Russell Dilday and Topsails Rien Maker won back-to-back National Reined Cow Horse Association World's Greatest Horseman Championships in 2008 and 2009. They finished fourth in 2010, but came back with a vengeance in 2011 to become the only three-time World's Greatest Horseman Champions.
Dilday and Topsails Rien Maker began the Finals competition on Sunday, February 6, with the fourth high herd work score - a 217 - and marked the second high rein work score with a 218.
"I thought he was as good in the cutting as he's ever been for me. Todd (Crawford) had a huge herd work and had three points on us there," Dilday explained. "I knew I had to press it in the reining, and after that was over I was really happy. My horse is so pure. Of course, Todd had another big score in the reining."
With two events down, Dilday and Slider (Topsails Rien Maker) were tied with Ron Emmons and Olena Oak at a 435, and Crawford and Play Dual Rey had a 441 going into the steer stopping.
"I knew I was going to give it all in the roping - I didn't want to leave anything behind. I want Slider to be recognized for being as great as I believe he is," Dilday said. "Ron and I tied with a 220 and Todd roped well again and had a 216, and then we were only two points behind."
Fortunately for Dilday, he and Slider drew up fourth in the cow work, and he was able to watch both Crawford and Emmons and know what he'd have to score to win. Crawford went first in the set on Play Dual Rey, marking a 217 for an 874 composite. Emmons and Olena Oak were next, marking a 219 to tie for the lead.
"There was no safety for me. Of course Todd was good with a 217 and then Ron tied him with a 219," he said. Then, it was time for Dilday and Slider to compete. As in every cow horse event, the Championship came down to the cow work. "Our cow was tricky and I wish I had gotten by him a little sooner in the first turn - then we wouldn't have cut it so close. That cow was absolutely hammering us in the turns. My horse had to really work - he has a heart bigger than my hat."
Dilday exited the arena, crossing his fingers that the cow work would be enough to earn the third title. "I was just hoping beyond hope that it would at least be a 219 and let me tie with them," he said. Dilday got his wish and then some, as the judges awarded a 219.5 - giving the pair the title by a mere half-point. "This is huge. I can't tell you how big it is to win this again. I think my horse is so great - especially when you compete against horses like this. There's not a bad one in this group. The only way you sort out the winner is bad luck, and we happened to have the least."
Slider, by Topsail Cody out of Jameen Gay, is twelve years old in 2011, and Dilday admitted that there was a good chance that they'd make a run at a fourth title. "We gave him some time off to nurse a tendon several months ago, but other than that he's never been sore. If we don't press him he might never be sore again. I hope he'll last forever." He laughed, adding, "I actually have a replacement for him - in about seven years it might be ready!"
Dilday received the signature check for $30,000, along with a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Coyote Rock Ranch, a Gist Silversmiths buckle sponsored by Wagonhound Land & Livestock, custom handmade boots from Rios of Mercedes, a custom handmade hat from Shorty's Hattery, and a monogrammed saddle pad from Classic Equine.
Dilday, of Porterville, California, noted that a huge amount of credit for his success went to the people who support the industry. "I can't thank any of the NRCHA's sponsors enough for everything they do. The sponsors put money into the association, support us, give us product and exposure to the rest of the world - and they do a lot of it. It's what helps grow this sport and this event." He added, "I also specifically thank my sponsors which are Bob's Custom Saddles, Classic Equine, Rios of Mercedes, Nutrena, Twister Trailers, and Circle N Stables."
Crawford and Emmons Win Co-Reserve World's Greatest Horseman Titles
Todd Crawford and Play Dual Rey and Ron Emmons and Olena Oak finished as Co-Reserve Champions, each receiving a check for $16,500. They also took home monogrammed saddle pads from Classic Equine, and the Reserve World's Greatest Horseman buckle was sponsored by Gardiner Quarter Horses.
Both Reserve Champion entries were formidable teams. Crawford, of Blanchard, Oklahoma, is the NRCHA's leading rider with more than $1.8 million in lifetime earnings, while Play Dual Rey, an 8-year-old stallion by Dual Rey out of Hiccup N Play, was the 2010 American Quarter Horse Association Super Horse. Play Dual Rey is owned by Play Dual Rey Partners.
"I was just going to get my horse shown as good as I could, and try to get as high of score as I could," said Crawford of his cow work. "This horse has got a lot of stop and heart. He's a show horse."
Emmons is a multiple AQHA World Champion, and he and Olena Oak were back-to-back AQHA Working Cow Horse World Champions. The Ione, California, trainer and the 9-year-old stallion, owned by Mel Smith and Nichole Scott, were also the 2009 Magnificent 7 Reserve Champions. Olena Oak is by Smart Chic Olena out of Fritzs Oak E Doakie. "I wasn't really thinking of anything when it was time for the cow work. I was just going to let happen what happened. He's a great horse, and I knew I had enough to get down the fence," he said.
Crawford and Emmons were seen visiting when Dilday entered the arena to make his cow work run. "We knew that Russell could be huge down the fence. He's proved it time and time again. We just waited to see what happened," said Emmons. "And that's what happened!"
The World's Greatest Horseman is held at the 1st Community Credit Union Spur Arena in San Angelo, Texas, as part of the NRCHA Celebration of Champions. The Celebration of Champions also features the NRCHA World Championship Show presented by John Deere and the Circle Y Ranch Derby.
The National Reined Cow Horse Association, now in its 62nd year, is the governing body of cow horse competition, is responsible for promoting the sport, insuring high standards of competition and educating members and the public about the history and tradition of the cow horse. Through the support of a Corporate Partner family that includes Adequan, Bob's Custom Saddles, Cinch, Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, John Deere, Markel Insurance Company, Nutrena, Pfizer Animal Health, Platinum Performance, Quarter Horse News, Rios of Mercedes, Running W Designs, the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino, and Merial products UlcerGard and EQUIOXX, the association works to keep the vaquero tradition alive in today's equine industry. For information on the National Reined Cow Horse Association, call 580-759-4949 or visit the NRCHA Official Web Site at www.nrcha.com.
Photo Credit: Todd Crawford by Primo Morales