Phillips, who’s been Dean Tuftin’s trainer at DT Ranch in Bend, Ore., about 18 months now, rode him to the National Stock Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship Aug. 21 with a solid showing that earned $16,438 for owner Mike Stewart of Munday, Texas.
“After the AQHA World, I went by my friend Jake Murray’s place in Texas, tried him out, and we bought him,” Phillips said. “He was just good-minded. Everything I done with him, he took it real good. Loped real pretty. The thing for our deal is they got to be pretty movers, and he was a pretty mover. He also had a lot of stop.”
Nine months later, all those traits put Phillips and “Will” on top the NSHA Futurity Open leaderboard as they headed into the fence work with a 4.5-point lead. Their 220 in the reining was one-point off the high score, and they had the best herd work with a 224 — a feat he credits to herd crew Mark Luis, Phillip Ralls, Zane Davis and Clayton Edsell.
“With a lead going into the fence work, I just made it that we needed to be consistent,” said Phillips. “But there are so many good horses at that show that you don’t want to just safety up.”
The duo marked a 216 with a solid, risk-free run for a 660 composite score that kept challengers Justin Wright, on Mark and Kelly Gowing’s Step To The Light, and Nick Dowers, on Bill Stevenson’s High Stressin Cat, at bay. Both Wright (658 composite) and Dowers (657.5) marked a 222 down the fence.
Phillips knew Wright could be a late hard-charger. Two days earlier in the DT Horses World’s Richest Stock Horse competition, Wright pulled all the stops and rode Stephen Silva’s Talkin Prize to a fence work that eclipsed front-running Phillips on DT’s Hickory Holly Time on the last go of the night in one of the most exciting bridle events in memory.
“This show was a lot of fun,” said Phillips, who’ll ride two futurity horses in Reno at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity — the snaffle bit’s last show in Nevada before moving to Fort Worth, Texas, next year. “For his first time out and for the owners, it was really exciting to win that deal because there are so many good horses in this show. Except for the four major NRCHA ones, this is the biggest one we go to.”
This year’s NSHA Futurity paid out $236,000 in cash and an additional $40,000 in prizes, including a two-horse trailer from All American Trailers.
Including the $79,000 cash and $25,000 in prizes from the association’s April show, the NSHA has paid out $376,000 in 2016.
With NRCHA moving its World Championship from the West Coast, there’s reason to expect future NSHA Futurities will be even bigger. NSHA’s Russell Dilday announced that next year’s NSHA Open Futurity will pay the Open Champion $50,000, and he believes $500,000 in cash and prizes will be paid during 2017 by the NSHA.
“Next year, when we pay $50,000 to the Futurity winner, a cow horse will have the chance to come to our show and win the NSHA Open, get $50,000, then go to Fort Worth and win another $125,000,” Dilday said. “So now you’ve got a futurity horse capable of winning $175,000. And that does not count the other futurities like Idaho, or the go-round monies. When you add those, it’s very possible for a cow horse to win more than $200,000 in its 3-year old year — and that’s a big, big deal.”
Dilday added that other innovations in next year’s NSHA show are in the works, including later dates by about a week to allow more time to get horses ready and perhaps get slightly cooler weather. He is also excited about the future of the NSHA Sale.
“When you start putting those kinds of earnings on your horses, then your horse sales get bigger,” he said. “Next year, too, there may be a certain number of horses that people don’t feel are ready to go to the Fort Worth sales that will sell in our sales, so that could very well up our sale numbers extensively.”
In the Futurity Non Pro Division, Shannon McCarty of Solvang took her horse, Sam, to a 624.5 composite that earned the title and $3,377 payout. Finishing second with a 623.5 was Shawn Renshaw of Pismo Beach on her Genuinely Roo, earning $2,533. Carol Roberts of Ojai was third on her Ill Be A Super Cat, scoring a 615.5 that paid $1,689.
Like the Futurity, the NSHA Derby drew tough competition, with hometown trainer Phillip Ralls of Paso Robles winning the open on SJR Metallic Star, earning $6,053 with a 659 composite — a half-point ahead of runner-up Wright on Stephen Silva’s Lil Bay Hawk. The 658.5 second-place finish paid $4,842.
With a 642 composite, Eric Frietas of Santa Maria won both the Derby Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro on his Maverick Rey, pocketing $3,043 between them. Dave Ferguson of Cottonwood rode Kathy Ferguson’s Shadyrools to the Derby Non Pro reserve that paid $1,526.
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