Hard-luck mare makes first NCHA finals with Weatherford star rider aboard

Posted Friday, Aug. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A mare named Mercedes Smoothe advanced Friday to the Derby Open finals at the NCHA Summer Spectacular after turning in a 215.5, which was the bubble score in the semifinals.

During Saturday night’s finals at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, no previous scores will count.

And Mercedes Smoothe’s rider, Matt Gaines of Weatherford, will ask the mare to become more aggressive and produce a much higher score.

“I’m definitely going to cut the cows that I think will be more challenging,” Gaines said.

It’s the first time that Mercedes Smoothe, who is owned by Gaines, has qualified for the finals at a major National Cutting Horse Association show in Fort Worth.

The mare qualified for the semifinals at the December Futurity and the April Super Stakes, which were the first two jewels of the sport’s 2012-2013 Triple Crown Series.

Saturday night’s Summer Spectacular Derby Open finals is the third jewel, and Gaines believes Mercedes Smoothe has a realistic chance of winning.

“She’s really one of the best horses I’ve ever had, but she’s just had bad luck in the past,” Gaines said. “She should have won $100,000 by now. She’s very smart in everything she does. She also has great physical ability; she runs, she stops and she’s very expressive on a cow.”

Gaines is one of the sport’s superstar riders who knows a great horse when he saddles one. He has NCHA earnings of more than $6.6 million, and he’s a member of the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame. In 2000, Gaines won the Summer Spectacular Derby Open title on Nu I Wood.

For Gaines, it was a moral victory to see Mercedes Smoothe perform well enough Friday to qualify for the final round, where the owner of the winning horse will receive $47,619.

“Everyone is capable of winning, and it just boils down to who cuts the best cows,” Gaines said.

During Friday’s semifinals, 65 horses competed and the field was narrowed to 21.

Veteran rider Sean Flynn and a gelding named Buzzted turned in a 220, the highest marking of the day. Flynn also advanced to the finals on Cha Ching And Change after they turned in a 217.5.

Boyd Rice, who won the Summer Spectacular four years ago on a stallion named Third Cutting, advanced to the finals aboard the stallion CR First Tuff. The duo turned in a semifinals score of 219.5.

Meanwhile, Rice’s uncle, Ronnie Rice, who tied for first at the December Futurity on CR Tuff Hearted Cat, missed qualifying for the Summer Spectacular Open Derby finals. Rice and CR Tuff Hearted Cat turned in a penalty-marked score of 209.

Saturday’s performance begins at 3 p.m. with the Derby Non-Pro finals. The Derby Open Finals will follow.

During the Non-Pro Derby semifinals on Thursday, Hope Mitchell of Weatherford and Smooth Mitch paced the field with a 220. Stacie McDavid of Fort Worth finished second with a 219 aboard Sueper Time.

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