AQHA Performance Bonus Awarded at USTRC National Finals

AQHA teamed up with the United States Team Roping Championship at the Cinch National Finals of Team Roping to award five top-performing American Quarter Horses.

The American Quarter Horse Association

AQHA Performance Bonus awarded at USTRC National Finals to Manny Cunde by USTRC's Bill Bellville. (USTRC photo)

The finals, which were at Oklahoma State Fair Park in Oklahoma City from October 25 to November 2, awarded more than $5.5 million and featured nearly 8,000 teams during the nine-day event. Five horses, however, stood out from the throng, three horses that helped three ropers in three different categories earn the most money. The three categories were Professional (Open and #15 divisions), Amateur (#13, #12 and #11 divisions) and Novice (#10, #9 and #8 divisions). Registered American Quarter Horses were tracked in each of those categories and an additional $1,500 was presented to the owners of the high-money-winning horse in each category.

Professional – Manny Cunde of Madison, Georgia, rode Play Lena For Me, a 12-year-old gray gelding, to third place in the average of the open preliminary with his heeling partner, Jonathon Torres of Bell City, Louisiana, collecting $5,200 in the process. Then, in the Priefert U.S. Open Championships, heading with Monty Petska of Turlock, California, Cunde took fourth place for fastest time in the third round for another $500, bringing his total to $5,700, plus the AQHA Performance Bonus Award. The $1,500 bonus will be sent to Play Lena For Me’s owner, Morgan Holmes of Sarasota, Florida.

Amateur – In the amateur category, Twist With Poco helped his rider-owner, Steve Taylor of Gonzales, Texas, earn only one check, but it was a big one. Taylor, heading for James Tettenhorst of Jacksonville, Texas, won the average of the #12 U.S. Invitational for a total of $35,600, just barely besting his competition in the category. The talented 9-year-old dun gelding led the team to a cumulative time over four rounds of 35.04, a scant 0.18-second ahead of the second-place team.

Novice – There was a tie for the winner of the novice category. The dynamic duo of Mary Bunker of Sharon Springs, Kansas, and Clay Keller of Fort Collins, Colorado, and their horses won two checks as a team. Their largest haul was in the #10 Shootout where they finished eighth in the average, earning $11,150 apiece. Previously, they had won $3,550 each, placing eighth in the average of the #10 U.S. Invitational. Bunker was riding the 10-year-old buckskin gelding Bright Buck Go, while Keller was astride Olena Vandy, a still quite capable 16-year-old sorrel gelding. Bright Buck Go is owned by Mary and Joel Bunker, and Olena Vandy is owned by Keller. The Bunkers and Keller split the $1,500 AQHA bonus.

All-Girl – AQHA offered a special $500 bonus to the owner of the horse earning the most money in the October 29 Cruel Girl (All-Girl) Championships, a #11 roping, with a #9 incentive, limited to lady ropers only. Header Barrie Smith of Stephenville, Texas, teamed with heeler Jackie Crawford of Stephenville, Texas, to finish fourth in the average of the prestigious all-girl matchup, splitting the $6,800 prize. But this was a mere pittance in comparison to the huge average win Smith managed in the #12 Gold Plus with heeler George McQuain of Bluff Dale, Texas. Not only did she pocket a cool $28,900 for her share, she also earned a brand-new Case IH tractor. And many thanks goes to Rosies Blue Ike, the 13-year-old gray gelding without whom all of Smith’s riches would have gone for naught.

In addition to the cash bonus for owners, USTRC earnings will now be kept on official records at AQHA for American Quarter Horses competing in USTRC events. AQHA members will now be able to track their horse’s earnings at the USTRC National Finals and in 2015 at the USTRC Regional Finals Ropings. And as soon as possible, earnings will be tracked at many, if not all, USTRC-sanctioned ropings, with more than $25 million offered through USTRC events.