As the curtain dropped on the 2004 Chevy Trucks/NCHA World Championship Finals, in Amarillo, Texas, 11 new riders were crowned World Champions.
Chubby Turner, Weatherford, TX, had waited 40 years for his dream of being a World Champion to come true. Riding Flickacat, owned by Dave and Georgia Husby, Turner traveled more than 35,000 miles to claim his title.
“I’ve waited to win this since I was 17,” said Turner. “I got my first shot when I was 21, but things didn’t fit right. One year I was pretty close and my horse died. It’s been one thing after another, but this year I just hammered it.”
At the start of the World Finals, the Weatherford, TX duo had more than $75,000 in earnings—more than $40,000 more than the second place horse. Even with the substantial lead, Turner kept the competition strong at Amarillo. He won the first and third go-rounds and was second in for the Finals average.
“I love this part of the game,” said Turner of the World Championships. “More so maybe than aged events. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a couple of major aged events, but it doesn’t mean near as much as this.”
Joe Howard Williamson, Archer City, TX, started the Finals competition more than $10,000 behind the leader, six time World Champion, Mary Jo Milner of Southlake, TX. Through five rounds competition Williamson overcame that lead to become the 2004 World Champion.
“I didn’t come here to beat Mary Jo,” said Williamson. “I came here to win the Finals. That’s one thing I’ve wanted to do before I quit hauling. I’ve won the World, but I’d never even won a go-round at the Finals.”
Williamson, the 1999 Non-Pro World Champion, accomplished just that, winning three go-rounds and tying for second in the third round. He also finished first in the non-working Finals. The $26,847 that he earned during the week was enough to overcome Milner for the title. Williamson finished 2004 with $108,596 compared with Milner’s $101,463. This is the first time two contestants have earned more than $100,000 in the same year.
A total of 542 cutters and their families poured into Amarillo, Texas for the event. They arrived from 37 states and Canada. Participants qualified for the World Finals by competing in weekend shows across the United States and Canada during 2004. The top 50 competitors in each of the 11 NCHA-approved classes were invited to participate in “Superbowl of Cutting” event.
In the $20,000 Non-Professional division, Katie Costello, of Exeter, CA held onto her lead to become the World Champion.
“My help told me to be smooth and clean since the cows were a little tough,” said Costello of her strategy for the Finals. “The cows were really good. They let my horse show his expression and play around in the middle. That’s what he likes to do. The more people cheered, the more he got into it. I think he likes excitement.”
Costello, 20, was riding Travalena Times, a 14-year-old gelding she shares with her father, trainer David Costello. Costello is currently a sophomore at Cuesta College in Paso Robles, CA.
$50,000 Amateur division
Nancy Graham, Lady Lake, FL, started the finals ranked in the number one position but had to show well in order to maintain the leader position. She marked 212.5 points in the first round with a score of 221 points, placed second in the second round, and the final round marking 224 points.
“It was very exciting and very close,” said Graham, whose challenger was Barbi Madgewick,Castaic, CA. “I’ve been a nervous wreck all day long. Barbi has a great horse and she’s a great rider. She’s been doing good all week, and I just barely made the finals.” When the final tally was complete, Graham had held her edge by $425 over Madgewick.
Raley-Mae Radomske, 14, Ellensburg, WA, came to Amarillo ranked first in the $10,000 Amateur division, $1,000 ahead of the second place rider. She marked 220 points to win the first go-round but lost a cow in the second round and did not advance to the finals.
“I was definitely nervous watching from the sidelines,” she admitted. “I would have much rather made the Finals.” In the end, Raley-Mae Radomske held her edge and won the championship with $477 to spare.
Radomske, whose family owns 1985 NCHA Open Futurity Champion, The Gemnist, rode Venture On Me, an 8-year-old homegrown gelding named after the ranch – Venture Farms.
$2,000 Limited Rider
Rhonda Benadum, Los Banos, CA, marked 217 points to finish in the third place in the first round at World Finals. Her lead going into the competition proved strong enough to prevail as the World Champion.
“I’ve just shown off and on over the years, maybe once or twice a year,” said Benadum, whose husband, trainer Phil Benadum, advised her to go for the Pacific Coast title. “It just kind of snowballed from there. It’s been unbelievable.”
$10,000 Novice Horse/Non-Professional
Marvin Marmande Jr., Theriot, LA, held nearly a $10,000 lead over the second place horse in the standings prior to the World Finals competition. It was enough to hold onto the championship title despite a disappointing finals.
Marmande Jr. captured the title riding Willys Tivio Dell, a 14 year mare he purchased in 2002. She was in foal when he purchased her at the NCHA Futurity Sales. The mare hadn’t been ridden in eight years when he started riding her again.
“She was unbelievable,” he remembered. “I went to a circuit show and she won everything. I didn’t even know what I was doing. She taught me how to show. She’s a great horse.”
$3,000 & $10,000 Novice Horse
Matt Sargood, Acampo, CA, put his business on hold last year to haul his stallion, To Short To Play in the $10,000 and $3,000 Novice Horse. This is only the second time in NCHA history that a horse has won both titles in the same year. Dual Rey Me, ridden by Jeremy Barwick, was reserve champion in both divisions.
“It’s really quite a shame that two horses of that caliber would come up against one another in the same year,” said Sargood. “Dual Rey Me deserves to win everything the same way my horse did. I’m not saying I’m not glad I got both, but for his sake, I kind of feel bad. I can see how it could have gone the other way.”
Denver Jo Williamson, Archer City, TX, marked 222 points and 219 points to finish in first place of the first and second round at World Finals. She then finished in third place during the Finals round of the competition.
This was the first time Williamson, a freshman at Weatherford College, had qualified for the World Finals. Her father, Joe Howard Williamson, won the Non-Professional World Championship in 1999, who also competed in the World Finals.
McKenzieMullins, Gordon, TX, marked 221 points to tie for second place in the second round at World Finals. She then finished in first place during the Finals round of the competition, marking 225 points.
“It was amazing,” Mullins admitted. “I’m not very good at cutting for shape, but Robert, (Rust, McKenzie’s stepfather) told me I might have to do that. It shook me up a bit, but everything started falling into place. The more the run went on, the more confident I got. I was very fortunate to have those cows to cut.”
Mullins, 14, is no stranger to high pressure competition. In 2003, she was Non-Pro Reserve World Champion and Junior Youth Reserve World Champion; in 2002, she rode Open World Champion Rosies Lena in the World Finals.
With a total payout of $639,625 the competition was fierce. Along with cash prizes, participants competed for prizes from the following NCHA sponsors; M.L. Leddy’s, Gist Silversmiths, Lucchese Boot Company, Read’s Custom Jewelers, Cowboy Tack, and EQ Solutions.
The sport of cutting has roots in Western ranching traditions, where good horses were a necessity for everyday ranch work and cattle handling. The National Cutting Horse Association was formed in 1946 by a group of cowboys and ranchers, who wanted to promote cutting competition, standardize rules and preserve the cutting horses' Western heritage. Today, the Fort Worth-based NCHA represents over 16,000 people and oversees more than 2,200 NCHA-approved shows with more than $35 million in total prize money awarded annually. For more information about the NCHA or the sport of cutting, please call 817-244-6188 or visit www.nchacutting.com.