By Jennifer Zehnder
The royal blood of Calumet Farms’ Bull Lea (TB) and the Iron Horse blood of Clabber came to life in 1961 when a plain brown colt that came to be named Tiny Watch took his first wobbly steps on Frank Vessels’ farm. Sired by Anchor Watch (TB), the paternal grandson of Bull Lea, and out of the mare Clabber Tiny, AAA, by Clabber II, AAA, Tiny Watch (SI 100) proved his rightful heritage, collecting 16 wins, 12 seconds and three thirds for his 38 trips down the track. He earned nearly $107,000 and was elected Champion Quarter Running Stallion in 1965 and Co-Champion Quarter Running Stallion and Aged Stallion in 1966.
Tiny Watch’s legacy as both race and performance sire was perhaps best perpetuated by Tinys Gay (SI 106), a 1972 son out of Rocket Bar daughter Gays Delight. A race legend in his own right, Tinys Gay brought home 12 wins and amassed nearly $445,000 on the racetrack. He was named Quarter Running World Champion in 1974 and passed the same characteristic Tiny Watch speed and grit on to his foals, which included AAA earners Assured Pleasure, Merridoc and Sudden Fame.
The undeniable Tiny Watch influence is well alive in the barrel racing industry as evidenced by the achievements of progeny at the highest level of the futurity ranks to National Finals Rodeo and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association champions. Today the famed stallion’s mark even traces to the top of barrel racing’s sire statistics.
This collection of individual narratives tells the story of the Tiny Watch legacy through the eyes of several individuals touched most closely by it. As all great horses do, he changed lives and in so doing has been responsible for bloodlines that even today shape the direction of an industry.
Watch and Learn
Race, cow and guts all came together when a shapely colt ultimately registered as Dutch Watch was born in 1975 to breeders Howard and Joannie Driggers.
A son of Tiny Watch out of a Hug Bars/Three Bars mare registered as Bar O Dutchess, “Dutch” was on track to follow in his sire’s AAA hoof prints, earning a 97-speed index during his 2-year-old year. The gelding’s race career was short-lived when a bad respiratory virus ironically sidelined him the very day he won his rating race.
Following a brief layoff, Dutch was then entered into training for what was then and is now, perhaps one of the most challenging equine events for 3-year-olds — the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nev. He was shown by Bill Phillips to 10th place at the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s marquee event. However, plans to progress him to the cutting pen following the futurity were quickly reconsidered.
“He was just an outlaw,” says veteran barrel racer Marlene McRae. “He was rank. No one could really get along with him but the owners’ daughter. She had tried to cut on him but he was just too much. He ran off, broke one kid’s leg and jumped on her shoulder and broke it. He was just kind of a problem child after they had put that much pressure on him.”
According to McRae, the renegade tendencies of a once-promising all-around prospect caused his talent to be shelved.
“For years, the family held on to Dutch and basically did nothing with him,” notes McRae. “The daughter set up the barrels to walk and trot the pattern but that’s about all they could get done on him.”
McRae visited the Driggerses’ ranch on a mission to purchase a stallion when she met 7-year-old Dutch for the first time. Once there, she decided she didn’t want to spend the asking price on the stallion only to geld him in order to make a barrel horse out of him. So, she inquired about Dutch who was standing in a pen nearby. The owners rattled off his impressive pedigree and credentials and named their price. They told her if she could get along with Dutch, they’d consent to sell him.
“They didn’t tell me how bad he was,” McRae recalls. “I rode him and got along with him and the rest is history.”
McRae planned to spend that first year seasoning the well-broke horse to the barrel pen, but plans quickly changed when she discovered they were ranked among the Top 15 of the WPRA world standings by June.
“When I won the world on Dutch in 1983, he was a very green barrel horse,” recalls McRae.
During their professional rodeo campaign, McRae and Dutch won one WPRA world title in 1983 and three reserve world championships (1987-89), two NFR average titles (1983, 1988) and countless circuit championships. The gelding’s keen ability to win despite tough ground conditions earned the duo bragging rights to the Calgary Stampede barrel racing title an incredible five times.
“I never hauled him hard after that first year. I think I went to 110 rodeos and 150,000 miles on the same horse. I said I would never to that to a horse again,” she explains. “After that, I’d take him to the best 25 to 30 rodeos.”
Dutch bid farewell to rodeo competition following his 1992 win at the California Rodeo in Salinas. McRae retired the 19-year-old gelding a winner. He was laid to rest just six years later. Today, McRae competes aboard a new generation of Tiny Watch horses — three mounts that carry Dash Ta Fame (First Down Dash x Sudden Fame/Tinys Gay) lineage.
The Tiny Watch bloodline has been underestimated, McRae contends. The bloodline is really strongest and does its job best when it appears on the maternal side, in her opinion.
“Dutch was a freak of nature like Bozo and any of the great Tiny Watch horses. They just love to run barrels.
“If you’re lucky enough to get one, it’s definitely a blessing and a real treat.”
What about Bob?
Were it not for an inconspicuous chestnut gelding known by the name of “Bob,” the paths of “Bozo” and eventual four-time WPRA world champion Kristie Peterson (1994, ’96-98) may very well have never crossed. Blue Whizz Bob, a gritty son of Tiny Watch, initiated the Colorado cowgirl’s love affair with this race-bred bloodline. “He was my first,” she shares, “and he was amazing.”
Quite a few years before French Flash Hawk, aka Bozo, and Peterson came together to form one of most storied partnerships between horse and rider ever in the history of professional rodeo, Peterson and Bob teamed up to decimate the Colorado amateur rodeo ranks.
“Some people called him the Scamper of the amateur world,” she remembers. “Bob was an absolute natural, and really took to the barrels.”
Peterson purchased the 3-year-old from a Baptist preacher who worked with her at the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office. Her co-worker acquired Bob after he flipped in the starting gate during race training. Peterson took the gelding home to try him and was initially on the fence about purchasing him. That decision was made for her when he sustained a cut and she had to buy him.
Though Bob’s minor chest wound healed perfectly, it was this seemingly small twist of fate that profoundly and positively influenced Peterson’s career as a professional barrel race, pairing her with the bloodline that would eventually take her on a Cinderella journey to the NFR and multiple world titles.
“I’m never as smart as I appear to be,” laughs Peterson, “It’s always been coincidence or luck.”
Humble statements aside, those close to Peterson realize she knows her horseflesh. A recent mother when she purchased Bob, Peterson knew nothing about futurities, so she ran the gelding at a $50 local jackpot for his first outing. People in the barrel industry questioned her choice to forego futurities given her mount’s obvious natural talent.
“I had no clue about futurities,” she laments. “But it was probably for the best, because I couldn’t have paid the entries.”
Bob and Peterson were successfully campaigning in the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association and local jackpot races when another Tiny Watch horse entered the landscape.
She wasn’t really looking, Peterson contends. She had heard about a ranch dispersal in the neighboring Bijou Basin, so she went. A horse trader and school bus driver at the time, Peterson liked to buy and sell when a good deal presented itself.
“I saw Bozo and he was cheap,” she says. “Then I saw his papers. There was Tiny Watch on them — I had to have him. I probably wouldn’t have been as excited about Bozo had it not been for Bob.”
Bozo’s sire was the great Doc Bar grandson Son Frost and his dam Caseys Charm was by Tiny Circus, making her a paternal granddaughter of Tiny Watch.
As team Peterson-Bozo began to gel, Bob went on the market so Peterson could focus her energies on her up-and-coming futurity hopeful that she would ride to over $1.3 million in WPRA career earnings.
Ember (Givens) Stewart purchased and ran Bob for a while but turned him out following an accident. When Peterson learned that Bob was off the competition trail, she talked to a local family from the Colorado Springs area that had been hunting for a proven, youth-suitable mount.
“They [the Hathcock family] have four girls and he fit every one of them. They used him in high school rodeo for the rest of his career,” she notes. “He was horse of the year one season and made an excellent pole horse also.”
Peterson was reunited with the gelding upon his retirement. He and Bozo remained companions until Bob’s death at age 26.
When she considers the blessing of owning Bob and four-time world champion barrel horse Bozo, Peterson can’t help but smile.
“It’s only been in the last 20 years or so, but we’ve realized that people breed for race horses, they breed for cutting horses, and yes, we can also breed for barrel horses.
“Tiny Watch and Tinys Gay gave them a lot of guts,” she says.
“My favorite cross would be Easy Jet with Tiny Watch on the mare’s side — golden. And if you find a Frenchmans Guy and cross it on an Easy Jet/Tiny Watch mare — I don’t even want any more horses and I’d want it.”
Though she was just an infant when the first Tiny Watch gelding joined her family, Jordon (Peterson) Briggs seems to share her mother’s affinity for the bloodline.
“Jordon bought one at Bill Myers’ sale last year. She paid a lot of money for him just because he was out of a Tiny Watch mare and by Frenchmans Guy,” explains Peterson. “It’s something we look for, that’s for sure.
“I’ve been sold since that first one.”
A lifelong student of performance bloodlines, Arizona Quarter Horse breeder Mel Potter knew what he was doing when he shelled out $65,000 for a 2-year-old colt named PC Frenchmans Hayday. A son of Sun Frost out of Caseys Charm, daughter of Tiny Circus by Tiny Watch, “Dinero” was preprogrammed for performance greatness. Today, the full brother to Kristie Peterson’s legendary Bozo is the senior stallion at the Potter Ranch with $400,000-plus in lifetime earnings won in barrel racing and team roping.
“I think it really makes a difference having that strong of a mare [Caseys Charm],” says Potter’s daughter, three-time WPRA World Champion Sherry Cervi. “She definitely is a producer. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having that in their pedigree.”
Cervi already had two NFR titles under her belt when she hauled the stallion as a back-up horse in 2005. The pair won third in the average and finished the year ranked fourth in the world with $142,258. That same year, Dinero was named AQHA/PRCA Heeling Horse of the Year.
“He was the first Tiny Watch horse I had ridden,” she admits. “He was really gritty. He always gave you 110 percent and was tough. I always said he could be three legged and still try.
“He was really athletic and really quick, and as far as a performance horse, I think that’s what you need.”
Dinero is passing along those same traits to his foals. One such golden child is MP Meter My Hay (PC Frenchmans Hayday x Miss Meter Jet), who inherited her sire’s sun-kissed coat and proven talent. In 2010, the little mare known to fans as “Stingray” helped Cervi become the first $2 million barrel racer, surpassing Charmayne James’ previous earnings record of $1,886,568. The duo of Cervi and Stingray won the world title and set a new NFR arena record in round eight with a time of 13.49 seconds.
Stingray isn’t the only Tiny Watch descendant in Cervi’s current barrel string. MP A Man With Roses (PC Frenchmans Hayday x Rose Patch), is a familiar streak of yellow on the barrel scene where he has been clocking consistent wins, including setting the South Buckeye Equestrian Center Arena record of 16.646 on a standard pattern during the 2012 PacWest Barrel Jackpot—just shy of breaking the world record.
Despite her proven cavvy of barrel steeds, Cervi admits that even the most well bred horse can get outrun.
“It still happens. The breeding is getting so precise, and there are so many more people breeding for barrel racing, that the competition is getting tougher and tougher every year,” she explains.
“That’s what’s great about the sport—everyone’s trying to make it better and make better barrel horses.”
Cervi is quick to add that if it wasn’t for the good horses of yesteryear, those barrel horse breeders wouldn’t have anything to build upon.
“I think some of those horses like Tiny Watch, Tinys Gay, Driftwood and even Jet Deck—they were just good horses and have helped make what we have today.”
For barrel racer Janet Stover, there has always been a look. Marlene McRae’s Dutch had it, Kristie Peterson’s Bozo had it, and Sherry Cervi’s horses have it now, she contends.
“You see those great horses and they have that look to them,” she explains. “They’re just special.”
Stover noted that the horses she most admired in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, all had a familiar bloodline.
“I saw Dutch had Tiny Watch in his pedigree. I knew Bozo had some in his, and Sherry’s good horses went back to him as well.”
In 1997, when the opportunity arose to purchase a gelding that mirrored those greats, Stover seized it.
“When I went to see Bo [Gotewin Bo], he had that look,” recalls Stover. And sure enough, that’s what he was, a Tinys Gay.”
Bo’s sire was the Tinys Gay son Assured Pleasure and his dam Juan Girl was a paternal granddaughter of the legend Three Bars through her sire The Ole Man.
According to Stover, James Ward started the brown gelding as a 3-year-old, but an injury kept him from being ready to move on and compete. Bo ran in a few jackpots before he disappeared from the scene.
“His owner trained racehorses, so she was really busy,” Stover clarifies. “She had ridden him maybe three times in a couple years.
“When I got him he was pretty heavy, but was just an amazing horse.”
Stover and Bo hit it off immediately. No matter how distracted the horse might have been at times outside the arena, he would zone in on the barrel pattern as soon as he hit the alleyway.
“What was amazing about him was I took him to a few places, and then I just started rodeoing on him. He just took to it.”
In addition to his natural talent and blazing speed, Bo had an uncanny strength in the turns.
“Bo could go in and leave in two strides. He was a pretty free-running horse,” notes Stover. “You didn’t have to flog him to get somewhere. And, stumble, slip or whatever, he could always stop the clock.
“I knew because of this, he had to be one of God’s favorite horses.”
Stover and Bo made their inaugural trip to the NFR in 1998, setting an NFR record in round six with a 13.75 second-run, besting the 13.80 set in 1994 by Sherry Cervi. The pair finished second in the world, just behind returning champs Kristie Peterson and Bozo.
They then claimed third-place NFR honors in 1999, enjoying the company of Peterson and Bozo and newly crowned champions Sherry Cervi and Jet Royal Speed. The next year, Bo sustained an injury and the team just missed making the Vegas trip. They rebounded in 2001 to earn their rightful slot at the NFR, but it was a bittersweet campaign as 47-year-old Stover collected her first world championship title aboard a borrowed veteran—the one and only Hotshot (Nate Shilabar) — after Bo was sidelined to heal from an injury.
Currently, the salty gelding makes the rounds with the next generation of barrel racers and horses. A friend of Stover’s has a little girl who still campaigns the veteran in junior high rodeos.
“He’s 22 years old and had foundered,” admires Stover, “but he’ll still make a winning run.”
When she considers the industry’s perpetual quest for that next special horse, Stover can’t help but reflect upon her storybook career with a 1990 great-grandson of Tiny Watch.
“Bo sold me on the bloodline. If I see that in the pedigree, I definitely pay attention.
“I don’t know if there’s a perfect cross. It just seems like you can cross that horse with lots of different bloodlines and you always come out with a special horse.”
The Fame Factor
Bob Burt’s involvement with Tiny Watch horses was all but nonexistent until 1987 when he purchased Sudden Fame and two other mares from the Phillips Ranch dispersal. A stakes winning daughter of Tinys Gay, Sudden Fame, out of a Lake Erie (TB) daughter named Bar Dearie, combined the royal blood of Tiny Watch from her topside with that of War Admiral (TB) on the bottom through his son Lake Erie.
“I knew Tinys Gay was a world champion and had only been beaten once in his life. He might still be the fastest horse out of the starting gate,” notes Burt. “I knew all that when I went to buy her [Sudden Fame]. At the time, I was more after the Lake Erie. I just felt like from my research every time you got Lake Erie around Dash For Cash, you got a racehorse.”
Burt’s theory was put successfully to the test with a breeding to up-and-coming First Down Dash, a son of the immortal Hall of Fame race sire Dash For Cash.
“When I got to the big horse [First Down Dash]—the explosions started to happen.”
The eagerly awaited result of the fortuitous First Down Dash x Sudden Dame pairing arrived three weeks later than expected, but when the colt finally made his entrance, it was a grand one. The then Vessels Stallion Farm manager Earl Holmes called Burt, informing him that Sudden Fame had just given birth to a world champion.
Burt didn’t believe him.
“Holmes told me, ‘Bob, right now I’ve got 300 babies on this farm and when I tell you this, I mean it. This is one fancy little fella.’”
The fancy had faded by the time Burt consigned the yearling Dash Ta Fame to the Heritage Place Sale.
“He was kind of a gangly, funny looking horse because he was in a growing stage,” Burt remembers. “I didn’t like the looks of him.
“Then, just before the sale, he made an immense change in his style of looking and I decided to pull him.”
Several people called asking Burt to reconsider and to put a price tag on the chestnut colt; Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred mega trainer Bob Baffert was one of them.
“At that point, I knew I had something special,” says Burt.
Dash Ta Fame went on to compile a 13-7-1-3 record and earn $290,812 on the track. Major wins included the Grade 1 Golden State Futurity and El Primero Del Ano Derby, Grade 3 Vandy Flash Handicap and a second-place finish in the Dash For Cash Futurity (G1).
And, while he made an indelible mark as a sire of racehorses with more than 80 stakes winners and earners of over $17 million, Dash Ta Fame’s impact as a barrel horse sire has proven to be truly remarkable.
“Barrels were pretty young to me at that time,” Burt admits. “When I started getting really interested was when I sold Mike and Annie Rose Fame Fox Kirk [Dash Ta Fame x Momma Soul Kirk x Dr. Kirk]. Then came Smooth Movin Dash [Dash Ta Fame x Smooth Current (TB) x Current Concept (TB)].
“Those two horses changed my perspective. They changed everyone’s perspective.”
People thought Fame Fox Kirk was a fluke, notes Burt. Paired with barrel racing legend Martha Wright, the gelding became one of Dash Ta Fame’s most prolific performers with over $197,000 in earnings, 80 percent of which came from aged events. Multiple futurity champion Smooth Movin Dash racked up more than $74,000 with Ryan Lovendahl aboard.
Many others would follow, including standouts Bellefous (over $106,000), Sir Patrick Blurr (over $100,000), BF Shenanigan (over $94,000), Main Dash Ta Fame (over $77,000), and What Fame (over $67,000).
Dash Ta Fame continues to lead the Equi-Stat rankings as the No. 1 sire of barrel horses, No. 1 broodmare sire of barrel horses, No. 1 sire of rodeo earners, and all-time sire of barrel racing earners with over $8 million, including more than $1.2 million in Barrel Futurities of America competition alone.
“I think the barrel racing comes from the bottom end of the horse [pedigree],” says Burt. “Lake Erie, Tiny Watch and Tinys Gay, that’s where the mix is, I think.
There are a lot of First Down Dashes out there, but there are none that quite turn like these horses.”
Though Dash Ta Fame passed away unexpectedly in 2011, the books are still open on the superstar sire, ensuring the Tiny Watch bloodlines of the past will continue to find their way into the hands of barrel racers for years to come.
“Dash Ta Fame was God’s and for whatever reason he gave me the horse,” Burt shares. “I just hope I did him justice.”