McKenzie Merrill and Ill Be Skeets Win 2010 Circle Y Ranch SRCHA Non Pro Derby

The Circle Y Ranch Southwest Reined Cow Horse Association Derby – the first event of the 2010 National Reined Cow Horse Association Fort Dodge Celebration of Champions, which also features the World’s Greatest Horseman and the NRCHA World Championship Show, presented by John Deere – ended Monday, February 1. Throughout the three days of competition, the event paid out over $95,000.

In the Non Pro Division, McKenzie Merrill topped the class with a composite score of 430 on Ill Be Skeets, collecting a check for $2,484.

The Dallas, Texas, Non Pro and her 4-year-old had a healthy lead coming into the cow work phase of the event – but it wasn’t her plan to be cautious with that advantage. “I knew I wanted to be aggressive. I didn’t want to play it safe because there are a bunch of tough Non Pros,” she explained. And while she didn’t mark the high cow work score, she did mark the fourth high score – high enough to clinch the title.

“I’m really happy. He’s a show horse. He’s a little quirky, but he knows when it is time to be serious,” she said. Ill Be Skeets, by Skeets Peppy out of Oak Ill Be, has definitely performed for Merrill. At the 2009 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, they won the Intermediate Non Pro Futurity and were Reserve Champions in the Non Pro division.

Tish Wilhite earned Reserve honors in the Non Pro division, and topped the Intermediate Non Pro on The Fresno Fox, a 4-year-old gelding by Heart Of A Fox out of Oaks Jewel Doll. Between the two divisions, Wilhite took home $3,070.

Wilhite, of Clovis, California, purchased The Fresno Fox as a 2-year-old, and showed him at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada – but didn’t have great results. “He was really good, but he felt so good in the reining I overspun! So this is our first big show since then,” she explained.

As it so often does in reined cow horse competition, the Intermediate Non Pro title came down to the cow work. “Cow work is always the luck of the draw. I got a good one, and my horse was exceptionally good today,” noted Wilhite.

Karla Rogers won the Intermediate Non Pro Reserve Championship and $788 on Dee Chul Chic (Chula Dual x Dee Boogaloo Chic) with a 412.5. Dee Chul Chic is owned by Brittany Rogers, of Portales, New Mexico.

Dennis Moreland of Weatherford, Texas, topped the Amateur division on his Getthecashsybil with a 412. While Moreland admitted that he could have been a little softer in the herd work, the rein work and cow work were successful. “I had the best reining run I’ve ever had. And she was real good down the fence – I didn’t fall off,” he said, laughing.

Moreland purchased the mare as a weanling, and the Circle Y Ranch SRCHA Derby was one of her first shows. “I’m sixty years old and just started this a year and a half ago. Bozo Rogers definitely deserves lots and lots of credit,” he said, crediting his trainer.

Nickey Smith, of Franklinton, Louisiana, earned the Amateur Reserve Championship with a 411. With his horse HA Chairman Mystique (Im Chairman x Hopefully Fletch) collected $1,318.

The National Reined Cow Horse Association, now in its 61st 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 Markel Insurance Company, Wide World of Horses, John Deere, AdequanR, Bob’s Custom Saddles, Cinch, Inc., Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, MD Barns, Platinum Performance, Inc., Nutrena, Quarter Horse News, Fort Dodge West Nile Innovator, Rios of Mercedes, Merial products ULCERGARD and EQUIOXX, Running W Designs, and the Silver Legacy Hotel, 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