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Michael Duffie and Reclaim Fame run at RFD-TV's The American in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 2, 2019. Barrel Horse News photo by Kailey Sullins.

Claiming His Fame

Past NBHA Youth World Champion Michael Duffie and Reclaim Fame added another big achievement to their record this year with a qualification to RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo.

At only 16 years old, Michael Duffie has already amassed more than $160,000 in Equi-Stat reported earnings. His relatively short career is studded with major wins, including the 2015 National Barrel Horse Association Youth 1D World Championship. In early 2019, he added one more accomplishment to his résumé, qualifying for a run inside AT&T Stadium at RFD-TV’s The American aboard his main mount, Reclaim Fame.

“It didn’t feel real. I was in shock,” Duffie recalled. “Last year I was in the stands watching, saying it’d be a miracle, it’d be awesome one day to be running in here with the rest of these people, like Hailey (Kinsel), Craig (Brooks), Brandon Cullins. When I got that news, me and my parents and my family were really excited and emotional and ready to just go.”

Duffie’s road to The American began with the qualifier in Fletcher, North Carolina, in November 2018. He qualified two horses in the top 10, A Little Corona Plz and JJ Three Famous Bars. However, when it came time to make the long journey from Williamston, South Carolina, to Fort Worth, Texas, for The American Semifinals in late February, Duffie went with the trusty Reclaim Fame.

“He is a more consistent horse,” Duffie said of the 14-year-old gelding by Dash Ta Fame and out of Alicia Rene by Real Ease. “He will do his job every time if you do yours. He’s the one I won NBHA Youth World on, and he’s the one that has won everything with me, so that’s why I chose him.”

Michael Duffie and Reclaim Fame run at RFD-TV’s The American in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 2, 2019. Barrel Horse News photo by Kailey Sullins.

Duffie and “Famous” have been partners since 2015, and the Mike Green-trained gelding certainly did his job in the slack round. The pair finished in the top 30 out of more than 200 barrel racers to earn a spot in a Semifinals rodeo performance that week. Duffie says getting beyond the always-salty slack round was his focus rather than thinking too far ahead or fantasizing about AT&T Stadium.

“My main goal was to make it past the first go so I could run in the Semifinals in one of the rounds. I was extremely excited when I made it past the slack,” Duffie said. “It was really a dream come true. I wasn’t expecting to do as good as good as I did. I was just excited to go.”

Duffie’s time finished eighth overall in the Semifinals, punching his ticket to the famed AT&T Stadium—an unforgettable experience for the teen.

“It was overwhelming,” Duffie said of walking into the stadium for the first time. “Me and Famous’ eyes both lit up. I was in shock, how big everything is and how many people are actually in there, and how big the screen is. The pressure, it was different, something I’m not used to running in.”

Despite the many distractions in the star-studded stadium, Duffie says he didn’t carry any expectations for his run.

“My goal was to go in there and do the best I could do,” Duffie said. “I wasn’t expecting too much. I was really excited just to be running in there in front of all those people and to be on TV. I wasn’t looking to make a really good run, I was just going to do the best I could do and see where it went and hopefully make it into the next round.”

Though the duo’s time wasn’t quite enough to advance past the long round, Duffie remained thankful for the opportunity to compete and says it was rewarding to advance as far as he did.

“Of course making it to the stadium and running in it [was cool],” Duffie said. “But I think my favorite was after I ran in the Semifinals, to make it in the top 10, to [find out I was going to] go to the stadium—that was probably my favorite moment. Just because I realized then when I ran that time, that I was actually going to make it to AT&T.”

Duffie thanked his sponsors Spur Life, OxyGen and Impact Gel. He also thanked Mike and Janelle Green, Southern Rose Ranch, the good Lord and Dish Network for awarding him the $5,000 Up and Comer Award during the Semifinals.

Article by Blanche Schaefer