RODEO HORSE­POWER: Sherry Cervi’s St­ingray

Sherry Cervi’s world cham­pion mount St­ingray is Cory Pet­ska’s next ace in the hole.

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When Cory Pet­ska wheeled around the cor­ner in round three of the 2017 Bob Feist In­vi­ta­tional, a few peo­ple in the stands whis­pered to one another, “Man, Pet­ska’s on another of Pot­ters’ horses, and that one looks a lot like St­ingray.” But by the fifth round, kids gath­ered around the strip­ping chute to yell, “ST­INGRAY!” as Pet­ska rode out of the pen.

MP Me­ter My Hay, known as St­ingray to any­one who even oc­ca­sion­ally watches bar­rel rac­ing, be­longs to four-time world cham­pion bar­rel racer Sherry Cervi, who also hap­pens to be Pet­ska’s wife. Cervi’s father, Mel Pot­ter, raised the iconic palomino at their ranch in Marana, Ariz., and the now 15-year-old mare was Cervi’s ProRodeo mount for nine years. In her ca­reer, St­ingray car­ried Cervi to the 2010 and 2013 WPRA world ti­tles, set the pre­vi­ous arena record of 13.49 sec­onds at Las Ve­gas’ Thomas & Mack, was voted by the top 15 bar­rel rac­ers as the Horse with the Most Heart in 2013 and has been a big part of Cervi’s record-set­ting $3.2 mil­lion ProRodeo earn­ings.

This win­ter, Cervi de­cided the mare had noth­ing left to prove on the clover­leaf. She went to the breed­ing barn, where they suc­cess­fully flushed an em­bryo to $1.19-mil­lion AQHA rac­ing win­ner Kiss My Hocks (Tempt­ing Dash x Ro­manc­ing Mary, by Tres Seis). Then, Cervi started to leg her back up, but this time, for her hus­band.

“I’ve heeled on her on and off her whole life,” Pet­ska said. “We heeled on her when she was 3. I crip­pled my good horse on the first one (at the BFI), and I tried to ride him on the sec­ond one. He kept get­ting worse. She was the only one we had with us, and I don’t like bor­row­ing horses. I have been want­ing to crack her out any­way, and I fig­ured it would be as good a place as any.”

Luck­ily, Pet­ska’s good one, Chum­lee, just over­reached and should be ready to go as the sum­mer run gets un­der­way, Pet­ska said. But St­ingray will be in the rig, ready to roll when­ever he needs her.

“You don’t have to do any­thing special,” Pet­ska said. “She scores good and she’s got bar­rel horse speed. You just rope. She’s just a touch green. That lit­er­ally was the first rop­ing she’s ever been to. She’s never went any­where for money. She did ev­ery­thing I wanted. She let me catch on her. She scores good and can re­ally run. She’s ac­tu­ally more cowy than my good horse. You can try to run her by and you can’t. She’ll be good in the lit­tle set ups and out­side, too. I wouldn’t be scared to ride her any­where.”

As for Cervi, load­ing St­ingray on the trailer leav­ing Reno head­ing to Santa Fe is a re­lief. She’s rid­ing 11-year-old Ar­son, owned by Tripp DuPerier, at the rodeos this sum­mer.

“My rig doesn’t feel com­plete with­out her in it,” Cervi said. “We’ve al­ways joked about rid­ing her at the same rodeo. Those lit­tle kids who rec­og­nized her at the strip­ping chute—I’ve al­ways said St­ingray is more fa­mous than I am, and that’s so cool be­cause she’s an in­cred­i­ble mare. Fif­teen isn’t that old. She loves the at­ten­tion. We’ve taken re­ally good care of her, and I don’t think she’s ready to be put out to pas­ture yet. I want him to win, so if he feels like she can help him, that’s awe­some. You never know—since the BFI was her first com­pet­i­tive team rop­ing, he’ll prob­a­bly start at some smaller rodeo next.”

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