April 18, 2014

Former NCHA Super Stakes champion rider leads semifinals field

Austin Shepard scores 221.

Winning the semifinals at the National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes often is not a big indicator that a horse is the heavy favorite to win the finals, and with it, the title.

That’s because previous scores don’t count in the finals. During Friday’s 4-year-old open division semifinals at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, a rider’s main goal was to score just high enough to qualify for the final round Saturday night.

A field of 24 horses with scores between 215 and 221 made the cut.

The cowboy who posted the highest semifinals score Friday is a former Super Stakes champion — Austin Shepard, who paced the semifinals field with a 221 on Some Kinda Highbrow. They were the only duo who reached the 220s.

Boyd Rice, another high-profile rider, also qualified for the finals with a 216.5 on CR High Brow Letha. During the finals, fans should not be surprised to see Rice select more challenging cattle and take more risks to earn a much higher score.

Matt Gaines, an accomplished rider from Weatherford, also qualified for the open finals. Gaines and Miss Priss Pepto turned in a 216 during Friday’s semis.

The Super Stakes’ open division final round is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown Series.

The December NCHA Futurity is the first jewel and the July Summer Spectacular Derby finals will be the third. All three Triple Crown shows are in Fort Worth.

No Triple Crown

Dual Smart Kitty and rider Clay Johnson, the duo who won the NCHA Futurity in December, were eliminated during the open semifinals.

That means there will be Triple Crown winner this season. Dual Smart Kitty posted a 212 during Friday’s semifinals, three points shy of qualifying for the finals.

An NCHA Triple Crown victory is a rarity. Only three horses have reached the milestone. They are Smart Little Lena and rider Bill Freeman in 1982-83, Docs Okie Quixote and Joe Heim in 1983-84 and Chiquita Pistol and Tag Rice in 2002-03.

Non-pro update

Cow Scents and rider Ashley Flynn of Weatherford tied for first place after turning in a score of 217 during the 4-year-old non-pro semifinals round on Thursday.

Imreydioactive and Kristen Galyean also posted a 217. They are among a field of 22 horses who advanced to the finals. Horses with a score of at least 214.4 made the cut. The non-pro finals begins at 4 p.m. Saturday. After that, the open division horses will perform.

On the bubble

At the 2013 NCHA World Championship Futurity in December, a filly named Junie Wood clinched the non-pro title with Craig Crumpler as her rider.

Four months later, Junie Wood’s rider is veteran pro trainer John Mitchell of Weatherford.

While competing at the NCHA Super Stakes on Friday, the 4-year-old, first-year horse earned an open division finals berth.

During the semifinals, Junie Wood turned in a 215. Mitchell also earned a finals berth on Playin N Fancy after turning in a 215.

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