Editor’s Note: Junior Nogueira and writer Chelsea Shaffer BOTH forgot that Nogueira was riding Green Card when he was 3.32 in the long round of RFD-TV’s The American in 2018. So while the original version of this article stated that he was the only horse to have been 3.3 three times, he has actually been 3.3 FOUR times.
There might not be anything particularly special about Junior Nogueira’s 2006 black gelding he calls Green Card.
Not a fancy stop, not a fancy corner and not a fancy look. But Peppers Homespun Kid, the son of Pepper Joe Hancock out of Uno Bar Girl by The Crimson Cowboy, is the only heel horse in history to hold the distinction of making four 3.3-second, world-record runs in competition.
“It’s weird, honestly,” Nogueira, 31, said. “He’s good to go fast on, but that’s not really the answer how he does it. He’s not Jackyl or Switchblade or Hali or Timon, but he lets me do my job and when he hits that spot, he’s amazing.”
Aboard Green Card Nogueira built his career—winning the American, two of ProRodeo’s regular seasons, USTRC’s Open Shootout, the 3S Services Open Shootout and two Spicer Gripp Memorial Ropings. And at 16, he’s not done yet.
The World Series ‘Start’
Green Card started out as a World Series of Team Roping jackpot heel horse for producer James Watson, who used him for everything from sorting cattle to breaking in freshies and flagging ropings.
“He was a little bit of an outlaw at first,” Watson remembered. “You couldn’t catch him in the pasture, and he was kind of wild. He became just a heel horse, and there wasn’t anything fancy about him. But I rode him at the World Series of Team Roping Finale, and I even won money on him there.”
Watson had known the Brazilian heeler since Nogueira first came to the States to help Robbie Schroeder years ago. So even though Watson wasn’t wanting to sell the horse, he gave in because he liked Nogueira.
“He had lots of jackpot experience,” Nogueira said. “But no rodeo experience. I worked on getting him a little more broke, but mostly I wanted to leave him alone because he was so patterned and knew his job.”
Nogueira heeled behind JoJo Lemond at his second Finals in 2015 after Jake Barnes got hurt days before the NFR, and they placed in eight rounds with Nogueira riding Green Card.
“That horse just stays out of Junior’s way,” Watson said. “He’s so easy to ride and so forgiving. He don’t ever try to take a throw away from you and he does the same thing over and over. He has to be honest the way Junior throws so fast.”
Nogueira roped in the ERA in 2016, and he and Kaleb Driggers paired up mid-summer to dominate the regular-season ProRodeos they entered. Green Card’s talents were on full display in a variety of setups throughout the year, sharing time with Nogueira’s AQHA World Champion Apache R Hali and helping set Nogueira up for his All-Around gold buckle that year.
Months before the 2016 Finals, Driggers and Nogueira went to a jackpot called The Gambler, hosted by Anthony Lucia and Austin Robertson at Robertson Hill Ranch. That’s where Green Card really got to shine, making his first 3.3-second run behind Driggers.
Fast forward to 2017, when Driggers and Nogueira were again in the gold-buckle hunt. They’d faltered earlier in the week, and needed to go fast by Round 9—notoriously the fastest night of NFR team roping annually with the softest set of cattle.
“It happened so fast,” Nogueira said. “It was crazy. I pulled back and undallied. The clock was still ticking, and running in the 2’s when I looked up. I should not have looked at the clock. Because when it stopped at 3.3, I got too excited, and went crazy. Green Card swung his butt under my legs and spun around.”
“I was happy and starting to celebrate, and next thing I know I’m looking up at the roof of the Thomas & Mack. I was embarrassed, but I was so happy. I had watched Chad and Jade be 3.3 over and over before I even came to America. So I made the best run of my life, then I fell off. But at least I landed on my feet. I just laughed about it.”
Nogueira actually forgot that he won RFD-TV’s $100,000-a-man American payday on Green Card—making a 3.32-second run in the event’s long round.
“I can’t BELIEVE I forgot this one,” Nogueira laughed after a TRJ reader pointed out the mistake… For a little bit I was thinking I might have to throw on the wrong side but I brought him back and took one more. It was so fast, I didn’t want to miss. We had to be fast and make a clean run. I wanted to let him go straight. But as soon as Kaleb reached he followed him. On that run, Green Card didn’t follow very good, but I know him very well. Luckily he’s strong on the saddle horn and I had a good dally.”
Coincidentally, Driggers was aboard the same horse he rode in Las Vegas to be 3.3—Dre—who he eventually allowed Clay Tryan’s boys to jackpot on and is now retired at Driggers’ house in Stephenville.
The Timed Event Challenge
While Green Card has spent the better part of the last three years playing second-fiddle to Nogueira’s Timon, Nogueira has kept the horse in shape and tuned up in the practice pen, ready to go when needed. Nogueira had sold some younger horses, and he had an open spot on his dance card for the 2022 Western Horseman Timed Event Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, held after the AQHA show for ropers to highlight just how fast they can go on their good ones.
Driggers and Nogueira won first and second in the event and about $10,000, with Nogueira riding Green Card for their first-place, 3.31-second check.
“He’s not done yet,” Nogueira said. “I’m trying to get young horses going, but I can still ride him and Hali if I need to. He’s in good shape, and the young horses are my priority, but I’m always grateful for Green Card and what he’s done for me and my family.” TRJ