By Tanya Randall

Lances Ugly Boy, the unassuming brown gelding that set Brittany Pozzi on the path to barrel racing stardom, passed away January 13 at the ripe old age of 28. In 2003, the gelding, affectionately known as "Leroy," made Pozzi the first and only Rookie Champion to head into the National Finals Rodeo in the No. 1 position in the WPRA World Standings.

"He made me the rider that I am today," said the two-time World Champion Barrel Racer. "He taught me how to ride a setty horse. He was tough. I carried a whip in both hands. I had to ride my butt off to get him around the barrels. It was always in the back of my mind that if I didn’t, he would duck."

Bred by David L. Hurst, Victoria, Texas, Leroy was by Double Victor out of Bar’s Baby, by Some More Bars. After flunking out of Western pleasure training in David Lawrence’s barn in Tomball, Texas, Leroy was purchased as a $2,500 barrel prospect by Marcheta Garrett, Hempstead, Texas.

"I had him a year-and-a-half," Garrett said. "I had taken him to some jackpots and won a bunch. He was really setty. As soon as he learned what he was doing, you had to send him as hard as you could from the North 40. You had to just drive him at a barrel. He had all the talent in the world, but he was just unbelievably setty. It took a special kind of person to get him by a barrel."

From Garrett’s barn, Leroy went on the tough Texas youth rodeo circuit, running barrels, poles and straights (Figure 8 barrels). In the spring of 2000, the Pozzi family purchased Leroy, then 13, from the Causey family of Hallettsville, Texas, for their youngest daughter Brooke.

"The people we bought him from sold him because the girl wanted to go to the pro rodeos and didn’t think he’d be enough," recalled Pozzi. "I think we paid $10- or $12,000 for him for Brooke. She couldn’t get him by the barrels. He actually started ducking with her."

photoPHOTO BY: Springer

In 2001, Brittany started riding Leroy when she was a high school junior.

"I won all 12 high school rodeos on him," she said, "and then my senior year I won every high school rodeo that I rode him at—I had another little mare that I rode at a few of them."

In 2002, Pozzi won the barrel racing championships at the Texas High School Finals Rodeo and National High School Finals Rodeo.

That fall she headed to Texas A&M University. As a member of the rodeo team, she won first at half of her college rodeos, earning champion barrel racer honors in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Southern Region.

Pozzi had purchased her WPRA permit in November 2002 and got her card in February 2003. That summer when Pozzi and her hauling partner Laura Jane Hyde showed up in Reno, Nev., she had $2,500 won.

"I was going to school," Pozzi recalled. "I was having Hell just filling my permit. Then we got outside and it was a different story. I ended up going to the Finals in the No. 1 starting half way through the year."

Pozzi and Leroy won rodeos in Bay City and Beaumont, Texas, North Platte, Neb., and set an arena record at the Iowa Championship Rodeo in Sidney. They also placed at Reno, Ogden, Utah, and St. Paul, Ore.

"He was just incredible," said Pozzi, "and he was doing this all at 16 years old."

They were also in the running for new truck, thanks to the Dodge RAM truck rodeo series in existence at the time.

"I was at the rodeo in Oklahoma City and I was looking at a magazine," she laughed. "I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the running for this truck! Kelly Kaminski was in first and I was in second. I need to go to these Ram Truck rodeos!’ I went to these little rodeos—Starkville, Miss., Shreveport, La., At Shreveport, it was really dark at the second barrel and he ducked it and lost me the truck. I was thinking it was the end of the world, then I went and won Dallas."

The Pace Picante Challenge debuted at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, in 2003. Although the rodeo got off to a slow start for the newly crowned WPRA Rookie of the Year, she came from behind to win and jumped from third to No. 1 in the World Standings.

Pozzi, who is approaching $2 million in WPRA earnings, and Leroy finished seventh in the world after the NFR with $89,003. Unfortunately, an injury in Las Vegas ended his career.

"I got him back for a couple of runs, but that was it," said Pozzi. "We had him to vets all over the country, and Dr. Marty Tanner was the one that found it. That’s what started our relationship that’s been ongoing since 2004."

Retired at 17, Leroy spent the last 11 years in the pasture at Pozzi’s Victoria, Texas, home.

"The last few years he’s been turned out with the broodmares," she said. "He ruled the roost. He had his own stall that he could walk into from the pasture and no mare would go in his stall. He had a knee as big as a softball and he’d still lope across the pasture."

Pozzi said Leroy was one of the toughest horses that she’s ever owned and he will always have a special place in Pozzi’s heart.

"Even after all the awesome years I’ve had on Duke (Yeah Hes Firen)," said Pozzi, "I will never forget 2003--the laughs Laura Jane and I had, just being able to go off on my own and rodeo, how much fun we had. If it wasn’t for Leroy I might not be doing what I’m doing now. I may have an accounting degree. I may have finished college and graduated from Texas A&M. He was the one that started it all."