Peterson and Bozo are the leading team of the DNCFR,
having won four titles in 1992, 1994-95 and 1998.
Photo by Dan Hubbell.
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
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
"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,"
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
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,"
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
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
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
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.
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
1993-Sharon Smith (Southeastern) - Speed Money "Bumper"
1994-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash
1995-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash
1996-Charmayne James (California) - Bold Bars Top Man
1997-Kay Blandford (Texas) - The Key Grip "Llave"
1998-Kristie Peterson (Mountain States) - French Flash
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
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
2009-Barb West (Columbia River) - Scottie Too Hottie