2020 National Finals Rodeo qualifying horses, photos by Kenneth Springer, James Phifer, Jackie Jensen, Avid Visual Imagery.

Here, Barrel Horse News introduces you to the lucky few who can say they qualified for the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Article by Tanya Randall with contributions from Barrel Horse News staff

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi’s Ima Famous Babe

Ima Famous Babe pedigree

Two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi of Lampasas, Texas, bred, raised and trained all three of her 2020 money-winning mares. Her biggest earner was Ima Famous Babe (“Katniss”), followed by Babe On The Chase (“Birdie”) and Kisskiss Bangbang (“Mona”).

Katniss, a 2013 by Dash Ta Fame, and Birdie, a 2011 by Chasin Firewater, are both out of Streakin Six Babe, a daughter of two-time WPRA World Champion Sire Streakin Six. Streakin Six Babe, out of Ambassadors Babe by First Ambassador (TB), was claimed for $4,000 after placing second in her 19th start on the track. Two weeks later, she was in the barn of 11-time WPRA World Champion Charmayne James, who won her last title on the Streakin Six gelding Cruisin On Six.

Tonozzi won her first world title on Sixth Vision by Streakin Six and purchased the mare from James in 2006. In Tonozzi’s program, the 1997 mare has become one of the all-time leading producers of barrel horses.

Mona was the result of an embryo swap with late leading barrel horse breeder Jud Little. Tonozzi trained and campaigned Nicki Nick Bar, a daughter of Colonel Azucar, and wanted an embryo out of her dam, CD Nick Bar by Dr Nick Bar. Little, on the other hand, got an embryo out of Tonozzi’s speedster French Covergirl, by Saintly Fellow and out of American Proof by Extra Proof.

She says having bred, raised and trained all three mares gives her an edge when it comes to knowing her horses.

“You have to have a special bond with these horses, especially when you’re competing in rodeo conditions,” Tonozzi said. “All the girls going down the road have a special bond with their horses, but I’ve known mine from Day One. The only time they’ve been out of my hands is when they went off for 90 days to be broke. I literally know everything there is about them.” 

Hailey Kinsel’s DM Sissy Hayday

DM Sissy Hayday pedigree

South Texas rancher Dillon Mundorf of Three Rivers, Texas, bred DM Sissy Hayday with usability and marketability in mind. Mundorf has deep family ties to both rodeo production, having grown up working for his father’s rodeo company, and with raising good horses—his great-grandfather was president of the National Quarter Horse Breeders Association that later merged with the American Quarter Horse Association. Not surprisingly, Mundorf started raising horses in his teens.

Family connections gave him the seed stock for creating “Sister.” His stepfather’s dad, Otto Goebel, bred and raced Royal Sissy Irish, a daughter of Royal Shake Em out of That’s Sissy Baby by Lazbuddie. When the mare lost an eye at the racetrack, Goebel traded the mare to Mundorf.

For Royal Sissy Irish’s third foal, Mundorf went with a stallion he had the opportunity to ride while attending Hill County Junior College in Hillsboro, Texas. He was working for Kenneth Kelly, who was training PC Frenchmans Hayday—Mel Potter’s cornerstone stallion affectionately known as “Dinero”—for calf roping.

“I roped on him a pretty good bit,” Mundorf told Barrel Horse News when he earned Equi-Stat Leading Breeder honors in 2017. “I probably roped on him as much as or more than Kenneth.”

Years later, while attending the National Cowboy Hall Of Fame in Oklahoma City with his grandfather, Mundorf got to visit Dinero’s owner, Mel Potter, who told him he’d make him a deal if Mundorf ever wanted to breed to the stallion. In 2010, Mundorf took Potter up on his offer. Sister was born the next spring.

Sister went through Mundorf’s program. She was broke to ride and used on the ranch, even up to the day before she left for the Texas Best Sale in Waco, Texas. Leslie and Hailey Kinsel purchased the 2-year-old mare because of Royal Sissy Irish. The Cotulla, Texas, family owned the mare’s second foal, a filly by the Mundorf family’s stallion Hand Off Boy, and liked her well enough to go in search of the eventual two-time WPRA world champion Sister.

Dona Kay Rule’s High Valor

High Valor pedigree

AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year High Valor was bred by two-time NFR qualifier Lana Merrick-Bailey of Norman, Oklahoma. The granddaughter of legendary horseman Walter Merrick, who stood the great Easy Jet, breeds for the track and the arena.

She liked Valiant Hero, the multiple grade-winning son of First Down Dash and Corona Chick, because she thought he could sire for both the track and the arena.

“Being from a racehorse family and being a former NFR barrel racer myself, we always look for similar things,” said Merrick-Bailey, who rode Scoti Flit Bar to the NFR in 1987 and 1989. “We see athleticism aside from just speed and think maybe they can cross over. I really like Valiant Hero for those purposes. I thought he looked like an individual that could be successful in the performance situation as well as at the track. That encouraged me when I was considering purchasing a share in him.”

She purchased the mare Rare High with the intention of raising a racehorse by Valiant Hero. She was drawn to the pedigree of the multiple race-winning daughter of Rare Form. The multiple-graded stakes winner with earnings of more than $278,000 was out of the graded stakes-placed mare Also A High by On A High. 

High Valor hit the ground in 2009. The following year, Merrick-Bailey had consigned him to the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale but ended up bringing him home. When she failed to find a racehorse home for him, she had decided to keep him as a barrel horse for herself.  

The following year, Merrick-Bailey consigned him to the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale but ended up bringing him home. When she failed to find a racehorse home for him, she decided to keep him as a barrel horse for herself. 

“When High Valor came along, I looked at his conformation and his attitude,” said the 1987 WPRA Rookie of the Year. “He has the best demeanor, was a willing individual from the time I was halter breaking him to breaking him to ride. He was always willing to try to do his best.”

Valor was starting to make a barrel horse for Merrick-Bailey, but his progression was slowed by her lack of time to haul. Her husband, Dr. Jerry Bailey, encouraged her to sell him, but it took her two years to come to grips with letting Valor go. 

“After a couple years, I decided to do just that,” Merrick-Bailey said. “I knew Dona Kay was interested.” 

Merrick-Bailey, who presents the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award to a horse making its first appearance each year at the NFR, is tickled to have Valor not only make the NFR but be named AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year twice, both in 2019 and 2020. 

“I’m so pleased for him to have turned out as well as he has,” Merrick-Bailey said. “Dona Kay has had so much success with him. He’s a wonderful individual, and I’m so happy to see him getting so many accolades.” 

She also still enjoys “making runs” on Valor, too. “I probably ride along with each run Dona Kay makes,” Merrick-Bailey chuckled. “I hold my breath and push with everything I’ve got trying to help her out.”

Jimmie Smith’s Lena On The Rocks

Lena On The Rocks pedigree

Lena On The Rocks is the product of a circle of friendships says her breeder Cindy Smith of Lipan, Texas.

It started with a friendship between Skinner and Kathleen Mehlschau when the two worked at Wayne Hodges Trailer Sales in Weatherford, Texas. Mehlschau had raised the Smart Little Cutter mare Tourlena (“Wanda”), who became Skinner’s barrel horse.

“At that time everything I rode was cutting horse bred,” said Skinner, who once produced the Equi-Stat top five futurity, the Las Colinas Futurity, in the late 1990s. “Wanda won a bunch of stuff for me and I loved her. Kathleen had her mother so I bought everything she had out of her. My whole pasture was made up of those horses.”

When Skinner was running Wanda she often hauled with another friend, Robyn Herring, who was campaigning her young stallion Firewaterontherocks (“Happy”).

“She was always having to remind me not to forget he was a stud. I was always doing stupid things like leading my mare right up next to him,” Skinner admitted.

When navicular disease forced Wanda’s retirement, Skinner bred her to Happy. Lena hit the ground with his second crop of foals in 2009.

Susie Campbell had trained Lena and Skinner had run her a little herself before the demands of her job with Outlaw Conversions prevented her from riding as much. She had three other geldings at the time that she would have sold rather than Lena, but Jimmie Smith wanted to try her.

Now that Lena’s an NFR qualifier, Skinners believes Wanda will get her just due.

“She was an amazing mare,” Skinner said. “I didn’t get her hauled and shown as much as I wanted. Her mom was just that gritty mare. I remember it was getting toward the end (of her career) and I won the last round of the (Ranch Girl’s Barrel Race) at Fort Worth and finished third in the average. She was just that tough. Wanda was my one-and-only and I was happy to see her baby make it.”

She’s also excited to have had a role in Smith’s success.

“I’m so happy for her,” Skinner said. “Watching her try her that day, it was like God saying, ‘Let her go.’ I had a scene of peace come over me. I know when I was young to have a horse like that would have been amazing. It’s really cool to see a young girl achieve her lifetime goals. That’s pretty fun.”

Tiany Schuster’s Show Mance

Show Mance pedigree

            Show Mance was bred by James W. Baldwin of Newalla, Oklahoma. While every effort was made to track Baldwin down to get the thought processes and connections that led to pairing of First Smart Money, a graded-stakes placed son of First Down Dash out of an Easy Jet mare, and Blue Baby Cash, a daughter of the Dash For Cash, Beduino son Hold On To The Cash, out of Duster Lady Last, by Dels Zan Parr Bar, will remain a mystery.

The 2010 gelding was by Ed and Polly Davis of Jefferson, Georgia, as a 2-year-old. At 3, he was consigned to the Danny Ray-produced LG Pro Classic Sale in Kinder, Louisiana, where he was picked up by Christine Lollis of Kingston, Oklahoma, for just $2,000.

When she went to take ownership of him back at the stalls, she found out why he didn’t show in the demonstrations. He bucked.

An injury and illness kept Lollis from riding Show Mance until June.

“He did buck, but I learned that he would only buck when I’d ask him to come back to me. I took him to my vet and said something isn’t right with this horse.”

Although the vet didn’t find anything glaring, an experience with a previous horse made him X-ray Show Mance’s head and neck.

“That’s where he found the problem,” she said. “The vertebrae behind the atlas was pushed down and sideways. When you would ask him to come back to you, that was probably pinching or biting him up there.”

Lollis enlisted the aid of a chiropractor and acupuncturist to help realign that vertebrae and rehabilitate the muscles in the area. The treatment made all the difference in the world and Show Mance became the 1D horse that caught Schuster’s eye.

“He was something you know,” Lollis said. “Everyone made fun of me when I bought him, so of course I had to make something out of him.”

Jill Wilson’s Lean Mean Blue Dean

Lean Mean Blue Dean pedigree

As with Show Mance, the search for Lean Mean Blue Dean’s breeder Rusty Patterson of Lubbock, Texas, came to naught. But his road to Wilson’s barn is winding trail through the circle of barrel racing enthusiasts in the Texas panhandle.

It’s a safe guess that the 2005 gray gelding was bred for the track. His sire is Dean Miracle, a multiple graded stakes-placed son of Streakin Six out of the Reb’s Policy mare Our Third Delight, who just happens to be the dam of leading barrel horse sire Tres Seis. His dam was Luv Her Winner, by Runaway Winner.

His first recorded owner following Patterson was NFR qualifier Terra Bynum Gernentz, who had purchased the gelding as a yearling from Rooster Cathey of Canyon, Texas, who in turn had purchased him from Richard Parrish of Meadows, Texas, who had purchased Blue Dean’s dam right about the time he was weaned.

Stanley Forbes took a chance on Blue Dean. While he was hoping to run him on the track, he ended up starting him on the barrels. Blue Dean got more barrel racing training under NFR qualifier Lisa Ogden before being sold to another family friend. He found his home at Wilson’s in the winter of 2010.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I believe he would become the horse that he has—the one that can win Weatherford, Texas, 10th out on the ground,” Bynum said. “Jill really put the time in and made him what he is. He just seems to get better and better. It just goes to show that sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on a horse with a bunch of owners on their papers.”

Shelley Morgan’s HR Fameskissandtell

HR Fameskissandtell pedigree

HR Fameskissandtell was bred by lifelong barrel racer Elizabeth Hayes and was from the first crop of foals raised by Hayes and her husband Mike in Arcadia, Louisiana.

“I probably should have kept her,” Hayes said with a laugh. “But I wouldn’t have done what Shelley’s done on her!”

Having taken interest in the futurity game, the Hayes purchased Fames Fiery Kiss (“Hershey”) as a 2-year-old from her breeders Renee and Amanda Alexander in 2011. The daughter of Dash Ta Fame was out of the Fire Water Flit, Nonstop Jet mare Simply Firewater.

“We were going to futurity her, but she got hurt,” Hayes said. “She never got to run at all.”

When the Hayeses decided to breed the mare in 2013, Danny Ray suggested CEO, a son of Bugged With Honor out of the Shoot Yeah mare Imafasterdancer. CEO had the hottest futurity horse running at the time, I R A Grand Victory that Mark Bugni rode to dual $100,000 wins at the 2012 BFA SuperStakes and 2013 LG Pro Classic.

Kiss hit the ground in 2014. Hayes says Kiss was the last one that she ever would have thought would be an NFR qualifier.

“She was a big, awkward filly,” she said. “We had a Brazilian trainer breaking colts at the ranch and she was his pick of the bunch.”

When their trainer went back to Brazil, Hayes asked Shelley Morgan, who had ridden for her in the past to take Kiss. After running the mare at the BFA Juvenile, Morgan asked to buy Kiss.

Hayes also sold Hershey to Katie Lenhart of Bedford, Iowa, when she decided to get out of the breeding business.

“I’m 71 and still running barrels,” she said. “I wanted to enjoy my last few years of barrel racing so we decided to get out of the breeding business.”

Although her time as a breeder was brief, Hayes is tickled to have raised an NFR qualifier.

“We’re very proud of her,” Hayes said. “I was amazed, but Shelley’s amazing too. She was determined to make it back to the NFR and she did it. I was just so happy. It’s pretty neat.”

Stevi Hillman’s Cuatro Fame

Cuatro Fame pedigree

            Cuatro Fame’s story begins when Brandy Wilson-Mehl purchased Streakin Henry, a Dash For Perks gelding out of Princess Streaks, by Streak Laico Bird. She liked Henry so much that she purchased his younger full sister Memes Streakin Dash. Both horses would go on to win back-to-back Old Fort Days Futurity Championships for Wilson-Mehl.

Sometime during that championship run, Wilson-Mehl purchased Princess from Hank Dennis too.

Wilson-Mehl stuck with the winning formal with Dash For Perks for the next two foals before going to Dash Ta Fame.

“I loved the full siblings to Henry and Meme, but Dash Ta Fame was the most popular thing right then,” said Wilson-Mehl, a legal secretary and mom of a 10-year-old daughter. “I decided to give it a try.”

Cuatro, now called Truck, hit the ground in 2007. Due to his breeding, Wilson-Mehl had left him a stallion until late in his second year. The youngster was proving to be too much of a handful for Wilson-Mehl, who was pregnant with her daughter Shelby at the time, so she gelded him.

Wilson-Mehl had been prepping Truck for the 4-year-old futurities when she sold him in early fall of his third year.

“He was cruising the barrels when I sold him,” she said. “I had taken him with me to Nebraska to exhibition up there at a futurity.”

Wilson-Mehl had rattled off a price to Lance Graves, who knew that Melissa Mouton was looking for a horse, and a deal was made. Later on, Mouton paired Truck with Stevi Hillman. That was five NFR qualifications and a RFD-TV’s The American Championship ago.

“It makes me very proud,” said Wilson-Mehl. “I like to see other people do well on them as opposed to me anymore. I don’t have a lot them out there, but the ones that are still running are doing well. It’s actually really neat. When I was going a lot, it was fun to win, but it’s pretty neat to know that I raised him and trained him and that he went on to that big of a stage.”

Jessica Routier’s Fiery Miss West

Fiery Miss West pedigree

Retired civil engineer Gary Westergren of Lincoln, Nebraska, got into horses to give him a project during his retirement. With Fiery Miss West (“Missy”), he found himself as the owner and breeder of a multiple NFR qualifier.

Westergren’s breeding program is intertwined with the NFR-laden program of John and Liz Hollmann’s Frenchmans Quarter Horses. He met the couple while on a consulting assignment for a heavy haul railway and became enamored with the horses.

Not surprisingly, he started with buying mares for the Hollmann’s program and he later bought a stallion, Firewater Frenchman, a palomino son of Fire Water Flit out of Pcfrenchmanslisbet, a full sister to World Champion Sire PC Frenchmans Hayday and World Champion Barrel Horse French Flash Hawk.

He did run into a problem in that his mares were Palomino too and he didn’t want to raise a Cremello. Then while on a business trip in Denver, he got an early morning call from Liz Hollman that meant he was buying yet another horse.

Frenchmans Bo Dashus was bay so that meant he could cross the daughter of Royal Quick Dash out of PC Frenchmans Bojet, a descendent of the great Casey’s Ladylove, with Tan Man. The result was the 2011 mare, Missy, that would carry Jessica Routier to three NFRs.

Cheyenne Wimberley’s Royal Blue Fame

Royal Blue Fame pedigree

Racetrack veterinarian Dr. Steve Hurlbert, one of the founders of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery in Weatherford, Texas, raised two of Cheyenne Wimberley’s NFR mounts—Royal Blue Fame (“Chewy”) and Dash Ta Suz (“Smooch”), her top two money earners in 2020.

“I’ve been in the racehorse business since 1985 when I graduated vet school and went straight to the track. I ended up with some mares that just weren’t good enough to breed to the top Quarter (racing) studs. I just decided that I could breed to the top barrel horse sires a lot cheaper than I can the top racehorse sires, so I started breeding to Dash Ta Fame and Frenchman’s Guy,” said Hurlbert, who’s barrel racing breeding endeavors are advised by former NFR qualifier and ESMS operations manager Lee Ann Guilkey.

Hurlbert’s two NFR qualifiers are out of mares he found at the track. Smooch’s mom, Six Moon Suz, by Marthas Six Moons, an Equi-Stat All-Time Leading Maternal Sire and former leading barrel horse sire, came from a client’s barn. Eyes Are Blue, by NFR sire Royal Blue Chew Chew, caught his eye while walking through the shed rows.

“I thought she was a pony,” he said with a laugh. “I kind of liked her and at the end of the meet, the trainer called and asked if I wanted her. I bought her and started breeding her. The first one was by Frenchmans Guy and Tasha Welsh rode it for me. Then I went to Dash Ta Fame.”

The resulting foal was Chewy, who joined Smooch at Wimberley’s. Hurlbert and Wimberley, whom he knew through her late father, have since partnered on several horses. Wimberly has Chewy’s full brother and two A Streak Of Flings out of Smooch at her house.

“I kind of got into it to sell them but I haven’t sold any of them,” Hurlbert laughed. “Cheyenne and I have a lot of them and I have a few with Ari-Anna Flynn too.”

Guilkey is also trying to convince Hurlbert that his first homebred stakes winner Preyn Onthe Mountain, by Ivory James, should be a barrel horse too.

“We’ve definitely been blessed,” he said. “We’ve got some good horses for no more than we’ve had.”

Ryann Pedone’s Feel The Sting

Feel The Sting pedigree

The blue-blooded stallion Feel The Sting was bred and is owned by Charlie Cole and Jason of High Point Barrel Horses in Pilot Point, Texas.

The decorated show horse trainers and exhibitors took their barrel racing hobby to the next level in 2012. Since they didn’t want to stand a show horse stallion that would be in direct competition with their customer’s horses, they opted to try for a barrel horse stallion by crossing the best stallion in the industry, Dash Ta Fame, on two of the best mares—Kelly Yates’ Firewater Fiesta, by Fire Water Flit, and Sherry Cervi’s MP Meter My Hay (“Stingray”), by PC Frenchmans Hayday.

They already had the embryo transfer foals on the way when the purchased Slick By Design after the 2012 AQHA World Show.

“I didn’t even know Slick was coming down the pike,” Cole said. “We got the embryos out of Firewater Fiesta and Stingray and were hoping for stud prospects and we found Slick in November. It was crazy because we ended up with three stallions.”

After a successful aged event career with Ryann Pedone, Stinger was pointed toward an NFR qualification. After a COVID-19 ravaged season, Pedone and Stinger jumped from 16th to 11th in the last weekend of the season after a dramatic win at the Gold Buckle Beer ProRodeo Tour Finale in Rapid City.

“Slick was an amazing ride,” said Cole, referring to the stallion’s multiple trips to the NFR. “It was amazing it worked out so perfectly. Now to actually have one you raised and have that dream come to fruition, it’s an amazing feeling. It was even more exciting in that moment knowing that was our baby that we raised and had from day one. That makes it so much sweeter.”

Stinger, however, will have to sit out the NFR after injuring his hock.

“It was devastating,” says Cole of Stinger’s injury, “but I have to tell myself it could have been worse. We still have him with us and he is expected to recover.”

Even though he won’t get to run, Stinger is everything they had hoped he would be.

“I sent Sherry a message after we knew that Stinger was in at the NFR saying, ‘Thank you!’” Cole said. “You couldn’t have asked for this to work out any better. He’s exactly what we wanted when we bred him. He’s now achieved every goal that I could have ever dreamed. It doesn’t typically work that way, but fortunately for Jason and me, sometimes it does. He’s exactly what I envisioned.”

Emily Miller Beisel’s Biddin On Fame

Biddin On Fame pedigree

Biddin On Fame (“Beau”) is the second horse bred by the Youree-Ward family of Addington, Oklahoma, to make it to the NFR. Hell On The Red that took Kylie (Ward) Weast in 2018 was the first. 

Beau was 2001 WPRA World Champion Janae Ward Massey’s creation. The 2013 gelding is by PC Frosty Bid out of Jaxsons Olympic Fame, by Poco Lijerito.

Family patriarch Dale Youree found Jaxsons Olympic Fame while doing a clinic in Utah.

“She weighed about 700-800 pounds and was in the pouring down rain and snow,” Massey said. “He felt sorry for her and bought her. She was this little bitty, gray rat looking thing. He brought her home from that clinic and she wouldn’t get out of the trailer when we got home. She wouldn’t back out. She wouldn’t turn around!”

Massey says the mare was a “rogue.” She didn’t trust anyone, save for a couple of people, namely Youree and Massey.

“She trusted no one ever,” said Massey. “My grandfather spent two or three years solid, trying to get her to trust him. He would sit on her hours at barrel races. He just spent so much time on her. He won quite a bit on her and then he gave her to me.”

Massey ran the mare at open and pro rodeos for a couple of summers before she decided to breed her. Her first foal, Famous Hayday, by PC Frenchmans Hayday, helped Paige Jones win the WPRA Rookie title in 2020. Beau was her third foal and second by PC Frosty Bid.

“I honestly was wanting bone and brains to go on my mare,” said Massey of why she picked PC Frosty Bid, a son of Sun Frost. “I wanted a little cowhorse on my racy mare,” she said. “She was crazy, let’s be honest, but she had so much heart and try in the arena, I knew that she would put that on them. People always ask why would you breed something like that? Every one of her babies has a tick to them, but every one of them has heart and try. I knew I got the good out of her.”

Lisa Lockhart’s Rosas Cantina CC

Rosas Cantina CC pedigree

Normally, Rosas Cantina CC has shared the load for the past four years of Lisa Lockhart’s qualifications. In 2020, the qualification was largely her own.   

Owned and bred by Alan Woodbury of Woody’s Feed in Dickinson, North Dakota, Rosa comes from one of the most potent maternal lines in barrel racing, one that features two National Finals Rodeo qualifiers.

Her story starts with the Shearer family’s SX Frenchmans Vanila, the 2001 Equi-Stat Leading Futurity horse that would later help Amanda Clayman make the NFR. Woodbury purchased an egg out of SX Frenchmans Vanila and crossed with Dash Ta Fame to get Dash Ta Vanila.

Rosa, by Corona Cartel, was born via embryo transfer and was already 2-years-old when Nikki (Steffes) Hansen qualified for the 2012 NFR with Dash Ta Vanila.

Woodbury has always crossed his barrel mares on racehorse stallions.

“The top three horses in the nation by progeny earnings and broodmare sires are Corona Cartel, First Down Dash and Mr Jess Perry,” Woodbury explained. “I’ve bred to all three of them. I have a filly at home, Jess Down A Corona, that has all three big sires up close in personal in the pedigree.”

Jess Down A Corona is by Mr Jess Perry and out of Bucky Wonder Horse, a daughter of First Down Dash and Rosas Cantina CC.  

“I’m one my third and four generations in some cases,” said Woodbury. “You learn more from your defeats than you victories, but I like doing it. It’s fun.”

Woodbury, a longtime sponsor of WPRA events, says he’s thrilled to have Rosa going back to yet another NFR.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s exciting. I wish them the best of luck.”

Wenda Johnson’s Macgyver Moonflash

Macgyver Moonflash pedigree

Macgyver Moonflash (“Mac”) is the lone Canadian-bred in the NFR field. He was bred and raised by Don Salzauher’s Ivy Lane Racing in Milton, Ontario, out of his champion mare Touched By The Moon.

A daughter of the First Down Dash son Black Moons Arising, Touched By The Moon was out of Fames Touch, by Dash Ta Fame. Salzauher bought the mare on the advice of his trainer.

“The trainer’s mom had bought her or won her in a poker game or something and he told me I needed to buy her,” chuckled the inventor, entrepreneur and international businessman. “The next day, she went out and won the race and never looked back.”

Touched By The Moon had 40 official starts and won $170,700.

“That was the hard way,” noted Salzauher, a leading owner of Canadian racing Quarter horses. “These were like $5,000 purses. She won more races in Canada than any other horse. She won 20 races which for Canada is a big deal. She was very special. She would spot another horse about half a length or a length but she knew where the finish line was and she’d take off and leave them. She was just very, very smart. Outstanding horse.”

After retiring the mare, Salzauher bred her to First Moonflash “for whimsical reasons”—“He had moon in his name,” he quipped.

Mac was an embryo transfer foal but the recipient failed to produce enough milk for him. A Thoroughbred nurse mare was found to care for him. Even so, he didn’t look like much when he was weaned.

“We called him Macgyver because he was a survivor,” Salzauher said. “He was smart too. He could open any gate of any pen you put him in. Our trainer didn’t think he would make a racehorse so we sold him.”

Mac did win one of his seven starts on the track and earned $14,409 before being sold to Tres Mesas Horses to become part of Johnson’s wicked First Moonflash duo.

Ironically, Mac qualifying for NFR is a full circle for Salzauher, who found his way to horse racing through barrel horses.

“I’m no chump, you know,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve even won a saddle.”

Brittney Barnett’s Chicks Keen O Pocopoo

Chicks Keen O Pocopoo pedigree

Brittney Barnett’s Chicks Keen O Pocopoo (“Paint”), bred by Everett Witt, had the most inauspicious of upbringings.

Witt, a former oil field and construction worker, was into Paint horses. He was part of the group that held the Western World Paint Show for many years. His love for Paints led him to purchase Mr Dominator, a halter-bred Paint stud that didn’t have the size for the show pen, for a mere $800.

A 1987 overo son of Dinos Poco Dell out of the Far Ute Keno mare Kenos Surprise, Mr Dominator was a great minded and easy-going stallion that spent much of life as a riding horse in the rolling hills at the tail of the Sierra Mountains in California’s southern central valley.

Witt raised a few colts by the stallion, one of which was out of Stylish Chic Olena, a Quarter horse mare by Dix Chic Olena out of a Colonel Hotrodder mare, that he’d picked up at a sale for $1,500. The result was Paint, a 2007 mare, who took after her sire in size, color and disposition.

At 2, Paint was given to Witt’s granddaughter Briana Benavidez. Although she had no prior barrel racing experience, Benavidez trained Paint and became competing at gymkhanas and barrel races.

“I told her I didn’t think she’d be fast enough,” Witt said. “Her daddy didn’t like to go fast and I didn’t think she would either.”

When Benavidez joined the Air Force, Paint was put up for sale on Facebook for $3,500 but had no takers. Her friend Brittney Barnett started using the mare to collect points for the West Coast Barrel Racing Association year-end title. Much to everyone’s surprise, the steady diet of barrel races helped Paint refine her style and find her speed.

Paint led Barnett to two California Circuit Finals and filled Benavidez’s WPRA permit. In 2019, Barnett purchased Paint because she needed the gritty little mare to make it to the NFR.

Witt had kept up with the mare’s entire journey, getting news from Barnett or her father when he couldn’t watch the rodeos on television.

            “I was in tears,” said Witt when he found out that Paint had made the NFR. “We watched as many as we could. It was just awesome!”

Read more about each NFR qualifying horse in the December issue of Barrel Horse News.

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