Molly Russell Wins Futurity Amateur Championship on TF Cats Lilypad


It has been six years since Molly Russell showed a 3-year-old at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity, and her return to Futurity competition yielded thrilling results today. She piloted her gelding, TF Cats Lilypad (Cats Merada x RM Lily Langtree), to the Amateur Championship and also made the finals in the Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro divisions. The Futurity Amateur is decided by the scores in the preliminary go-round, which concluded today for Non Pro competitors.

“It’s been overwhelming! Lots of fun and overwhelming. It’s exciting to have a great horse, some good luck and good support,” Russell said. “In the herd work, he was very soft and really cowy. We had a good work on our first cow. The second cow was tougher and I had a miss, but he was honest and he was even. In the rein work, he felt like he was floating. He was a good boy. In today’s fence work, he felt like he was ready to play the game. The cow came out, we boxed, and we were in the right position and just got down the fence.”

The Creston, Calif., horsewoman scored a 207 in the herd work, a 214 in the rein work and 215 in the cow work. Her total 636 composite score came with a check for $4,784, a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Larry and Ellen Bell, a Gist buckle from Rancho Valiente/Missy Capone, a C.R. Morrison Trophy from NRCHA, a fleece cooler from Classic Equine, a monogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/New West Country Store, Platinum Performance sponsored by Doug Herthel, a CR Morrison Commemorative Medallion from NRCHA and a set of Les Vogt “Cowhorse U” training videos from Les Vogt.

Russell discovered her passion for cow horses shortly after she graduated college. She bought TF Cats Lilypad, nicknamed “Peso,” from Buellton, Calif., trainer Tina Fry in January. She finished his training herself with help from her coach of 15 years, Paso Robles, Calif., professional Mark Luis.

“He’s the best coach – especially down the fence,” Russell said.

She and Luis had a strategy in place before she entered the arena for today’s cow work.

“These cattle are good, but if you’re a little behind, or late, or make a mistake, they’re not very forgiving,” Luis said. “I told her to be in position, go get a turn, another turn, and circle – as simple as possible. We went with the black-and-white theory and it worked. She did a great job.”

Russell, the daughter-in-law of NRCHA Cattle Manager Pat Russell, plans to continue showing TF Cats Lilypad in next year’s derbies.

The Futurity Amateur Reserve Champion was Garth Gardiner, Ashland, Kans., riding Wisha Pona Star (Soula Jule Star x Tesigner Jeans x Tesigned). Gardiner piloted the mare to a total score of 624.5, earning $3,744 and taking home a Gist buckle sponsored by Rocking J Ranch, in memory of Barbara Hastings, a Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/New West Country Store, Platinum Performance sponsored by Doug Herthel, a C.R. Morrison Medallion from NRCHA, and “Cow Horse U” training videos from Les Vogt. Gardiner also secured a spot in the Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro finals.

The National Reined Cow Horse Association, now in its 62nd year, is the governing body of cow horse competition. It is responsible for promoting the sport, ensuring high standards of competition and educating members and the public about the history and tradition of reined cow horses. With the support of a Corporate Partner family that includes Bob's Custom Saddles, Boehringer Ingelheim, Cinch, Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, John Deere, Markel Insurance Company, Platinum Performance, Quarter Horse News, Rios of Mercedes, Santa Cruz Biotechnologies, Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino, Bloomer Trailers and Schwalbe Trucks presented by Great West Trailers, and Merial products UlcerGard and Equioxx, the association works to keep the vaquero tradition alive in today's equine industry. For information on the National Reined Cow Horse Association, call 580-759-4949 or visit the official NRCHA web site at