Tara Gaines
Tara Gaines

When the Non-Pro World standings were published in the October issue of Cutting Horse Chatter, Tara Gaines was sitting in ninth place. Last night in the first round of the Mercuria Energy NCHA World Finals in Fort Worth, she moved into the lead with a career-best score of 227 on Patrick La Dual.

“He’s one of those horses that every time you go down there, you can ask him for his life and he’ll give it to you,” she said of the 9-year-old son of CD Olena. “If I do my job and put the right cows in front of him, he’s never let me down and he’s never cost me any money.”

Gaines, who has been showing for two and a half years, started 2010 with the goal of earning just $24,000 and hoping that would qualify for the World Finals. After last night, her tally stood at $55,655, less than a thousand dollars ahead of seven-time World Champion Mary Jo Milner.

Tara Gaines
Tara Gaines on Patrick La Dual.

Gaines had healthy respect for the competition as she rode to the herd in the tenth spot in the Watt Arena last night. Including Youth and Amateur titles, the field included no fewer than eight NCHA World Champions.

“I had Mary Jo Milner in front of me, and she’s one of my idols,” Gaines said. “And there are a bunch of people who have won more than I have and have so much more experience.

“I knew they were going to go for it, so I thought I’d better go for it, too. I wanted to make sure those judges knew that I do want to win.”

Her 227 gave her a five-point lead over Wade Rust on Aljerita Annie, and earned $6,410.

The Mercuria NCHA World Finals continue tonight and December 2 and December 4.