Chris Dawson and Travelin Jonez Capture 2013 NRCHA Derby Open Championship

Dawson has won every 2013 NRCHA Premier Limited-Age Event title to date

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Chris Dawson, Jacksboro, Texas, rode into the National Reined Cow Horse Association record books when he piloted Travelin Jonez (Smart Chic Olena x Travelin With Sass x Travalena) to the NRCHA Jack and Phoebe Cooke Memorial Derby Championship Saturday, June 15 in Paso Robles, Calif. Dawson has won all four NRCHA Premier Limited-Age Event Championships thus far in 2013; three of them aboard Travelin Jonez.

The 5-year-old stallion, who Dawson owns, claimed the Derby title by an 8-point margin, scoring a combined 670.5. (219.5 herd/223 rein/228 cow), and winning both the rein work and cow work rounds on his way to the $35,465 Championship check.

Dawson also won a Bob’s Custom Saddle and Gist buckle from the NRCHA; a pair of boots from Rios of Mercedes; a $50 gift certificate and cooler from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies; a fleece blanket from Back On Track; and a gift certificate from Platinum Performance.

“It’s unreal. I’m in shock right now. I’m in complete shock,” Dawson said.

The 31-year-old horseman struggled for words to express his feelings about achieving a dream he had hardly dared to think about, let alone speak of.  “I never talked about it, but I thought, ‘Man, how cool would it be if you could win all four majors?’ And that was as far as it got. I didn’t’ even say it out loud to anybody. And son of a gun, we got ‘er done, and it’s unbelievable!”

In January, Dawson and Travelin Jonez claimed the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby title in San Angelo, Texas. Dawson also was the Reserve Champion there aboard A Spoonful O Sugar (Hes A Peptospoonful x Poco Smokum Oak x Smokum Oak), owned by Cryin Coyote Ranch. At the end of March, Dawson and Travelin Jonez won the NRCHA Stakes Championship in Las Vegas, Nev. A month later, in Pueblo, Colo., Dawson and A Spoonful O Sugar captured the NRCHA Hackamore Classic Championship, and Dawson took the Reserve Championship on Travelin Jonez.

Dawson brought three Derby horses to Paso Robles and qualified all of them for the finals. He placed 10th aboard Travelin Jonez’s half-brother, Callme Mister Mister (Mister Dual Pep x Travelin With Sass x Travalena), a 4-year-old gelding owned by Stephen Roseberry, earning $5,600. A Spoonful O Sugar also made the Derby Open finals, but she lost a cow in the herd work and Dawson scratched her from the remaining two events.

“She was the only horse that beat [Travelin Jonez] all year, and she had some rough luck here,” Dawson said.

By contrast, fortune smiled on Travelin Jonez throughout the finals. Showing in the hackamore. “TJ” turned in a 219.5 performance in the herd work, placing him fourth on the results sheet. Then, the bay stallion won the rein work round with a 223, the same score he marked in that event during the prelims.

“He was really good in the reining; as good as he’s been all year. To mark a pair of 223′s in the go-round and finals – that’s the highest he’s ever marked in his life, and that’s his weakest event,” Dawson said.

Going into the fence work, TJ was in second place behind PRF Spoonful Of Gold (Hes A Peptospoonful x Sons Miss Sprat x Sons Rushette), shown by Corey Cushing. Dawson and TJ were fourth to work in the first set. The cow tested them on the end, and then showed plenty of speed down the wall. Travelin Jonez responded with alacrity, rating in perfect position and engulfing the cow with one dirt-spraying turn in each direction.

“I never felt anything like it,” Dawson said. He intended to turn the cow once more on the fence before circling, but Travelin Jonez had other ideas. “I wanted to go for a third turn, and I swear, he told me ‘Partner, you just sit up there and sit still. We’re gonna go circle this rascal,’ and I just held on for the ride.”

Dawson was awestruck by the caliber of horses and horsemen in the finals; of the 20 Derby Open finalists, 10 of them scored a 218 or above in the fence work, demonstrating impressive control against a pen of  consistently fast and challenging cattle.

“It was a great cow work final. There were so many good horses, and so many good guys.[NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman] Ronnie Richards came up to me after I got done and gave me the  biggest compliment I’ve ever had. He says, ‘You know, I’ve been around a long time, and that was as good a cow work as I’ve ever seen.’ That’s something right there. It’s just incredible to be in that company, and be four-for-four,” Dawson said. “The things I’ve learned, and the quality of horsemen in this deal – I can’t stress that enough. I feel like a little kid kicking the dirt around them. It’s a real honor to be in this group of guys.”

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