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Two Texas riders are cut above in World Finals

Matt Gaines of Weatherford, seen last year on Card Trick, won Saturday’s open division of the World Finals on Special Nu Baby.
Matt Gaines of Weatherford, seen last year on Card Trick, won Saturday’s open division of the World Finals on Special Nu Baby. Star-Telegram

Two Texas riders clinched gold buckles as the National Cutting Horse Association Open and Non-Pro World Finals concluded its four performance run Saturday night at W.R. Watt Arena.

Matt Gaines of Weatherford won the open division world title aboard a mare named Special Nu Baby, and Joe Howard Williamson of Wichita Falls, riding a gelding named Sweet Little Cats, won the non-pro championship.

Special Nu Baby finishes the year with $142,346. A gelding named Smart Stingrey and Arizona cowboy Mike Wood finished second in the world race with $65,305.

CR Sun Reys, a mare, and rider Boyd Rice of Weatherford finished third in the world race with $59,658. They earned $25,950 throughout the World Finals, the highest of all competitors.

Special Nu Baby is a 9-year-old mare owned by Gary and Shannon Barker of Madill, Okla. Gaines has competed on the horse since she was a 3-year-old.

Gaines said the mare has the elements of a great cutting horse.

“I don’t know that she has a weakness,” Gaines said. “She’s so smart in what she does and she’s just a tremendous athlete. She figures a cow really good, and she can start and stop quicker than any horse I’ve ever ridden.”

Gaines, 46, is one of the top competitors on the NCHA aged-event circuit for horses 3 through 6. He has more than $7.4 million in NCHA earnings and is a former open champion rider at the Fort Worth-based NCHA Super Stakes, one of the sport’s top aged events.

But this year, he stepped out and won the NCHA open world title, which meant he had to compete in an abundance of weekend competitions. He and Special Nu Baby competed in 57 shows during the regular season. He credited his wife, Tara, the 2010 NCHA Non-Pro World Champion, for keeping the mare physically sound.

In the non-pro division, Williamson, 61, finished No. 1 after earning $99,444 in 91 regular-season shows and the World Finals. During the regular season, he rode five different horses — Nutn Buta Houndog, One Time Shorty, Acatbequick, Woodys Bad Boy and Sweet Little Cats.

Mary Jo Milner of Southlake finished second in the world race with $60,142. She rode Smooth Asa Zee all year.

Williamson mostly rode Woodys Bad Boy and Sweet Little Cats throughout the year. But at the World Finals, he went with Sweet Little Cats.

Williamson, who clinched a fourth world title, said he entered the Finals with the world championship all but clinched and wanted to give 6-year-old Sweet Little Cats experience at a high-profile show.

“He’s got a world of eye appeal,” Williamson said of Sweet Little Cats. “He puts his ears up, and if a cow doesn’t move a lot, he just squats down. He’s also a real hard stopper. This level of cutting here is as tough as it gets. A horse has to be real smart, real quick, real solid, and have a lot of understanding about what’s going on. For a 6-year-old horse, he’s really exceptional.”