For 18-year-old John Murphy, the 35-hour drive from his home in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada to Paso Robles, California for the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby was worth the trip. With a high-scoring cow work run that earned a 223 from the judges, Murphy locked up the Amateur Derby Championship aboard Pepto Pepermint. He scored a total 643.5 - 209 in the herd work, 211.5 in the reined work and 223 in the cow work. The Amateur Derby win came with a Gist Silversmiths Championship buckle, a C.R. Morrison Trophy, and a check for $1,720. His score also garnered a spot in Sunday's finals in the Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro Derby divisions.
It was only the third time for Murphy to show at a major NRCHA event. He and Pepto Pepermint competed at last year's Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, and then made a big impression earlier this year at the Circle Y Derby in San Angelo, Texas, where they swept all four Non Pro and Amateur divisions.
"His strength is the fence work," Murphy said of the 4-year-old stallion that he has trained himself, with coaching from leading Canadian cow horse professional John Swales and other top riders, including Boyd Rice. "I ask a bunch of guys questions. Wherever I go, I just watch and learn."
The unpretentious young rider thanked his herd helpers, Chris Dawson, Jake Telford, Boyd Rice and Todd Crawford. He also appreciated the support of his parents, Eugene and Maria Murphy, who own Pepto Pepermint. The family purchased him as a yearling from the Billings Livestock Sale. Pepto Pepermint is sired by Surely A Pepto and out of Haidas Peppermint, a Haidas Little Pep mare.
Murphy recently graduated high school, and plans to apprentice under his father, who is a farrier, while continuing to train reined cow horses as a non pro.
"It's always been my goal to show a three-year-old, and I started two yearlings, took them all the way to the futurities, and I've been hooked ever since," he said, smiling.
The Amateur Derby Reserve Champion was Elizabeth Kania, Hillsboro, Oregon, riding her gelding, Tuckin Smart. They scored a total 633.5 on three events to earn $1,433. Tuckin Smart is sired by WR This Cats Smart and out of the mare Tucks A Lil Better.
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 Bob's Custom Saddles, Cinch, Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, John Deere, Markel Insurance Company, Platinum Performance, Quarter Horse News, Rios of Mercedes, Santa Cruz Biotechnologies, the Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino, Merial products UlcerGard and EQUIOXX and Clinton Anderson's Downunder Horsemanship 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.
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