Thirty-five entries graced Stephenville's Lone Star Arena Sunday, February 20, during the first day of the World's Greatest Horseman preliminary competition. The World's Greatest, one of many events highlighted at the Bayer Legend® NRCHA Celebration of Champions, is celebrating its first year in Stephenville, Texas. After two rounds, the Herd and Rein Work, Todd Bergen leads the list of finals hopefuls as he's earned a combined score of 295 riding Vaughn Zimmerman's Oak Ill Be (Ill Be Smart x Gypsy Oak).
Bobby Lewis, Randy Paul and Bob Avila each posted a 144 in the first set of the Herd Work, which began at 9 a.m. Sunday. That score held first place until Todd Bergen and Oak Ill Be entered in the second set. Bergen received a 148 to take the lead and was later matched by Jon Roeser on Very Smart Remedy (Smart Little Lena x Remedys Response) and Robbie Boyce riding Brother White (Smart Little Lena x White On Right).
After a three-hour break, the competition continued at 4 p.m. with the Rein Work preliminaries. In the first set, Robert Chown and Short Oak (Shorty Lena x Oakadot) set the pace as draw 4 with a 143. Bergen's 147 in the second set earned the trainer a third-place finish in the Rein Work. Todd Crawford and Sailing Smart (Smart Chic Olena x Sailing Smart) earned the high Rein Work prelim score, marking a 149.5, and Bob Avila, riding Rhodes River Ranch's Light N Fine (Grays Starlight x Lenas Fine Freckle), finished the pattern with a 148. But Bergen's 147, paired with his 148 in the herd, left him in prime position to make the World's Greatest finals.
Oak Ill Be, a 1999 sorrel mare, was the 2002 Valley Cow Horse Association Open Futurity Champion in Fresno, California, with Brad Buttrey in the saddle. Buttrey and Oak Ill Be dominated the 2002 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open prelims, but were forced to bow out in the finals after a bit of bad luck. In 2003, the mare topped the NRCHA Intermediate Open Stakes and finished reserve in the Open.
World's Greatest action continues with the Steer Stopping prelims Tuesday morning and the Cow Work prelims that afternoon. The finals start Thursday night and will run through Saturday when the World's Greatest Horseman will be named following the Cow Work finals scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The National Reined Cow Horse Association, the 56-year-old 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, 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.