La Fiesta de los Vaqueros

Facebook star Stingray shatters records — and her owner's pretty good, too

2014-02-19T00:00:00Z Facebook star Stingray shatters records — and her owner's pretty good, tooBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

She’s shattered records and won awards.

She has brown hair and, they say, a great personality.

She has a “little bro” named Del Ray and loves her mother.

On her Facebook page, her bio says “My mom calls me Precious.”

At 11 years old, she’s a great barrel racer, and has been for six years.

Oh, she’s a palomino mare named Stingray. Her “mom” is Sherry Cervi, a barrel racer from Marana. Together, their barrel racing résumé is lengthy. But Cervi’s extends to before Stingray was even born.

The short version? Four-time world champion; $2 million in career earnings, the most in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association history.

Cervi says she’s most proud of her horse. Specifically, Stingray’s Facebook page. As of Tuesday night, she had 33,492 friends.

“Is that not crazy?” Cervi asked. “I’m pretty proud of that. I’m not really a Facebook person, but for my horse, I’m all into it. We post pics and kind of what we think that she would say, through her eyes.”

“Seriously,” she added, “after the finals she had more (likes) than (rodeo champion) Trevor Brazile. It was a big feat for us.”

But one thing Stingray and Cervi have yet to accomplish? Winning La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. It hits close to home for Cervi, a Marana High School product, because, well, it’s literally close to home.

“Well, it would be awesome, because I’ve never been able to have that success,” Cervi said. “It would be really, really cool just to be in the top, to come back on Sunday.”

Tuesday, she put herself in good position to come back for the final round, as she and Stingray finished with the fourth-best time of 17.59. Today she’ll go again, and if her aggregate time is among the top 12 , she’ll qualify for Sunday.

You can be sure she’ll have an audience.

“The fact that she is local, that generates an awful lot of interest in everything,” said Gary Williams, the rodeo’s general manager. “What she’s accomplished in the arena is second to none, and she’s a heck of a horse trainer. You get that combination of factors and, gosh, it’s just electric what she brings to the table when she competes.”

Cervi doesn’t compete in quite as many events as many of her barrel racing counterparts — think Tiger Woods, picking and choosing — but she always does the Tucson Rodeo. In fact, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros is only the second one she’s competed in all year; for perspective, many barrel racers have already competed in 17 this year.

But she won her fourth world title in 2013, at age 38. Her first one came in 1995, when she was 20 years old.

“The older I get, the harder I know they are to win,” Cervi said. “(You) appreciate it more, and I just feel very grateful that I’ve had the success I’ve had. The good thing about barrel racing is your age doesn’t matter.”

Cervi’s horse — and all of her animals, really — matter above all else.

Her father, Mel Potter, says that Cervi’s fondness for animals — she has a couple other horses and a dog at home, too — has always been there.

“She loves animals,” Potter said. “I’m afraid to see her come home for fear of seeing what she’d bring. Coyote, fox, javelina, there’s no telling what she’s liable to bring back. It’s like a zoo out there.”

But it all goes back to Stingray.

“We have a pretty cool rapport,” Cervi said. “I think that’s very important. You ask them to give their everything, and I try to take the best care of her that I can and make her life as easy.

“She’s really cool.”

Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at zrosenblatt@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @ZackBlatt

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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