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DNCFR Horse Power
by Jolee Lautaret
3/16/10
Kristie Peterson and Bozo are the leading team of the DNCFR, having won four titles in 1992, 1994-95 and 1998. Photo by Dan Hubbell.

In many ways, the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo stands alone in the world of professional rodeo.

It is truly a unique event, the only time contestants compete for individual and team titles. The only rodeo in which contestants have only two chances to qualify, either by winning their circuit's year end title or winning the average at their circuit finals rodeo. A chance for weekend warriors to claim national championships.

Twenty-three years after the first event in 1987, the DNCFR is still hosted by the tremendous community of Pocatello and is one of the most prestigious titles in rodeo.

Eighteen ladies and 20 horses have had their names etched in the history books as champion. They have come from every corner of the nation, from World Champions to circuit stand-outs, riding horses bred from barrel racing royalty and from obscurity.

Maybe the only thing that hasn't changed is the venue. The DNCFR has always been held in Holt Arena, on the campus of Idaho State University. Pocatello resident and former DNCFR contestant Mary Aller and her husband have always set the pattern for the barrel race. And while the arena changes, it is portable and set up each year, the pattern has been darn near the same every year.

"It might have been six inches or so off," Aller laughs, "but we try to make it as close as possible to the same from year to year."

It is fitting that the first WPRA champion of the DNCFR was the undisputable number one team of the sport of barrel racing: the legendary duo of Charmayne James and Gills Bay Boy, better known as Scamper.

"Everyone was excited," James remembers of the first year. "It was a big deal though no one knew what would come of it."

The event soon proved itself. James collected $3,886, a considerable sum for a single rodeo that was not the National Finals Rodeo. James' final round time of 15.30 seconds was worth $1,948 and was one more prestigious win in Scamper's legendary career.

"Right from the beginning, it was a good rodeo, it paid good," says James. "That kind of money was such a bonus for those of us who were hauling as their livelihood."

Though designed to be a championship for circuit competitors, the DNCFR has attracted the sport's elite from the beginning as well. In fact, it took until the third year, 1989 for a "true" circuit competitor to take top honors, following World Champion James and perennial NFR qualifier Deb Mohon and her horse Special Agreement, "Brown," in 1988.

Badlands' circuit cowgirl Mary Bonogofsky took the title in 1989, collecting $6,604, a record at that point. Bonogofsky rode a mare, one of only two to win the DNCFR title, whose lineage would become well known by barrel racers in the future. Lady Lord's dam is Frenchmans Lady, also the dam of Frenchmans Guy.

The concept of competing as a member of a team was new but one that most competitors list as a reason they love to compete at the DNCFR. Over the years, members of the winning team have won additional prize money and awards. Three ladies have won the barrel racing in the same year that their circuit won the team competition: Bonogofsky (Badlands), Myllymaki (Montana), and Kelli Fletcher-Currin (Columbia River) in a three year run from 1989 to 1991.

In 1992 a relative newcomer to the sport emerged as the champion in Pocatello. French Flash Hawk, a 5-year old ¾ brother to Frenchmans Guy, shocked the rodeo world by claiming the DNCFR championship and winning a record $10,559. Bozo is the youngest horse to win the DNCFR title and while Bozo and his jockey, Kristie Peterson, would soon be well known by fans of rodeo, in 1992 Bozo was a derby horse just getting his feet wet in the rodeo arena. They went on to the NFR the next year and eventually won four World titles but Peterson would always have a soft spot for the DNCFR.

"I love Pocatello," Peterson says. "It is so much fun, there is always a big crowd and the whole town is glad you are there."

Peterson and Bozo are the leading team of the DNCFR, having won four titles in 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1998. Bozo is the only horse to win more than once. Peterson has won over $60K in career earnings in the Holt Arena, including two years (1995 and 1998) where she won over $15K.

"It was a goal of mine to go every year," Peterson explains. "(Husband) Chuck has family there so we stay with them and have a great time. And it paid so good."

Bozo definitely handled the challenges of the format which Peterson said was "exciting and new," with the sudden death semi-finals and finals.

Rachael Myllymaki has quietly notched a DNCFR career to envy as well. Myllymaki has won the DNCFR title twice on two different horses. Her first title came in 1990 aboard Ms. Wayne Page, the only other mare to win in Pocatello and the same horse who took her to her first NFR in 1988. Myllymaki was just 13 at the time but already a veteran of the sport.

In 1999, Myllymaki came back for a second title aboard Mr. Wonderful, owned by her mom, Judy. Sweeping through the pattern in 15.19 in the championship round, Myllymaki collected $9,504 for the rodeo.

Myllymaki always seems to find her way to the pay window in Pocatello. She has been reserve champion on three occasions, including in 2008, riding her mare Give Me a Wink, a daughter of Ms. Wayne Page. Her total DNCFR career earnings top $55K.

Only one other contestant has claimed more than a single DNCFR title. In 1996, three years after Scamper's last run at the NFR, Charmayne James made her way into the spotlight at Pocatello once again. Riding for the Sierra (California) Circuit, James rode her big paint horse, Bold Bars Top Man "Magic," to victory.

Fletcher-Currin holds the distinction of being the only lady to win the DNCFR championship riding a stallion. Captain Biankus took her to two NFRs in addition to the title in Pocatello. Fletcher-Currin's victory was something of a wedding gift as she married husband Tony just following the DNCFR.

Fletcher-Currin also was part of the only tie in the championship round in the DNCFR's history. Chrissy Peifer of the First Frontier Circuit ran an identical final round time of 15.56 but lost the chance to be the only First Frontier Circuit barrel racer thus far to win the DNCFR by just two one-hundredths in the semi-finals, the basis for the tie breaker.

"I remember, I didn't really place that high in the rounds and had considered going home because I didn't think I would make the cut," says Fletcher-Currin. "Then I made it and actually won. It was a great experience and confirmed to me to never give up no matter how bleak it may look."

Sherry Cervi's 2000 DNCFR title aboard Jet Royal Speed, "Hawk" could have been called unfinished business. Cervi had claimed the two opening rounds, average, and semi-final victories in 1996 before being bested by James in the championship. That year, Hawk set an arena record running a 14.92 and collecting an event and rodeo best $20,418. It wasn't until 2000 that Cervi and Hawk came back and took the title and $21,161, more than any other contestant. At 16, Hawk is the oldest horse to win the title.

Prairie Circuit and NFR competitor Delores Toole won the title the following year. Riding Paa Rocket, Toole won $14,642. Unique to 2001, the winner of the DNCFR received a spot on the U.S. team competing at the Cultural Olympiad in conjunction with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Only one unregistered horse has won DNCFR gold. In 2002 Columbia River Circuit cowgirl Tara Polich took her great grade gelding Kirby through the pattern for $11,217. Polich just missed a repeat, finishing second the next year to champion Sheri Sinor-Estrada.

Sinor-Estrada is one of three Turquoise Circuit contestants to win the title (James and Cervi) and did so aboard her Beduino and Easy Jet bred gelding Ali B Kat. Sinor-Estrada won $8,532.

The Mountain States Circuit claims the most DNCFR champion barrel racers with five - Peterson's four and Shali Lord, who won the title aboard Cashin Ease or Cowboy in 2007.

Montana is second with four titles, two earned by Myllymaki, and a 2005 victory by Shelly Anzick and 2008 by Shelley Murphy. Anzick rode her great bay gelding Harneys Last Look "Buster," while Murphy was aboard Mighty Classy Flight or "Flick." Murphy holds the arena record with her 14.84 second championship run.

The Columbia River Circuit has three titles with Fletcher-Currin, Polich, and the most recent champ, Barb West. West claimed the title in 2009 riding her sorrel gelding, Scottie Too Hottie.

Texas has two champions to its credit with Mohon and Kay Blandford. Blandford rode The Key Grip, better known as Llave, to the title in 1997. She collected $20,555.

The Great Lakes boasts one DNCFR champion, the very first barrel racer to receive the use of a brand new Dodge truck for winning the title. In 2006, Lisa Novak and Cash N Blue shocked the competition with their big win. Novak and her 13-year old gelding won $5,850.

On the Money Red sired many barrel racing winners in the 1990's, maybe none as famous as Speed Money or "Bumper," ridden by Sharon Smith at several NFR's. Smith and Bumper are the lone Southeastern Circuit barrel racing winners, taking the DNCFR title in 1993.

Dash Ta Fame bred horses are invading every aspect of the barrel racing world but, surprisingly, only one has topped the pack at the DNCFR, Maine Dash ta Fame, ridden by Terri Wood Gates of the Wilderness Circuit. Wood-Gates and Spence took the championship in 2004, winning over $15K.

Sidebar
DNCFR Champions and their horses:
1987-Charmayne James (Turquoise) - Gills Bay Boy "Scamper"
1988-Deb Mohon (Texas) - Special Agreement "Brown"
1989-Mary Bonogofsky (Badlands) - Lady Lord
1990-Rachel Myllymaki (Montana) - Ms. Wayne Page
1991-Kelli Currin (Columbia River) - Captain Biankus
1992-Krisite Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash Hawk "Bozo"
1993-Sharon Smith (Southeastern) - Speed Money "Bumper"
1994-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash Hawk "Bozo"
1995-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash Hawk "Bozo"
1996-Charmayne James (California) - Bold Bars Top Man "Magic"
1997-Kay Blandford (Texas) - The Key Grip "Llave"
1998-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash Hawk "Bozo"
1999-Rachael Myllymaki (Montana) - Mr. Wonderful
2000-Sherry Cervi (Turquoise) - Jet Royal Speed, "Hawk"
2001-Delores Toole (Prairie) - Riding Paa Rocket
2002-Tara Polich (Columbia River) - Kirby
2003-Sheri Sinor-Estrada (Turquoise) - Ali B Kat
2004-Terri Wood-Gates (Wilderness) - Maine Dash ta Fame "Spence"
2005-Shelly Anzick (Montana) - Harneys Last Look "Buster"
2006-Lisa Novak (Great Lakes) - Cash N Blue
2007-Shali Lord (Mountain States) - Cashin Ease "Cowboy"
2008-Shelley Murphy (Montana) - Mighty Classy Flight "Flick"
2009-Barb West (Columbia River) - Scottie Too Hottie

 




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