy McCutcheon in December.
This time the runoff was with Sally Broten on Rio Dun Good. Broten, of River Falls, Wisconsin, and Hattig both scored 218. Then Hattig rode his golden stallion to a score of 218.5 in the runoff, to take the title. Hattig, of Berthoud, Colorado, has had an incredible record in the past two years. He won the 2001 National Reining Breeders Classic, the 2001 NRHA Derby, and the 2001 NRHA Futurity.
The Intermediate Non Pro and Limited Non Pro championships both belonged to one horse and rider at the Derby. Sixteen-year-old Rachel Eady of Sisters, Oregon rode Dunnit By Chex to earn the Limited Non Pro title, which is based on the first round of competition, after a tiebreaker decision. She had tied with Timorie Budge of Laguna Niguel, California on Its Just Cookie Dough. Both scored a 216.5, but Derby rules dictate that ties in the Limited Non Pro division are broken by adding all five judges scores. When that was done, the win went to Eady.
In the Intermediate Non Pro Finals, Eady stayed consistent, marking 216, good for the win. Andre De Bellefeuille of St-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada, took reserve honors on Its All About Cash.
For Prime Time Champion, David Archer, “Life begins at 61!” The personable reiner topped the field of 45 and older riders to win the NRHA Derby Prime Time title on Dun It 1998. Archer, from Richmond, Texas, was thrilled with the win – and with the camaraderie of his fellow reiners. “When you get to the finals, you or one of your friends is going to win. It’s great!”
Finishing as the Prime Time Reserve Champion was Ron Fisher of Fort Walton Beach, Florida on Gyrating Gentleman.
In the Intervet/USET Semi Finals on Friday evening, Bryant Pace rode 2001 USET Champion, Gunner, to a score of 225.5 to lead the field of 20 qualifiers to the USET Reining Championship at the Bayer/USET Festival of Champions, presented by State Line Tack. Gunner, an American Paint Horse stallion, is owned by Debra Sloan of Newfoundland, New Jersey and is the newest USET Breyer Horse Model.
According to Pace, although the Sloans had originally planned to retire Gunner, the chance for him to compete at the first-ever World Equestrian Games Reining competition in September lured them back into the show ring.
The Reserve Championship of the semi-finals ended in a tie between Pete Kyle on Chexys Doctor Pepper, owned by Art and Carol Hurt and Darren Stancik on Chocolate Chic Olena owned by Carter Smith.
A new title was on the line at the NRHA Derby and Taylor Mason claimed it. Mason, who attends college at California State University at Fresno, became the first-ever Collegiate National Reining Champion. An accomplished reiner, Taylor has excelled in West Coast Reining Horse Association competition, winning the Limited Open championship for 2001. She scored 219 on TT Tivios Twist, owned by Ronnie Fox. Kelly Gratny of Kansas earned the Reserve Championship, scoring 216 on Miss Neat Skeet, owned by Carol Brookshaw.
Always a highlight of the Derby Show, the Saddlesmith Open and Non Pro Classes are eagerly awaited. In the Saddlesmith Non Pro, multiple NRHA World Champion Bonnie Hippensteel of DeFuniak Springs, Florida emerged victorious. She rode The Whiz Master to a score of 219 for the win. Reserve honors went to Lisa Cover of Elizabeth, Colorado on Genuine Shinola.
In the last class of the weekend – the Saddlesmith Open – Dell Hendricks rode Broadmoor, owned by Impresa Agricola Cuoghi of Italy, to a winning score of 220.5. That was just enough to top Tom McCutcheon’s score of 220 on Smartest Chic Olena, owned by Terry Owens of Houston, Texas.