The National Western Stock Show has an incredible array of both amateur and professional horse events. There are English and Western events for children, juniors, seniors, amateur and professionals. There are events for cutters, reiners, show, draft horses, mules, working cow horses, hunters and jumpers. The National Western and its fans love horses.
There are also two big prize money jumping events that are the hottest tickets in town. The $10,000 Gamblers Choice Open Jumper and the $40,000 Grand Prix are two of the most sought after tickets at the Stock Show. They have a loyal and knowledgeable fan base and attract the top riders and horses from across the country.
Although, at their core, the two events are similar in that they both involve jumping and attract the same riders, that is where the similarity ends. The Gambler’s Choice course has fences of various height, difficulty and points. They can be jumped in any order or direction. A single fence can even be jumped twice. At the end of the allotted 60 seconds the rider may elect to jump the Joker Fence. The formidable Joker is 5-1/2-feet tall with close set rails. The Joker is worth 200 points for a successful jump and minus 200 for an unsuccessful attempt. It seems fairly unorganized, but takes a lot of skill and the fans love it.
The $40,000 Grand Prix is the total opposite. It is formal and structured. The judges and officials wear tuxedos and formal attire. The pattern and direction of the course are set and everyone rides it the same way. All of the 12 jumps have a similar height of 1.35 to 1.45 meters. There are varying degrees of difficulty, but not to the extent of the Gamblers Choice.
The Grand Prix is a timed event with faults awarded for touches and refusals. In the event that there are multiple clean rounds a jump-off is held. This is also a big money event with a $40,000 prize pool and big money attracts top riders and winning horses.
Anyone familiar with the jumping competitions at the National Western Stock Show knows the name Cudmore. Karen Cudmore and her daughter Brooke from Omaha, Neb., have competed and won at the Stock Show for many years. They did very well at the Gamblers Choice this year, with Karen Cudmore taking First and Eighth and her daughter, Brooke, taking Seventh.
Unfortunately, the Cudmores did not do as well in the $40,000 Grand Prix, with Karen Cudmore the only money winner and she finished in Eighth. The overwhelming winners in the $40,000 Grand Prix were Christian Heineking and his fiancée, Erin Davis.
The Course Designer this year was Greg Counti of Canada. “This is my first time at the National Western Stock Show. Great town and a great facility. We have a super crowd and I’m just having a wonderful time. I hope that they will invite me back,” said Greg Counti.
Counti set an Olympic style course that was 490 meters long with 12 obstacles and 15 efforts. The time allowed was 84 seconds and the time limit was 168 seconds. Counti said, “I’m pleased with the course and the level of difficulty. There are 31 in the field and I am expecting 10 to 12 in the jump-off.” He was a little over optimistic as only five horses made it through to the jump-off.
On Target, ridden by Erin Davis; River of Dreams, ridden by Christian Heineking; Washington, ridden by Allison Kroff; October Hills Concho, ridden by Erin Davis; and NKH Selena, ridden by Christian Heineking were the only entrants to make the final jump-off.
As the final ride of the jump-off, Christian Heineking was competing with himself to determine the overall winner of the $40,000 Grand Prix which was sponsored by Big-O Tires. The final placing was Christian Heineking, First Place on River of Dreams; Erin Davis, Second Place riding On Target; Christian Heineking, Third Place riding NKH Selena; Erin Davis, Fourth Place riding October Hill’s Concho; and Allison Kroff, Fifth Place on Washington.
Christian Heineking took home 43 percent of the prize money and Erin Davis won 30 percent. Between the two of them 73 percent of the prize purse went home to Texas with them.
Christian Heineking is currently the Head Trainer, specializing in Hunter-Jumpers, at the North Texas Equine Center. “I like the Stock Show. This is my fourth year and I think it’s a great show. It’s a great start for my horses after a winter break. I’m excited to come and even more excited to win the class. My fiancée Erin [Davis], she took second, I took third, and she took forth again, it can’t get much better for us,” said Christian Heineking.
Erin Davis is the Owner, Vice President of Operations, and Head Trainer at October Hill Farm. “I was second and fourth. I was too slow and too slow. I bought this horse (On Target) in Holland when he was 5-years-old and he is 16 now. The gray horse (Concho) that I was fourth on, I bred and raised him from a baby. He is 10-years-old now, so I’ve broken and trained him. It’s been a lot of work — sometimes you have to make your own because you can’t go buy them,” said Erin Davis.
It does not matter if you are cowboy to the core and know nothing but ranch horses, everyone likes to watch a great horse in motion and doing what it does best. When the 108th National Western Stock Show comes around in 2014, make certain that you are at the Event Center watching the Jumpers at the $10,000 Gamblers Choice and the $40,000 Grand Prix. ❖