National Reined Cow Horse AssociationApril 1, 2013
Travelin Jonez and owner-trainer Chris Dawson mark work their way to a score of 221 out of the herd, taking an early lead en route to the 2013 NRCHA Stakes open championship. (Primo Morales photo courtesy of NRCHA)
Chris Dawson, Jacksboro, Texas, claimed the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stakes open championship March 30 at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas aboard his own horse, Travelin Jonez (Smart Chic Olena-Travelin With Sass by Travalena). Chris piloted the 5-year-old stallion to a 664.5 composite score (221 herd, 218 rein, 225.5 fence).
"Everything just came together. It was unbelievable," Chris said.
The Stakes win continued Chris' hot streak, which began in January in San Angelo, Texas, when he won the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby on Travelin Jonez, and also piloted A Spoonful O Sugar (Hes A Peptospoonful-Poco Smokum Oak), owned by Cryin Coyote Ranch, to the reserve championship.
The NRCHA Stakes championship paid $32,072 and came with a Bob's Custom Saddle, Gist buckle and CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by the NRCHA; a pair of custom boots sponsored by Rios of Mercedes; and a $50 gift certificate and cooler bag from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
The nominator of Smart Chic Olena, Travelin Jonez's sire, will receive the NRCHA Champion Sire Award, a $4,000 check and CR Morrison Trophy.
While the Celebration of Champions Derby win in San Angelo was the 31-year-old horseman's first major reined cow horse title, the Stakes championship elevated Chris' game yet another notch – a payoff for a young horse trainer's mandatory dues-paying years.
"I asked a guy, a pretty good trainer, for some advice once. He said, 'Keep your head down, work your tail off and hope for a little luck.' That's kind of what I've done, and I've had a lot more luck than anything," Chris said.
Travelin Jonez earned the high-scoring herd work of the finals, a 221, from his eighth working position in the second set.
"We watched the cows really close in the herd, and I was kind of late in the set, but all of our picks were still fresh, so I went and cut them. They were good cows. I just kind of hung him out there," Chris said.
In the rein work, Travelin Jonez ran down at blistering speed to some huge stops, getting everyone's attention, including the judges', who scored the run a 218.
"The throttle stuck a little bit but the emergency brake worked every time, so it was all right. They were fast, by golly, but I told him before we went, 'I'll let you pick the speed, partner, as long as you do your job, I don't really care.' But it all worked out and he was good," Chris said with a smile.
With a decisive lead and everything on the line going into the last event, the cow work, Chris banished thoughts of winning from his mind before he entered the arena. All that mattered was the cow, he told himself.
"You get in there and you're leading the deal, and it's going through your head: 'Man, I need to be big, or I need to be safe.' No, you just need to work that cow for what it is, and that's what we did," Chris said. "I thought, there are no scores tonight. We're working a cow, just like were at the house. We'll work the cow for what it is and not try and force anything, not try to make anything happen, and it all worked out. We made four turns and marked a big score."
Chris thanked his support team and his mentors, NRCHA hall of famer and AQHA Professional Horseman Don Murphy and the late Harold Farren, who passed away last summer.
"I can't thank Don Murphy enough. He's done so much for me. And then Harold Farren, without that guy, I don't know where I'd be. I feel like between Don and Harold and my two late grandfathers, I've got a lot smiling down on me."
The Stakes open reserve championship ended in a three-way tie that included the Stakes intermediate open champion, SDP Blue Blood (Laredo Blue-SDP I Got Good Genes) shown by Matt Koch for K&H Performance Horses; Oh Cay Meriah (Light N Lena-Meradas Oh Cay), shown by Todd Crawford for Russ Mothershead; and Wanna Winna Prize (Smokums Prize-Ill Be A Winning Gal), shown by Justin Wright for Winston Moore. All scored a total 653 on three events to earn $19,358.
Tammy Jo Hays is an accomplished non-pro cow horse competitor with numerous titles on her resume, including the 2010 NRCHA Derby non-pro championship and the 2012 NRCHA Futurity intermediate non-pro championship. But the NRCHA Stakes had not historically been kind to the Nocona, Texas, horsewoman; she had never qualified for the non-pro finals at this event.
Tammy Jo broke her Stakes curse with a vengeance in Las Vegas, when she rode her mare, Two Kitties (Smooth As A Cat-SR Jaguar) owned in partnership with her father, Walter Greeman, to the Stakes non-pro championship with a total 646.5, earning $6,474. The title also came with a Bob's Custom Saddle, Gist buckle and CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA; a pair of boots sponsored by Rios of Mercedes; and a $50 gift certificate and cooler bag sponsored by Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
"I'm thrilled! I'm blessed beyond my wildest dreams," Tammy Jo said. "I'm really proud of my horse."
The NRCHA Champion Sire Award, a $1,000 check and CR Morrison Trophy, goes to the Manion Ranch, who owns Two Kitties' sire, Smooth As A Cat, and enrolled him in the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion program.
Tammy Jo and Two Kitties won the Stakes non-pro preliminary round and continued to dominate in the finals. Though they drew last in the herd work, Two Kitties impressed the judges to the tune of a 220, the high score of the round. The stellar work helped steady Tammy Jo's nerves, which she admitted were in overdrive as she prepared to compete.
"I was more nervous than I have been in a long time, because I've never made the non-pro finals at the Stakes and I was last in the set," she said. "I thank God, my husband and my herd help – Chris Dawson, Robbie Boyce, Jake Gorrell and Jon Roeser. The herd work was the score that put me over the top today, and you cannot do this well without good herd help."
Following her help's advice paid off for Tammy Jo. The cows she selected were ideal for her cowy, talented mare.
"There was nothing she didn't do perfect. She was always in the right spot. If you get her in the right position in the herd, it's easy to ride her," Tammy Jo said.
In the rein work, Two Kitties spun and slid her way to a 213.5, again, the high score of the round. Hays said the stop is not the mare's strongest maneuver, but she makes up for it in almost every other way.
"She turns around really big. I know that she's so good in the herd and down the fence, that if I can just get along in the reining, and plus my turnarounds, it might save me. She worked really well for me today. She was honest and quiet," Tammy Jo said.
The judges whistled Tammy Jo a second cow in the fence work, and she was pleased with how Two Kitties handled it.
"It was one I had picked in the herd, and I knew it was soft but would probably head. It did, to the left, and then we didn't have the best right turn, which was my fault – I should have ridden by and committed to that turn a little more, but then she followed through on everything else and made a good run," Tammy Jo said.
Tammy Jo bought the quirky mare, nicknamed "Whiskers" for her loathing of clippers, in a trade for another horse and a couple of yearlings. They won the NRCHA Futurity intermediate open championship together last year, and next on their show schedule is a trip to the Hackamore Classic in Pueblo, Colorado, in May.
Taking the non-pro reserve championship was Stuart Bozeman, Idalou, Texas, and Merada In Style 09. The duo won the intermediate non-pro and novice non-pro championships, as well.
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