The 2021 6666 National Reining Horse Association Derby presented by Markel was a tremendous success by all measurements. The highest payout, plus the largest number of entries and stalls, resulted in a record-breaking mega-event.
It also created real challenges in getting so many horses shown in the allotted time. NRHA Events Manager Cheryl Cody explained, “Our entries grew amazingly. We went from 249 Non Pro entries in the previous year to 302 in 2021. The Open division increased from 247 to 274. In the four days allotted for the Open and Non Pro prelims, we had 80 more entries than in 2020. That was over a 16 percent increase with 576 horses to get shown.”
She continued, “Our officials and staff were faced with more than 150 runs per day in the Non Pro prelims and nearly 140 a day in the Open. Plus, the situation in the Adequan Arena was equally challenging, with comparable growth, so we knew we had to make changes.”
Cody and NRHA Commissioner Gary Carpenter met with the Oklahoma State Fair officials, Bill Allen, Vice President, Jim Norick Arena & Equine Facilities; Jonathan Fisher, Director of Jim Norick Arena and Equine Facilities; and incoming Oklahoma State Fair Executive Vice President Kirk Slaughter to work on the problem. Through those meetings, they were able to add two days to the Derby preliminaries and three days to the Adequan Arena classes.
Horses will now be allowed to move into the Derby at noon on Tuesday, June 14, and classes will begin on Wednesday, June 15, in the Adequan Arena with the first section of the American Quarter Horse Association and American Paint Horse Association classes. The show will continue through June 26.
The preliminaries of the Non Pro Derby will begin on Friday, June 17, and go through Sunday, June 19. The next day signals the start of three days of Open preliminaries.
Carpenter noted, “As our growth continues to amaze us in a positive sense, it also creates scheduling challenges. The State Fair staff and leadership have gone out of their way to be innovative in helping us through these record-setting shows.”