December 20, 2009 -- The National Cutting Horse Association's (NCHA) 23-day Futurity concluded December 13. The event, sponsored by Borden Milk, began November 21 and more than 1,800 entries sought after a share of the $4 million purse.
Six of the 28 Open finalists scored more than 220 points, but it was the duo of Rockin W and Tony Piggott who claimed the prestigious NCHA Futurity Championship. Rockin W and Piggott tied the Futurity record with a 229-point win.
Michael Cooper and Yadacat, who immediately preceded Rockin W in the working order, took the Reserve title for Darol and Karen Rodrock of Bucyrus, Kan., with a 226. Yadacat is by High Brow Cat out of Rio CD Yadayadayada.
Rockin W, a son of Dual Rey, is owned by Alice Walton's Rocking W Ranch, Millsap, Texas, which accepted the winner's check of $250,000.
"It's amazing," said Alice Walton who raised Rockin W, a fourth generation Walton-bred out of 2004 NCHA Horse of the Year Boon San Kitty, a mare Walton fondly refers to as Miss Piggy because of her appetite for food and life. "For him to be Miss Piggy's first baby and always so special, and then I'm silly enough to name him after my ranch, it's kind of a Cinderella thing."
This was Piggott's first time to show in the NCHA Futurity Open Finals and although he works for Rocking W, he was catch-riding Rockin W for Gary Gonsalves who trained the colt, but opted to show two other horses instead.
"Rockin W turned heads three weeks ago in the first go-round of the Futurity, when he scored 220 points. He followed with 216 points in the second go-round, and advanced to the finals on a 218.5-point Semi-Finals score," Walton added.
"I'm just a jockey," said Piggott, 37, following the first go-round, and after having worked the colt for the first time just days before. "We really hadn't gotten along all that well. He has a lot of draw and it's been difficult for me to get with him and keep him up out of the herd."
Piggott also qualified Rockin W for the NCHA Futurity Limited Open Finals on December 10, where he placed fourth with 215 points and earned $15,496.
Yadacat, by High Brow Cat, also scored 220 points in the first go-round, but qualified for the Finals with 215.5. Only four other horses in addition to Rockin W and Royal Fletch have scored 226 or higher in the NCHA Futurity: High Brow CD with 226, in 2007; Oh Cay Felix with 227, in 2006; Highbrow Supercat with 226.5, in 2005; and One Smart Lookin Cat with 226, in 2003.
Kelle Earnheart, 24, Weatherford, Texas, was the winner of the NCHA Futurity Non-Pro division on board Badgers Perscription with 219 points - 1.5 points above reserve champion Dustin Adams, Dublin, Texas, with 217.5 points.
"She is a blessing," said Earnheart of the Reys Dual Badger daughter. "I didn't have time to train one and I waited and waited before I found her. You usually don't find them like that unless they cost an arm and a leg, but no one really wanted her."
At 15, Earnheart became the youngest rider to claim an NCHA Triple Crown title, when she won the NCHA Derby Non-Pro division. This was her fifth time to qualify for the Futurity finals.
Kim Ziegelgruber and Jamie Goertz each scored 217 points to share the Amateur championship title.
Goertz of Bastrop, Texas, showed Desires Prissy Cat, who colicked the night before the finals. The mare was in top form for the finals, however, thanks to the efforts of trainer Eddie Flynn, who stayed up with her until 4 a.m.
The High Brow Cat daughter was a surprise Christmas present last year from Jamie's parents.
"They wrapped her picture up in an eight-by-ten frame," said Goertz, 27, who was showing in the NCHA Futurity for the first time.
Kim Ziegelgruber of Edmond, Okla., a top-ranked PRCA steer roper, gave all of the credit for his title to his mount, Mates Special Boy, who survived a near fatal systemic infection last February only to founder in both hind feet.
"That little horse is all heart. He was supposed to be dead," said Ziegelgruber, who swapped a 4-year-old for the Smart Mate gelding at two and trained him, before the infection struck. It wasn't until last September that he was able to start riding the gelding again.
John Deere Division of the Open
Geoffrey Sheehan of Weatherford, Texas, rode JoJo Boon to claim the John Deere Division of the Open Finals with a 222-point score earning more than $23,000.
JoJo Boon was raised by John and Hope Mitchell who sold the horse just days before the finals to Steve and Michelle Anderson of Victoria, Texas.
Tatum Rice and Shes Twice As Smooth, owned by William and Lisa Hefley of Little Rock, Ark., were reserve with a 220.
The John Deere Division of the Open class is offered to riders who have earned less than $200,000 NCHA dollars.
Limited Non-Pro sponsored by Jeffrey Matthews Cutting Horses
Ashley Snider, Burleson, Texas, and Bobs A Player secured the Limited Non-Pro Finals by marking a 218. The duo took home more than $14,000 for the win.
Bobs A Player was a $4,500 purchase from the 2008 Western Bloodstock Futurity Sale.
"He got better with every run, and that is great for a 3-year-old," Snider said. "He didn't miss a lick, I was really proud of him."
Purdy Play and Jack Waggoner, Bridgeport, Texas, were reserve with 216 points.
The Limited Non-Pro class is based on Non-Professional earnings up to December 1, 1995 plus all money won in all approved classes after that date whose lifetime earnings in NCHA approved and/or sponsored events equals less than $200,000 and is restricted to current NCHA Non-Professional card holders.
The National Cutting Horse Association has more than 20,000 members across the United States with a wide range of backgrounds. Each year more than 2,200 NCHA-approved events are held throughout the country with more than $43 million in prize money awarded.
For additional show results or information about the NCHA, visit www.nchacutting.com.