Futurity trainer isn’t the first thing barrel racing enthusiasts think when they hear the name Sherry Cervi. However, the four-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Barrel Racer utilizes futurities to help prepare horses in her program to move into rodeo careers.
“I want to go to the futurities and I dabble in being a futurity trainer, but at the end of the day, my goal is to have a horse I can go on to rodeos with,” said Cervi, who has just over $70,000 in EquiStat reported futurity earnings and more than $3.3 million in lifetime earnings. “It’s a place to put them in competition, be in the atmosphere, stalling, hanging out — we’ve got to do it. The futurities are a stepping stone to seasoning my horses and provide something to build off of.”
While Cervi may not aim to have young horses ready for early high-pressure situations such as the 3-year-old slot races in November and December, she does train with the goal of having most of her horses ready for a futurity year, even if they break out of the gates a bit later than their 4- and 5-year-old counterparts in more typical futurity programs.
“It’s a case-by-case, year-by-year basis for me. I was entered in a futurity in January, but a rodeo got in the way, so I turned out of the futurity, because that’s my priority — I want to go to rodeos,” Cervi said. “Now we’re here at the end of April, and this futurity [at the Better Barrel Races World Finals] is my two colts’ first futurity. I also have some 4-year-olds hopefully to run next year as 5-year-olds, so my goal this summer is to get them ready and have them seasoned enough.”
Rodeo and barrel racing fans won’t soon forget what Cervi’s string of rodeo greats have accomplished inside the Thomas and Mack Center Arena. Several of them started their careers thanks to futurities.
“I futuritied most of them. I did a little bit on MP Meter My Hay (‘Stingray’), and Ryan Lovendahl also helped me futurity her. I futuritied MP A Man With Roses (‘George’), and then I went for a while where I had some OK ones, but then the goal with MP Ray Of Fame (‘Money May’) was to get her to some futurities, and I made it to four or five and did well,” Cervi said of the mare by all-time leading barrel racing sire Dash Ta Fame and out of Stingray. “I have a full brother and sister to her for next year, so that’s exciting.”
Cervi says her more laidback rodeo schedule these days allows her to put more time into riding, hauling and training next year’s futurity hopefuls — something she hasn’t always had the luxury of focusing on.
“Several years ago when I was rodeoing a lot more, I didn’t have time to ride them and get them seasoned, so I was always behind,” Cervi said. “With Money May, I made it a point to haul her with me and get her ready. For next year’s horses, I’m really being conscious about how much I’m riding them.”
Several products of Cervi’s program are showing their stuff this week in the Vitalize Futurity at the 2023 BBR World Finals — See An Eagle and homebred MP Flash Gordon.
Those who’ve followed Cervi’s career are accustomed to seeing her astride horses bred and raised from her family’s roping, ranching and barrel racing breeding program, many of them by her father Mel Potter’s great all-around stallion PC Frenchmans Hayday (“Dinero”). Her two 5-year-old futurity horses this year, though, are a step outside the bloodlines Cervi is accustomed to riding and represent unique crosses of racing and working lines.
See An Eagle is by prolific Four Sixes Ranch racehorse and racing sire One Famous Eagle (SI 101) and out of Wimpys Latigo by Wimpys Little Step. Cervi says the 2018 mare, started by Dena Kirkpatrick, is the result of the late longtime Four Sixes veterinarian and horse division manager Dr. Glenn Blodgett’s project to put those two bloodlines together, and she is proud to campaign the mare this year.
2018 gelding MP Flash Gordon, bred and raised by Cervi and Potter, is by legendary racing and barrel racing sire First Moonflash (SI 122) and out of MP Daysys N Roses by Dinero, a full sister to Cervi’s winning gelding “George.”
“He’s a different style than I’ve ever rode — longer strided — and I’ve struggled learning to ride that type of horse. He’s one that couldn’t have taken the pressure in January, so we’ve been roping on him, ranching on him, letting him get more mature mentally,” Cervi said. “From the time that horse was born, he’s been my dad’s favorite horse. My dad is 88, and he’s the only horse he asks about, so that has given me more incentive to try to make that horse something.”
The earner of more than $3.3 million in barrel racing earnings admits a horse like “Gordon” has taken a lifetime of gathering knowledge to be able to effectively ride and train.
“I’ve been riding Dineros for 20-something years, so now riding horses that are out of Dinero mares, it’s a learning process,” she said. “That First Moonflash colt, 20 years ago I might not have been able to ride him or give him the time he needs. In my age, I’ve learned from riding different horses what to do and what not to do, and I take each horse individually.”
Barrel racing is a sport measured and tracked by numbers and statistics, and especially in the futurity industry, much weight is placed on factors such as how much money a horse won, how many futurities at which it won or placed, and even how soon it started winning. But for Cervi, a successful futurity year isn’t defined by numbers, but rather, how prepared the horses are to move into rodeo careers as solid, reliable individuals that she can count on no matter the situation.
“It’s that they come out and are confident. I may not have won a lot on them as futurity horses, but they’re ready to start going and seasoning and putting them in slack rodeo situations, and just being able to go on with them,” Cervi said. “I want to rodeo on them and be able to take them to big events like the BBR World Finals and hopefully be successful in the rodeo world.”