Roger Brandt.
Roger Brandt and Silverstar Rio.

Roger Brandt. 15, Amarillo, TX, scored 222 points aboard Silverstar Rio to win the $10,000 Amateur championship. Colton Strain, 14, also a youth rider, was reserve champion with 217 points.

“I drew last in the first go-round and I did well in there, so I figured I could do good in any of the holes,” said Brandt, who drew in the middle of the first set in the finals.

“I’ve done good in all holes and I’ve done bad in all holes.”

Brandt, who has been showing for four years, was second in the go-round with 219 points and also placed sixth in the Senior Youth Finals. He is currently ranked second in NCHA World Championship $15,000 Amateur competition and third in the Senior Youth.

Skip Jones, Brandt’s stepfather, placed 10th riding Silverstar Rio in last year’s Western Nationals Non-Pro division.

“Someone bought him as a two-year-old, then went bankrupt and left him in a pasture for six years,” said Brandt of the 13-year-old CD Olena son. “Someone told my stepdad that he could cut, so he bought him and worked with him.”

Silverstar Rio’s dam, MNY Peppy Star Rio, earner of nearly $200,000, was an NCHA Futurity Open finalist and won the NCHA Super Stakes and Derby under Gary Bellenfant.

Brandt’s advice to aspiring cutters is to “Go out there and have fun and don’t stop. You’re not going to do good all of the time because nobody does. But don’t quit; just keep trying.”

Colton Strain.
Colton Strain.

Despite a late draw, in the second set of the finals, and a score of 210 in the go-round, Colton Strain, Black Forest, CO, felt confident going into the $10,000 Amateur finals on Cuttin Smart.

“He made the Open finals, so I knew he could do it,” said Strain, who was showing in the $10,000 Amateur Finals for the first time “I just let him do the work.”

Lawson Hadlock had shown 18-year-old Cuttin Smart, by Smart And Trouble, in last week’s Open Finals, as well as in the 2006 Open Finals.

Strain’s father, Jon, also showed the gelding to place in the Top 10 standings¬† of the 2008 NCHA World Championship standings in the Non-Pro, $50,000 Amateur and $10,000 Amateur divisions.

“We both started off showing on this horse and he’s our boy,” said Strain of Cuttin Smart, who his family calls Earl because “he’s got that personality.”

“If I get too nervous, he gets a little wired, so I lope him before I show really just for me,” said Strain. “Dad keeps him tuned up.”

Cuttin Smart has earned over $160,000, including $35,299 for third-place ranking in last year’s NCHA Top 10 standings.

$2,000 Limited Rider

$2,000 Limit Rider champ Gracie Paul and her team.
$2,000 Limit Rider champ Gracie Paul and her team.

“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, but as soon as I get in the herd, I settle right down,” Gracie Paul, 11, noted about this week’s competiton.

Riding 9-year-old Somebodys Cupcake, Gracie claimed the Junior Youth reserve championship on Sunday and came back yesterday to win the $2,000 Limit Rider division with 220 points.

The home schooled sixth grader from George, WA, also won the $2,000 Limit go-round with 219 points.

“I’ve enjoyed her since day one,” said trainer John Paul, Gracie’s father, who has conditioned Somebodys Cupcake, by Somebody Smart, since she was three for Dan and Rusanne Wagner, Wilbur, WA.

“She’s a little bit hot and a little bit silly and I like that,” added Paul, who rode the mare as a finalist in the 2005 Western Nationals $3,000 Novice division.

“She has her own personality agreed Gracie. “I lope her to keep her calm. You have to keep her calm or she’ll be wired and crazy on a cow.”

Gracie, who has been showing for two years, began riding Somebodys Cupcake this past January.

Sonya Leanos.
Sonya Leanos.

Sonya Leanos, Sedro Woolley, WA, scored 216.5 points in the $2,000 Limited Rider to earn the reserve championship on her own horse, Rey To Go. Last year, Leonas and Rey To Go placed third in the finals.

“This is only my second time here,” said Leanos, who began showing in 2001. “I was excited. My first day was getting over my nerves and the second day I concentrated on riding more aggressively and with more cofidence.”

Leanos and Rey To Go also placed sixth yesterday in the $10,000 Amateur finals.

“This horse is easy to get ready,” said Leanos. “I don’t have to have him in full- time training, which is perfect for me.”

“Leanos purchased 8-year-old Rey To Go, by Dual Rey, at six.

“There were two Dual Reys that I tried,” she remembered. “Of course, I wanted the prettier one. But he is the one that fit me. He sure is pretty on a cow though and that’s what matters.”

Leanos said that her job in used car sales allows her the flexibility to take Fridays off two or three times a month said that she is able to travel to cutting shows. Last year, she won several division in her area.

“I like the challenge of cutting,” Leanos said. “I feel like I could do this forever and never completely get it.

“You get better and better at it, but it’s always challenging. I’m a very competitive person and the ups and downs get you hooked hooked and wanting to keep doing it.”