When Mark Bugni prepared JL Roc Lost A Sock, owned and bred by Jill Lane Quarter Horses, for his round two run at the Royal Crown Race hosted by South Buckeye Equestrian Center, Bugni knew he had a laudable win streak to defend aboard a capable mount, but he also knew he faced a stacked field. Held February 14-20 in Buckeye, Arizona, the Royal Crown is designed to award the owners, enrolled stallion owners and the breeders, a format which attracted 150 Royal Crown eligible entries to the ultra-competitive $75,000-added futurity.
After winning second in round one to Kassie Mowry’s 17.144 aboard Michael Boone’s 2018 brown gelding Force The Goodbye, Bugni and “Mighty Mo” came back in round two with a blazing first-place time of 17.023. Bugni and Mo’s total on two of 34.173 cinched fastest aggregate honors to bank them $27,872 in the futurity, plus another $4,925 in Senior and Open earnings. Bugni and Mo’s Royal Crown earnings totaled $32,797 and represented their third straight Arizona futurity victory in the span of just a few weeks—an incredible streak that began at the MVP where Bugni and Mo swept the competition and ran a 16.750 on a standard. Their second victory was earned just a week later at the prestigious Greg Olson Futurity.
“In his last eight runs, Mo has won five firsts and three seconds,” said Bugni when asked about Mo’s red-hot win record. “I’m very pleased with his consistency and ability to stay focused and solid.”
Together Bugni and Mo have accrued an amazing $89,000 since Mo’s futurity debut at the Barrel Futurities of America World Championships in Oklahoma this past November. Bugni says the gelding was running with a bit of a “shy and reserved” attitude at that point in time but has clearly gained momentum as his futurity career evolves under Bugni’s thoughtful guidance.
“I got Mo in my program exactly one year ago from Jill Lane, his owner and breeder, who had started him on the pattern but had kind of gotten to a point where she hit a bit of a roadblock,” said Bugni. “Jill had me ride him and when I did, I just felt something in him to where I told Jill I thought I’d really like to have him in my program, and it’s been a blessing that she trusted me to take him home and leave him in my care. For some horses, all the talent can be there, but it has to come together for them mentally as well as physically, so one of the top priorities has been building his confidence by being patient and extending him some grace in the training process.”
Mo is sired by Lane’s 2007 sorrel stallion JL Sirocco and out of the Thoroughbred mare Reddy To Rebound by Red. Bugni says the ease with which Mo runs is a trait that the 2017 sorrel gelding has in spades, and one that he has learned to maximum.
“His personality can be overwhelming, but at the same time he has gotten to where he craves the run so much,” said Bugni. “I felt something in him, and my thought process was to take the approach of forgiving a lot of the quirky stuff and to just back off, ease up and lope or trot a while to get him solid when he made a mistake. In that process he started bonding with me, trusting me. I’ve reinforced to him to watch the barrels and do his job and told myself, ‘Don’t pressure him, let him do his job and let him still express his personality.’” He is maturing with every single run and with every run I made [in Arizona] I’ve helped him less and less and it’s just gotten easy. He worked brilliantly at the Royal Crown.”
Bugni says plans for Mo include hauling to the Dixie Classic in Hurricane, Utah, in March; the VGBRA (Valley Girl’s Barrel Racing Association) and Sand Cup futurities taking place in Washington in April, then on to the Ruby Buckle in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and Royal Crown in Waco, Texas. Bugni says he has another colt he will run at Fort Smith in May before pointing his rig northward in the summer.
“Jill has been approached with many offers this year to sell Mo, understandably, but plans are to continue to campaign him for now through the end of this year. It’s so nice to have an owner in Jill who is committed to seeing the journey through, and fortunately this colt has surprised us all beyond what we could have expected or dreamed. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate.”
Bugni, a native of Montana whose training facility is based out of Oklahoma, says he plans to spend summer and fall up north and will likely attend popular aged events like the Fizz Bomb in Wyoming, as well as others in the Dakotas and Montana.
In large part due to lucrative incentive programs like the Royal Crown, Bugni recognizes the added value of keeping and campaigning a superstar like Mo.
“They can run out hundreds of thousands of dollars these days as our industry continues to grow,” said Bugni, “whereas in the past you might’ve been money ahead to sell sooner rather than finish out the season.”
Bugni described Jill Lane Quarter Horse’s role as a breeder and owner of world-class horseflesh as a true blessing, and looks forward to further spotlighting Mo’s talents. He also thanked the capable team at Outlaw Equine Hospital and Rehab Center for keeping his horses healthy and happy, as well as Elite Hoofcare and RodeoRigs.com.
“Rodeo Rigs helped hook me up with a great living quarters trailer, which is so nice especially when you feel like you’re living out of it 90 percent of the time,” he laughed.
Brittany Mayfield rode Jackie Whitcher’s 2017 brown mare Chasin LBJ (Tres Seis x Last Version x Latest Version) to a total on two runs of 34.426 for reserve honors and $21,581 in Royal Crown earnings. Mowry and Force The Goodbye finished third in the aggregate with times of 17.144 and 17.411 (34.585 on two) to earn $19,563, while she rode Dave and Lori Zabel’s 2018 gelding Sir Epic (JL Sirocco x So Very Epic x Epic Leader) to fourth for $17,995. Mowry dominated the $50,000-added Royal Crown Derby aboard the Busby Quarter Horses bred and Michael Boone owned 2015 bay gelding Famous Ladies Man (Dash Ta Fame x Lady Perks x Dash For Perks) for $23,408.
Click HERE for full results of the Royal Crown Race.