Super Stakes History Spotlight
When Pete Branch lowered his reins and Little Badger Dulce locked down on her first cow, spectators collectively leaned forward in their seats. The Peppy San Badger daughter, owned by Lonnie and Barbara Allsup, Clovis, New Mexico, had been a crowd favorite since the 1992 NCHA Futurity, where she was reserve champion by half-a-point to Dox Miss N Reno. So far in 1993 she had won three consecutive championships and was on course for her fourth in the NCHA Super Stakes.
Little Moonpie, co-reserve champion to Little Badger Dulce in the Abilene Spectacular, had set a 222-point target in the first set of the Super Stakes finals under Greg Welch for Dan and Sallee Craine, Fort Worth, Texas. But Branch knew his mare was up for the challenge.
“It was great,” said Branch, following Little Badger Dulce’s 223.5-point winning performance. “The cows were tough, and I was calling on her and she was trying her heart out.”
Bred by King Ranch, Little Badger Dulce was sired by Peppy San Badger out of the Doc Bar daughter Sandia Dulce. Branch broke Sandia Dulce, when he worked for Louis Pearce Jr., and was surprised, fifteen years later, when he went to work for the Allsups, to find that Sandia Dulce’s daughter was one of their cutting prospects.
“She was really a good mare,” said Branch of Sandia Dulce. “Dulce reminds me a lot of her. That’s what I liked so much about her. She didn’t start as quick as her mother, but she was super intelligent and real willing, and easy to get along with. Once she started taking to it, she just took off. By the summer of her two-year-old year, you could put your hand down on her and she’d work a cow by herself. “
By the time of the Super Stakes, Branch’s confidence in Little Badger Dulce was unshakable. “They don’t come along like her very often,” he said. “I think she’ll go down in history.”
As if to prove Branch’s point, following the Super Stakes, Little Badger Dulce racked up three more wins. As a result, she was recognized in a special presentation, on the night of the 1993 NCHA Futurity Open Finals, as the very first recipient of the NCHA Horse of the Year Award. Between October 1, 1992 and September 30, 1993, the calendar for consideration of Horse of the Year nominees, Little Badger Dulce had won seven major limited age event championships, was reserve champion in two more, and had garnered $227,592 in official NCHA earnings.
“I had so much confidence in her through the year, I just kept letting her figure her way out,” said Branch. “She’s tremendously big-hearted and can draw cows to her and have them stop right in front of her. Winning big has always been her style.”
According to Branch, Little Badger Dulce’s stamina and endurance, over what became a long, successful career, were due in part to her good sense and willing disposition. “When you tune her, you go in and two cows later, you’re off of her and she’s hardly broken a sweat,” he said. “She knows what you want.”
During 1994 and 1995, Little Badger Dulce and Branch won six more limited age event championships and three reserve championships. In addition, they claimed $67,363 and the 1995 NCHA World Open reserve championship during tough weekend campaigning.
In 1996, Lonnie Allsup, who had never shown her in limited age competition, took to the road with Little Badger Dulce and won the NCHA Non-Pro World championship with a record $99,132. The following year, for the first time in during her career, Little Badger Dulce enjoyed a respite from campaigning. But she came back for a last hurrah in 1998, when she earned $62,731 under Curly Tully, as NCHA World Open reserve champion.
Today, Little Badger Dulce ranks ninth among cutting’s all-time leading money earners and third among all-time leading mares, with career earnings of $657,276. In addition, she is the dam of nine NCHA earners of $250,977, including Dulces Smart Lena, co-reserve champion of the 2002 NCHA Super Stakes under Phil Rapp, and sire of Lil Dulce Lu, 2010 NCHA Super Stakes Open Limited reserve champion under Chris Johnsrud.
Pete Branch, the NCHA Hall of Fame earner of over $3.7 million, began his career showing halter and performance horses and breaking two-year-olds for Louis Pearce Jr., Houston, Texas. By the early 1980s, Branch had transitioned to cutting and showed Pearce-owned Chick Tari, by Doc Tari, as reserve champion of the 1981 NCHA Futurity and champion of the 1982 NCHA Super Stakes. In 2008 and 2010, he won the NCHA Open World championship on Ms Peppy Cat, owned by the Allsups. And in 2012, he was NCHA Super Stakes reserve champion on the High Brow Cat son Kit Kat Sugar, who would become the 2012 NCHA Open Horse of the Year, with six limited age championships. Kit Kat Sugar, a leading sire in 2019, is out of the Little Badger Dulce daughter Sugar N Dulce.