Non-Pro champion Jeff Byars on MK CD High Roller. Hart Photography.
The NCHA 6666 Eastern Nationals wrapped up on Friday, March 17, in Jackson, Miss., with the Non-Pro and the $50,000 Amateur Finals. Jeff Byars, Town Creek, Ala., won the Non-Pro championship with 215 points on MK CD High Roller, by CD Olena; Kenneth Warner, Clover, S.C., also scored 215 points to win the $50,000 Amateur championship riding That Kotn Pikn Pepto, by One Time Pepto.
Non-Pro reserve champion Blake Graham on Legal Dream
The Non-Pro reserve championship and the $50,000 Amateur reserve championship went, respectively, to Blake Graham, Rockledge, Ga., and Butch Johnson, Perrin, Tex., each with scores of 214.5 points. Graham rode Legal Dream, by Dual Rey, while Johnson showed Lil Rey Prince, by TR Dual Rey.
Page Bowman, Simpsonville, KY, on Tom E Boy, and Cameron Thompson, Crossville, Tenn., on Hard Eight BBQ, tied with 214 points to split third and fourth places in the Non-Pro Finals. While Michelle Marshall, Okeehcobee, Fla., on Catch A Starlight, and Kristal Vaughn, Forsyth, Ga., also tied with 214 points, to split third and fourth places in the $50,000 Amateur Finals.
This was Non-Pro champion Jeff Byars’ first time to win a division of the NCHA Eastern Nationals and his third time to qualify. However, MK CD High Roller LTE $110,112, owned by Jeff’s son, Lew Byars, is a nine-time Eastern Nationals finalist. The 13-year-old gelding was a 2016 Non-Pro finalist with Jeff in 2016, and has also carried Lew in seven non-pro and amateur division finals, as well. MK CD High Roller and Lew also won the 2015 NCHA World Finals $50,000 Amateur championship and placed in this year’s NCHA Eastern Nationals $50,000 Amateur Finals.
The Non-Pro Finals counted as reserve champion Blake Graham’s third finals appearance in this year’s NCHA Eastern Nationals. Graham also showed DMAC Cheshire Cat in the $25,000 Novice Non-Pro Finals, as well as Legal Dream in the Senior Youth Finals. In addition, Graham kicked off his 2017 show season by winning the Augusta Futurity Amateur Unlimited on 4-year-old Zacks Smoothie.
Legal Dream, by Dual Rey out of Short Candy LTE $132,953, is a full brother to Dr Cruzin LTE $112,312, who tied for sixth place in this week’s NCHA Eastern Nationals $35,000 Non-Pro Finals with Tom Murrell.
$50,000 Amateur champion Kenneth Warner on That Kotn Pikn Pepto.
Kenneth Warner’s mount, That Kotn Pikn Pepto LTE $27,106, “warmed up” for the $50,000 Amateur division by qualifying, on the first day of Eastern Nationals competition, for the $25,000 Novice Finals with 220 points under Gabe Reynolds. One week later, Warner showed the 6-year-old mare to qualify for the $25,000 Novice Non-Pro Finals. Warner, with NCHA lifetime earnings of $6,295 prior to the Eastern Nationals, placed with Faith In My Kat earlier this year, in the 2017 Augusta Futurity Amateur Unlimited 5/6 division.
$50,000 Amateur reserve champion Butch Johnson.
Butch Johnson earned his first big check ($18,229) when he placed third in the 2004 NCHA Futurity Amateur Finals and had accumulated $159,361 in NCHA lifetime earnings before coming into this year’s NCHA Eastern Nationals with Lil Prince Rey. Last year, Johnson placed third in the Non-Pro Finals of the NCHA Western Nationals riding Scooters Light, who also carried him to the Non-Pro Finals of the Eastern Nationals that year.
Seven-year-old Lil Prince Rey LTE $9,169 was bred by Butch and Wendy Johnson. Wendy showed Lil Prince Rey’s dam, Lil Shea Lena LTE $21,693, as well as his three-quarter sister, Lily Shea Rey $LTE $106,423. Wendy also won the 2015 NCHA Eastern Nationals $50,000 Amateur championship on Lily Shea Rey and placed with her in the finals of six other divisions between 2014 and 2016.