Super Stakes History Spotlight

1985 Super Stakes Triumvirate

On the heels of back-to-back years, when NCHA Futurity Open champions Smart Little Lena and Docs Okie Quixote claimed the NCHA Super Stakes, Derby and Triple Crown, there were high hopes in the 1985 Super Stakes for 1984 NCHA Futurity champion Doc Per. And the flashy little stallion did not disappoint. Nor did the eye-catching palomino mare Boons Sierra, who had tied Lynx Star Lady as co-reserve champion of the Futurity.

Doc Per, ridden by Ronnie Nettles.

In a thrilling 22-horse finals that included seven NCHA Futurity finalists, Doc Per, shown by Ronnie Nettles; Boons Sierra, ridden by John Tolbert; and Sonitas Joy, under Willie Richardson, scored 218.5 points in an unprecedented 3-way tie.

Owned and bred by Roy Hull, Jewett, Tex., and trained and shown by Ronnie Nettles, Doc Per came through the Futurity go-rounds and semi-finals with solid, if unremarkable, scores. But the sorrel colt had an electrifying style and was a crowd favorite from the start.

“He was kind of a showman and one of those horses that gets pumped up by the crowd,” noted Nettles. “In the semi-finals, they started hollering before we even got to the herd. And when he started to get down on a cow before I even got him out of the herd, I was concerned. I knew that in the finals, I would really have to keep him contained, until I got a cow cut.”

Doc Per drew next-to-last in the finals and before he finished working his second cow, the crowd was on its feet. When his score of 218.5 points was posted, cheers drowned out the announcer’s voice.

“That was the first time they ever had a standing ovation in the Futurity,” said Nettles. “It was an exhilarating feeling, but you try not to let it affect what you’re doing with the horse.”

Roy Hull also owned Doc Per’s sire, Personality Doc., who was trained by Nettles and shown to place fifth in the NCHA World standings. Nettie Buck, Doc Per’s dam, was a product of foundation ranch breeding, and produced one other money earner, Personaltys Babe, with $252, a full sister to Doc Per.

As talented and popular as he was as a show horse, Doc Per was not prolific in the breeding arena. In 18 crops (his last crop was in 2007), he sired 170 foals, including 16 NCHA money earners. His top earner was Doc Pers Dodger, with $90,545; followed by 1991 NCHA Derby champion Dixiland Docs Per, with $45,101; and then Red Per Lena, with $14,237. Personality Doc with 11 NCHA money winners fared no better than his famous son.

Sonita’s Joy, owned by Herman Bennett, Brownwood, Tex., came to the NCHA Super Stakes from a sixth-place finish in the NCHA Futurity. Richardson had trained the Sonita’s Last daughter from the beginning and said, “She is probably the best horse I ever rode. She tried real hard, and had a lot of class. It was important to her to hold a cow.”

Following the Super Stakes co-championship win, Bennett sold Sonitas Joy to John Gerhart, and Richardson continued to show her. The pair went on to among the top ten finalists of four more 1985 limited age events, including the NCHA Derby, the NCHA Breeders Cutting, and a  win in the Texas Futurity. When Gerhart retired her, with $260,574 in earnings, in 1986, Richardson convinced him that Sonitas Joy should be bred to leading sire Doc O’Lena.

It was a fortuitous cross, as Sonitalena, who would become the 1996 NCHA World Champion under Richardson, was the result.

“It’s pretty tough to talk a banker into loaning you money to buy a cutting horse,” said Richardson, who had been offered the opportunity to purchase the stallion in 1990 “It was pretty scary, but I just knew this colt had to be a special horse. They did loan us the money, and after we bought him, Sonitalena owed me money for quite a while. But now I owe him.”

Sonitalena, who died in 2019 at 32, retired with career earnings of $188,876 and has sired 87 NCHA earners of $850,215.

Boons Sierra, by Boon Bar, was bred by Tom McGuane, McLeod, Mont. Her dam, Portia, was a buckskin ranch bred mare, whose sire, Sierra Buck, traced back to Pretty Buck, sire of 1953 NCHA Open World Champion Snipper W.

Larry Hall, owner of Royal Blue Boon, the Boon Bar daughter who split a 3-way tie for the 1984 Super Stakes reserve championship, had purchased Boons Sierra at two and put her in training with Tolbert. In addition to the NCHA Futurity co-reserve championship and Super Stakes co-championship, Tolbert who also showed the palomino mare to place third in the 1985 NCHA Breeders Cutting, while Hall placed fourth with her in the non-pro division of the 1986 Tropicana Cutting Spectacular.

Boons Sierra retired from the show arena with earnings of $315,512, and in 1999, Hall sold her to Atwood Quarter Horses. During her breeding career she produced four NCHA money earners of $82,620, including AR Boon River LTE $72,663, a 1996 gelding by Powder River Playboy.