Armando Costa Neto on Watch Me Whip.
Armando Costa Neto on Watch Me Whip.

Armando Costa Neto, 24, and his gritty mare Watch Me Whip marked 223.5 to win the NCHA Non-Pro Derby Saturday evening at the NCHA Summer Spectacular, presented by Great American Insurance in Fort Worth, Texas.

Along with their win in the NCHA Futurity, and co-championship at the NCHA Super Stakes, that made them the sport’s first Non-Pro Triple Crown winners, and installed Watch Me Whip as the Non-Pro Horse of the Year for 2016.

“This mare does so good every time,” Costa said. “We’re just a partnership. We know what our job is. When it’s time to come and get some big scores, that mare can hold the tough cows.”

After feeling some pressure coming into the show, which began to dissipate as he worked through the go-rounds, he admitted that his second cow in the finals caused concern.

“She was pretty scary,” he said. “The second cow went up to the judges stand and came back and I thought she was going to try to run us over, but the mare is so smart that she doesn’t really give the cow a chance to run us over.

“I just tried to let (Watch Me Whip) pay attention to that cow, and I backed off of riding her and just let her be smart.

“She can be a little wild, but she’s smart and gentle, just a good little cow horse.”

Homebred Watch Me Whip is by Playgun out of Look The Look, a High Brow Cat mare that Costa and John Mitchell rode to the Non-Pro and Open finals of the NCHA Futurity, eventually earning $172,000. She goes back to $1.6 million producer The Smart Look.

In addition to her Triple Crown wins, Watch Me Whip has placed second at the Arbuckle Mountain Futurity and Cattlemen’s Derby, third at the Pacific Coast Derby, and fourth at the Breeders Invitational.

With her latest win, she has earned more than $127,000, plus her place in history as NCHA’s first Non-Pro Triple Crown winner.

Sandy Bonelli and her great mare Shakin Flo came closest to the Non-Pro Triple crown in 1997/1998 when they won the Non-Pro Futurity and Super Stakes, and the Open NCHA Derby, while finishing 17th in the N0n-Pro NCHA Derby.

For Costa, it was his fourth major win in Will Rogers Coliseum. In addition to his Watch Me Whip hat trick, he won the 2014 NCHA Derby with Ms Regret.

Kyle Manion took the reserve championship in the Non-Pro Derby after setting the bar at 220 as the first rider in the first set. He rode A Smooth Satin Doll, a mare owned by his father, Tommy Manion, and bred by Karen Freeman by Smooth As A Cat out of $1.6 million producer Autumn Boon.

Manion, an NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame inductee, won the 2012 NCHA Non-Pro Classic Challenge on Holly Is Smooth. He was 2009 NCHA Derby Non-Pro reserve champion on Smooth Rey Of Hope.

Kyle Manion on A Smooth Satin Doll.
Kyle Manion on A Smooth Satin Doll.