There’s something novel about watching, for instance, Dakota Kirchenschlager spin one for Cesar de la Cruz, or watching Trevor Brazile’s training talent stacked head-to-head against J.D. Yates’. Rope-horse fans got it all at the inaugural Badlands Bits & Spurs Futurity in Rapid City, South Dakota, held Saturday in conjunction with the Range Days PRCA Rodeo.

On his jaw-dropping dark buckskin, Tuckin Away Buckles (“Dagger”), and his bay with the bald nose, Rowdy Spook Affair (“Wall Street”), Brazile claimed first and third place in the four-steer average of the 4-year-old heading futurity with 25 entered to earn $14,600 and a new Priefert chute. The bonus? His training partner Miles Baker clinched the reserve title on their other 4-year-old, Blue Gin, and placed in a round on yet another horse for $7,100.

Brazile, now retired from the rodeo arena, has turned his attention fully to training rope horses.

Brazile and American Greed Sweep Heading and Heeling at Inaugural Royal Crown Futurity

“I learn a little bit with each crop of horses,” he said. “They teach me a little bit and I teach them a little bit.”

To Brazile, what’s happening with rope-horse futurities is only the tip of the iceberg. He anticipates big things in this industry over the next couple of years.

“You used to have to know somebody that knew somebody that worked for somebody to get to see a colt like the ones here today,” Brazile said. “And your opinion of a good 4-year-old and my opinion of a good 4-year-old were relative. Now, to see thirty great colts here lets everyone have a better measuring stick and gives people something to work toward.”

Raising the Bar: Rope Horse Programs

In the 4-year-old heeling futurity, John Philipp edged Dakota Kirchenschlager and the field of 30 horses to claim the win on four steers aboard Bill Cappel’s BMC Metallic Gem. He earned $10,200 and a custom-wrapped Priefert chute. It was sweet redemption after Philip had missed to win the Derby on 6-year-old Chulatallic. Philip also landed in fourth place of the futurity on the Smith family’s Kip Boon for another $2,550. The windfall helped ease the pain of the 20-hour drive back to Washington, Texas, with his brother and helper, Shane.

Luke Jones, who was competing in Rapid City and earned Limited money on both ends, raised the Metallic Cat-bred winning mare before she was purchased by Cappel of McCook, Nebraska.

“She’s real quiet but can run at the same time,” said Philipp. “My second steer had outrun a couple of guys and she handled it pretty good. That was my highest score.”

Philipp will show both horses in Fort Worth in October at the ARHFA World Championship Futurity, and he and Shane will show some from their own program. This year’s Philipp Ranch Production Sale is scheduled for October 9 in Bryan, Texas, along with a WSTR jackpot.

Rope Horse Revolution

“I think now we’ll see more guys transition into futurity competition,” Philipp said. “Trevor helps us a lot. Look how good his horses were yesterday. Nothing against the AQHA, but there was no monetary incentive to seasoning. Now, you can go win money on those horses.”

Brazile and Baker pocketed almost $25,000 in Rapid City, then drove all night back to north Texas. What stood out the most about Brazile’s colts was their penchant for working both ends equally well. He’d placed third in the heeling futurity at the recent Royal Crown on Dagger. And yesterday, he and Wall Street also made the short round in the heeling futurity and won it to place fifth overall on that end. The colt made the short round in Rapid City on both ends – and isn’t the best one in the trailer.

“Dagger, I don’t know which end he’s better at,” Brazile said. “And he’s not hard to look at.”

While Blue Gin is cutting-bred, incidentally both colts ridden by Brazile carry Topsail Whiz blood. Dagger’s sire is the 2011 NRHA Futurity reserve champion and his grandsire, Wimpy’s Little Step, is a $12 million Hall-of-Fame reining sire. Brazile didn’t seek that out, but he likes it.

On Trend: Team Ropers Ride Top-Notch Futurity Talent 

“Some horses that are really cow-bred get into almost a fret when they get around cattle, while these horses kind of go to cattle with a different kind of cow; an older-school cow,” he offered.

The “King of the Cowboys” says it’s been both refreshing and maddening to get back to heeling so much, more than 20 years after he gave it up to focus on winning a couple dozen gold buckles in other events. And futurities are a different pressure. It hurts to take a horse out of contention through no fault of its own. Brazile laments missing the first one in Rapid City heeling on Dagger, and said Baker was 30 points ahead on their only derby horse and missed the high-call steer.

“Our horses probably outperformed us at that futurity,” Brazile said. “But that’s good. That’s why we go – to see if they’re headed in the right direction. When you spend day after day on these colts, you hope it’s going well but you can’t know until you put them under fire like that.”

The derby for 5- and 6-year-old horses drew nine or 10 on either end. In heeling, the championship was won by J.D. Gerard on Cory Clark’s 5-year-old This Mate’s Smart by WR This Cat’s Smart, worth $4,050. On the other end, the derby heading title went to Kiel Wilson aboard 5-year-old SonitasLittleDrifter by Little Oakie Cat for $3,150.

Producers Bobby Harris – the former world champion heeler – and J.D. Gerard made clear the Badlands Bits & Spurs will be back again next year.

“In Wyoming they just had the Royal Crown Futurity, so things are really good for young horses in America and we’re just trying to do our part in the northern states,” Harris said. “We’re tickled to have 30 4-year-olds in heeling and 25 in heading. I think we’ve got a gold mine here in the Black Hills and we’ll work on making it better.”

How Brazile Dominated the Royal Crown Rope Horse Futurity 

As for Brazile, he loved how the futurity’s added money was for 4-year-olds and not geared toward 5- and 6-year-olds.

“It was pretty refreshing to see 4-year-olds be the main focus,” he said. “It was one-of-a-kind and went really well, especially for the first year. I think it’ll just grow.”

Roping.com is almost sure to feature upcoming tips from Brazile on making young horses, just because he said, “it’s what every day consists of at my house.” He plans to give subscribers a deeper glimpse into his world in upcoming weeks.

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