Dual Smart Kitty has top-notch debut at NCHA World Futurity

Posted Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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As he prepared to show a debuting cutting horse during the NCHA World Championship Futurity’s opening performance on Thursday at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Clay Johnson had the jitters.

Johnson said he was nervous because he would be showing a promising horse and he didn’t want to err as the rider.

But after he and a filly named Dual Smart Kitty made a compelling 21/2-minute run that earned an above-average score of 217, Johnson said he was relieved.

“I was a nervous wreck all day, knowing she was a special horse,” said Johnson, 34, who is from Stephenville.

The Futurity is the National Cutting Horse Association’s most prestigious show and features the sport’s most promising debuting 3-year-old horses. When riders enter the competition with a potentially great horse after more than a year of training, they come in with uneasiness because they are unsure how the horse will perform under the bright lights of Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, the sport’s equivalent of Old Yankee Stadium.

Like a rookie who delivers a hit at his first at-bat during the World Series, Dual Smart Kitty and Johnson delivered a 150-second run that drew cheers from the fans and moved the judges.

Johnson and Dual Smart Kitty are expected to easily advance to the second round, which is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday. From there, they will attempt to advance to the semifinals, which are scheduled for Dec. 13.

If Johnson and Dual Smart Kitty reach the semifinals, they will attempt to earn a berth to the 25-horse finals, which is Dec. 14. During the open division finals, where no previous scores will count, the horse with the highest score will win the coveted $200,000 prize.

The Futurity open division is the first jewel of the NCHA’s Triple Crown Series. The other two are the April Super Stakes and the July Summer Spectacular. All three shows are in Fort Worth.

In 2012, Johnson won the NCHA Super Stakes open title with a finals score of 226 aboard a mare named KR Isadora Dual. He’s hoping to have the same type of success aboard Dual Smart Kitty.

“This horse is a real honorable mare,” Johnson said. “She’s going to be a blessing to have. If I do my part, she will do her part.”

Dual Smart Kitty is owned by Rusty and Shelley Simpson, who are from the small North Texas town of Nemo. The filly was first trained by Jeremy Barwick of Stephenville, a former NCHA open division world champion rider. Johnson began riding Dual Smart Kitty after he began working for Barwick seven months ago.

“Jeremy had this horse pretty much trained by the time I started riding her,” Johnson said. “I just want to keep it all together.”

Before Johnson won the 2012 Super Stakes, he was a relatively unknown rider.

“It helped me a lot and I have since gotten some good horses for myself,” he said. “But since I went to work for Jeremy, I’ve gotten access to a barn full of good horses.”

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