As Matt Koch rode SDP Blue Blood (Laredo Blue x I Got Good Genes) in the NRCHA Stakes finals in Las Vegas, Nev., Saturday night, he followed the advice and encouragement of his friend, Chris Dawson – a wise choice, as Dawson ultimately won the Stakes Open Championship. Koch also finished in fine fashion, piloting SDP Blue Blood, owned by K & H Performance Horses, to a total 653 score (219 herd/216.5 rein/217.5 cow), good for the Stakes Intermediate Open Championship and a three-way tie for Reserve in the Open.
“Chris kept saying, ‘It’s the finals, just let it all hang out!’ So, in the herd work, I cut my first cow and just put my hand down and cut one-handed, all three cows, and he was really good. Same thing in the rein work. I watched Chris go first, and he was wide-open and going, so we tried the same thing and it worked. We survived the cow work and ended up here! Chris has been here before, and I’m pretty new to it all, so I’m just listening and taking lessons,” Koch said, smiling.
The Intermediate Open Championship paid $5,400 and came with a Gist buckle and CR Morrison trophy from the NRCHA. The nominator of SDP Blue Blood’s sire, Laredo Blue, to the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion program will receive a $1,000 NRCHA Sire Award check. Koch collected another $19,358 for the Stakes Open Reserve placing.
Koch, 28, a Kansas native, started working for NRCHA Breeder Sponsor Wagonhound Land and Livestock, Douglas, Wyo., in February. SDP Blue Blood made the move with him; the stallion does a substantial amount of roping, ranch work and outside riding in addition to his show training.
“My girlfriend rides him outside on days I don’t get to him. It lets him get out and be a horse. For me it helps out because you can leave him off. Today, I didn’t ride him until an hour or two before the show started,” Koch said.
He thanked Dawson and his other herd help, Brad Lund, Robbie Boyce and Todd Crawford. The next stop for Koch and the roan stallion is the NRCHA Hackamore Classic in May.
Limited Open Champion/Intermediate Open Reserve Champion
Riding Shes Wright On (Hes Wright On x Sue C Shiner) for owner/breeders Garth and Amanda Gardiner, Ashland, Kans., Kelby Phillips captured the Stakes Limited Open Championship with a total 642.5 score (208 herd/214 rein/220.5 cow).
The Limited Open title paid $3,218 and came with a CR Morrison trophy and Gist buckle from the NRCHA. The Gardiners also received the $1,000 Champion Sire Award for enrolling Hes Wright On in the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion Program. Shes Wright On also earned the Stakes Intermediate Open Reserve Championship, which paid another $4,320.
“In the herd work, she felt a little tired from the prelims. She was better in the prelims. She was still good, I just cut really soft cows, which left us with some ground to make up. In the reining, she was good the whole time. I’ve had a little bit of trouble with her running and stopping but she really started coming on the last few weeks. The fence work was the best she’s ever been at a show. She’s big down the fence at home, and it was nice to put it together here,” Phillips said.
As the resident trainer for Gardiner Quarter Horses, Phillips said he was pleased to ride a product of their breeding program into the winner’s circle. Shes Wright On is by the Gardiners’ stallion, Hes Wright On, and her mother, Sue C Shiner, is particularly special to Amanda.
“It was her first cow horse, the first horse she learned to show in the bridle, so we went overboard on breeding Hes Wright On to her. We have more of that mating than we do of anything else,” Garth Gardiner said. “It’s rewarding as an owner and a breeder to have a horse be successful, especially at a show like the NRCHA Stakes, where it’s all about the sire.”
Another Gardiner-owned mare, Fancy Boons N All (Peptoboonsmal x Smart Fancy Zan), also shown by Phillips, finished as the Stakes Limited Open Reserve Champion, earning $1,930 with a total 638.5 score (207 herd/217 rein/214.5 cow).
Phillips thanked the Gardiners and his herd help, Brad Lund, Brandon Buttars, Todd Crawford and Robbie Boyce.
“Most of all, I’d like to thank my fiancée, Abbie [Burtenshaw] for helping me. It’s been a long week. We haven’t slept hardly any, and I want to thank her for her help,” he said. The couple’s wedding is less than two weeks away.