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Last year's champ turns in high mark on first day of 2018 NCHA Super Stakes

Tatum Rice, riding Hashtags at last year's NCHA Super Stakes Open Finals, got off to another good start Thursday in this year's event at the Will Rogers Coliseum.
Tatum Rice, riding Hashtags at last year's NCHA Super Stakes Open Finals, got off to another good start Thursday in this year's event at the Will Rogers Coliseum. Special to the Star-Telegram

When the National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes began its 25-day run on Thursday, the horse who won last year turned in an attention grabbing score early on.

A year ago, Weatherford rider Tatum Rice and a stallion named Hashtags clinched the Super Stakes’ 4-year-old open division title, which is the middle jewel of the sport’s Triple Crown Series.

This year, Hashtags is competing in the Super Stakes’ 5- and 6-year-old open division, which features second- and third-year horses and mostly pro riders.

Hashtags and Rice were the fourth duo to compete within the first bunch of cattle on Thursday morning. But they served notice that they were more than ready to contend for another title by turning in a remarkable prelim score of 222, which the highest mark of the day at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.

Rice praised Hashtags for his determination.

“He’s real strong, real cowy and he always tries,” Rice said. “I’ve never been on him when I didn’t feel like he was trying hard.”

One of Hashtags’ biggest assets is the young horse can handle tough situations while holding a cow at bay.

“He’s very athletic and quick and he never gets in a spot that you can’t get out of,” Rice said. “You never feel like he’s struggling. He just reads a cow really well.”

When Rice won the Super Stakes last year, it was his first win at a major show in Fort Worth. Since then, he and Hashtags have been a duo to be reckoned with on the NCHA’s aged-event circuit. The stallion has earned $303,876 at NCHA shows.

“I’ve never had a horse like him,” Rice said. “I’d be lucky to have another one.”

Rice is part of a famous cutting horse family. His father, Boyd, won the open title at the NCHA Super Stakes in 2009 aboard a very remarkable horse named Third Cutting. His cousin Tag Rice won the NCHA’s Triple Crown in 2003 atop Chiquita Pistol.

If that’s not enough, Rice’s bother, Tarin Rice, and his great uncle, Ronnie Rice, shared the open division title at the 2012 NCHA Futurity. The Futurity traditionally is the sport’s biggest and most prestigious show.

At this year’s Super Stakes, which is the Futurity’s sister show, the Rice family made a great showing on opening day. Shortly after Tatum Rice turned in the 222, his father, Boyd, turned in an attention grabbing score of 219 on TC Heiress while competing in the second bunch of cattle. After that, Tarin Rice turned in a 221.5 aboard CR Gotcha Covered while competing in the third bunch.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Rice posted a solid 217 on Lethal Weapon I while competing within the third bunch. Ronnie Rice is a three-time Futurity champion rider.

Death of a star

Six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo contestant Chris Harris Jr., 41, died in a fire that destroyed a large building in Laguna Park in Bosque County in which he lived and housed his collection of classic cars, authorities confirmed March 23.

The building, which is in the Meridian area, is owned by Harris, who dabbled in antique and classic cars. Harris, who grew up in Mansfield, qualified for the Las Vegas-based NFR in bareback riding in 1998-2000 and in 2006-2008. He had $870,953 in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association career earnings.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11a.m. on Tuesday, April 3, at Cowboy Church of Ellis County.

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