The NCHA 6666 Eastern Nationals wrapped up on Friday, March 17, in Jackson, Miss., with the Non-Pro and the $50,000 Amateur Finals. Jeff Byars, Town Creek, Ala., won the Non-Pro championship with 215 points on MK CD High Roller, by CD Olena; Kenneth Warner, Clover, S.C., also scored 215 points to win the $50,000 Amateur championship riding That Kotn Pikn Pepto, by One Time Pepto.
The Non-Pro reserve championship and the $50,000 Amateur reserve championship went, respectively, to Blake Graham, Rockledge, Ga., and Butch Johnson, Perrin, Tex., each with scores of Â 214.5 points. Graham rode Legal Dream, by Dual Rey, while Johnson showed Lil Rey Prince, by TR Dual Rey.
Page Bowman, Simpsonville, KY, on Tom E Boy, and Cameron Thompson, Crossville, Tenn., on Hard Eight BBQ, tied with 214 points to split third and fourth places in the Non-Pro Finals. While Michelle Marshall, Okeehcobee, Fla., on Catch A Starlight, and Kristal Vaughn, Forsyth, Ga., also tied with 214 points, to split third and fourth places in the $50,000 Amateur Finals.
This was Non-Pro champion Jeff Byarsâ€™ first time to win a division of the NCHA Eastern Nationals and his third time to qualify. However, MK CD High Roller LTE $110,112, owned by Jeffâ€™s son, Lew Byars, is a nine-time Eastern Nationals finalist. The 13-year-old gelding was a 2016 Non-Pro finalist with Jeff in 2016, and has also carried Lew in seven non-pro and amateur division finals, as well. MK CD High Roller and Lew also won the 2015 NCHA World Finals $50,000 Amateur championship and placed in this yearâ€™s NCHA Eastern Nationals $50,000 Amateur Finals.
The Non-Pro Finals counted as reserve champion Blake Grahamâ€™s third finals appearance in this yearâ€™s NCHA Eastern Nationals. Graham also showed DMAC Cheshire Cat in the $25,000 Novice Non-Pro Finals, as well as Legal Dream in the Senior Youth Finals. In addition, Graham kicked off his 2017 show season by winning the Augusta Futurity Amateur Unlimited on 4-year-old Zacks Smoothie.
Legal Dream, by Dual Rey out of Short Candy LTE $132,953, is a full brother to Dr Cruzin LTE $112,312, who tied for sixth place in this weekâ€™s NCHA Eastern Nationals $35,000 Non-Pro Finals with Tom Murrell.
Kenneth Warnerâ€™s mount, That Kotn Pikn Pepto LTE $27,106, â€śwarmed upâ€ť for theÂ $50,000 Amateur division by qualifying, on the first day of Eastern Nationals competition, for the $25,000 Novice Finals with 220 points under Gabe Reynolds.Â One week later, Warner showed the 6-year-old mare to qualify for the $25,000 Novice Non-Pro Finals. Warner, with NCHA lifetime earnings of $6,295 prior to the Eastern Nationals, placed with Faith In My Kat earlier this year, in the 2017 Augusta Futurity Amateur Unlimited 5/6 division.
Butch Johnson earned his first big check ($18,229) when he placed third in the 2004 NCHA Futurity Amateur Finals and had accumulated $159,361 in NCHA lifetime earnings before coming into this yearâ€™s NCHA Eastern Nationals with Lil Prince Rey. Last year, Johnson placed third in the Non-Pro Finals of the NCHA Western Nationals riding Scooters Light, who also carried him to the Non-Pro Finals of the Eastern Nationals that year.
Seven-year-old Lil Prince Rey LTE $9,169 was bred by Butch and Wendy Johnson. Wendy showed Lil Prince Reyâ€™s dam, Lil Shea Lena LTE $21,693, as well as his three-quarter sister, Lily Shea Rey $LTE $106,423. Wendy also won the 2015 NCHA Eastern Nationals $50,000 Amateur championship on Lily Shea Rey and placed with her in the finals of six other divisions between 2014 and 2016.