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Shepard clinches NCHA Open title atop Deluxe Checks

Austin Shepard, riding Sir Long Legs in last year’s NCHA Open finals, claimed the Open division title on Saturday aboard Deluxe Checks.
Austin Shepard, riding Sir Long Legs in last year’s NCHA Open finals, claimed the Open division title on Saturday aboard Deluxe Checks. Special to the Star-Telegram

Superstar rider Austin Shepard and a durable young mare named Deluxe Checks clinched the National Cutting Horse Association’s 2017 open division world title as the NCHA World Finals concluded Saturday night at WR Watt Arena.

The World Finals is the sport’s Super Bowl for weekend warriors who compete in an abundance of North American shows throughout the year.

Shepard, from Summerdale, Ala., said one reason Deluxe Checks finished No. 1 was because the 6-year-old mare has stamina.

“She’s got such a big heart,” Shepard said “There have been stretches where we’ve shown that mare for 20 straight days and she gives it everything she’s got every time.”

In the non-pro division, April Widman of Weatherford clinched the world title on an 8-year-old gelding named Woodys Baby. Though Woodys Baby is a larger-than-average cutting horse, the 1,300-pound gelding can move quickly.

“For him to get so low to the ground and move the way he does, I’m still amazed by it,” Widman said.

Futurity update

Shepard also is off to a booming start at the NCHA Futurity, which currently is underway at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.

The Futurity, the sport’s most prestigious show that features the industry’s most promising debuting 3-year-old horses, began Nov. 15. The show concludes Dec. 10 with the open division winner receiving $200,000.

The open division second round concluded Nov. 23 and a field of 69 horses advanced to the Dec. 9 open semifinal.

Shepard, the 2007 NCHA Futurity open champion rider, and a stallion named Dual Reyish, finished the first two rounds with a two-ride aggregate score of 442.5, the highest tally of all semifinal qualifiers.

“He does everything that I want a horse to do physically and mentally, but he has a confidence about him that comes naturally,” Shepard said of Dual Reyish.

PRCA update

Superstar roper Trevor Brazile will enter this month’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas leading the 2017 world all-around title race after thriving at last month’s National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kan.

Brazile, a 23-time world champion who lives in Decatur, finished second in the 2017 steer roping world title race behind Scott Snedecor at the Nov. 10-11 National Finals Steer Roping. But after pocketing $63,273 at NFSR, Brazile moved up from the No. 2 ranking to No. 1 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s 2017 world all-around standings.

Tuf Cooper of Weatherford dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the all-around race after earning $15,981 at the Mulvane championships.

Brazile will enter the Dec. 7-16 Las Vegas-based National Finals leading the world all-around race with $243,760 and No. 2 ranked Cooper has $230,022.

“I went to the steer roping finals [NFSR] trying to win as much money as possible with two goals in mind: trying to win a world [steer roping] championship and trying to get rid of that deficit in the [world] all-around race,” Brazile said. “At least one of those two things happened.”

Brazile and Cooper each have qualified for the Las Vegas championships in tie-down roping.