Phil Hanson on Smooth Strategy.

Taped country artists lent mellow background music to the NCHA Derby Open Gelding Finals. But cutting action built to a classic crescendo close to the end of the second set.

It was Smooth Strategy, shown by Phil Hanson for Kyle Manion, the 20th to work in the 22-horse finals, who wrote the winning score with 224 points.

Desire A Lil Pepto and Lee Francois had picked up the tempo with 220.5 points as 18th to work and earned reserve with 220.5 points; Cat Diesel and Adan Banuelos , 16th in working order, were third with 219 points.

“I didn’t mind being later in the finals because there are always extra cows,” said Hanson, who won the Super Stakes Novice division and placed in the Open Gelding Finals on the gelded son of Smooth As A Cat.

“He’s honest and doesn’t take a lot of work. You trot him around and lope him just a little and he’s ready to go.”

Manion had shown Smooth Strategy just two hours before Hanson’s performance to qualify for the Non-Pro Semi-Finals (official scores of Non-Pro second go-round were not available at 12:00 a.m. Midnight, Thursday’s press time), and possibly the Non-Pro Gelding Finals.

“(Smooth As A Cats) work good for us,” said Hanson, who had previously shown LHR Smooth Jamie May, by Smooth As A Cat, to earn the title of 2010 NCHA Horse of the Year.

Desire A Lil Peto, by Sweet Lil Pepto and shown by Lee Francois for Reagan Lancaster, came to the NCHA Derby with $76,049, earned as an open finalist in the NCHA Futurity; NCHA Super Stakes; and Super Stakes Open Gelding; and Breeders Invitational.

“This horse is real showy and smart about a cow,” said Francois, who showed Desire A Lil Pepto’s half-sister, Reys Desire, to win the 2010 NCHA Super Stakes and 2011 Super Stakes Classic.

“He acts like an old lazy plug (outside of the arena) and we seldom lope him very much. But he’s one of those that likes to be in the show pen. He’s a different horse when you get him in there.”

Desire A Lil Pepto was bred and raised by woody Bartlett, out of Playguns Desire.