Tara Gaines
Tara Gaines marked 229 on Patrick La Dual.

After marking 227 Friday on Patrick La Dual to win the first round of the Non-Pro Mercuria Energy NCHA World Finals, Tara Gaines thought she would play it safe in last night’s second round in Fort Worth. That’s not quite how it worked out.

“I thought, okay I had my big run (Friday), so my game plan was just to be clean, maybe mark a 219 and get a check and I’d be happy,” she said. “But it all just came together.

“My horse was incredible again. I swear that he knows what’s at stake. He has just been phenomenal.”

Gaines’ 7.5-point win over Julie Hansma on Al Poocino was worth $6,410 and it gave her a 2010 total of $62,075, not quite $5,000 ahead of seven-time World Champion Mary Jo Milner.

Her run built momentum until the crowd overwhelmed the final buzzer.

“I had quite a bit of time after my first cow,” she said. “You want to go dig and find the right cow and make sure you finish your run right, not cut something too quickly. Sometimes I try to pull the trigger a little quick, and you end up where your cow dies off and doesn’t finish the run as strong as you’d want.”

While Gaines has only been showing a few years, she was introduced to cutting horses ten years ago while working for Lindy Burch during Burch’s World Championship season with Bet Yer Blue Boons. She was never interested in showing herself until her husband, Matt, bought her Patrick La Dual from Christy Leeth.

“I’d always loved Patrick since Paul Hansma showed him at the Futurity,” she said. “There’s something about his demeanor. He’s just this big, soft, kind horse who gets at your heart.”

The 9-year-old son of CD Olena already had six-figure aged event earnings under Hansma and Leeth, and Gaines credits him with much of her success.

“He had that foundation and he’s taught me so much,” she said. “Matt works him and keeps him right, and I step on and go show. I think it’s really important for people to get with a good trainer and buy a good horse.”

The Mercuria NCHA World Finals resume with Round 3 on Thursday, December 2 in the Watt Arena.