The 2020 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel was expecting a subdued look and feel. The Oklahoma State Fair implemented new protocols because of COVID-19. This included increased stall spacing, face mask requirements for staff, mandatory social distancing, and closing the event to the public.
All those measures were followed, but as the event unfolded it became clear that there was nothing subdued about the size of the show or the quality of the competition. The 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel became the largest in NRHA history. Not only was there a record number of horses, riders, and entries, the total purse for the show was also record-breaking, surpassing $1.1 million.
The combined payout for the Open and Non Pro Derbies set another record at $1,012,581. The Non Pro Derby had an all-time high payout of $354,620. The Open Derby had the third-highest payout in history, awarding $657,961.
“Our members were very happy that we were able to have this show and their enthusiasm was felt throughout,” said NRHA President Mike Hancock. “Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the exhibitors for their spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. Not only was it a huge show – it was a great one!”
That off-the-charts momentum continued in the Adequan® Arena, where the traditional horse show classes sometimes went well into the night or even the early hours of the next morning. NRHA Events Manager Cheryl Cody said, “When the unprecedented entries became apparent for the first weekend, we were able to shorten two extremely long days by showing concurrently in Arena 6. Once the Derby competition began, we could not do that. Thanks to the commitment of our staff and officials and the cooperation of our exhibitors, we were able to get through those incredibly long days.”
In 2020, there were 1,433 stalls filled – another record. That translated to 820 horses actually entered in the show – up from 664 last year.
The number of riders competing at the event rose substantially as well, going from 499 in 2019 to 637 this year. All that equated to record entry numbers, up to 3,301 entries from 2,750 the previous year.
The huge show led to several career achievements, including three unofficial millionaire milestones. Andrea Fappani’s Open win in the Adequan® Arena early in the week made Rancho Oso Rio LLC an NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner. When Jason Vanlandingham won the Level 4 Open Derby Championship on Saturday evening on A Vintage Smoke, he surpassed the NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider mark in earnings, and his horse’s sire, A Sparkling Vintage, became an NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire.
Founded in 1966, NRHA is an organization dedicated to promoting the reining horse, encouraging all levels of reining competition, and providing worthwhile purses. NRHA takes pride in offering revolutionary programs and top-notch events for its members while providing a fun-filled, family-oriented atmosphere. More information on its shows and programs, like Entry Level Reining, can be found at nrha.com.