Dual Smart Kitty and Clay Johnson lit up the scoreboard with a 224.5 and earned $200,000 as National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Open Champions on Dec. 14 in Fort Worth.
Johnson credits the finals win, in part, to advice from his herd helpers — Casey Green, Jaime Snider, Clint Allen and Sean Flynn. Dual Smart Kitty, by Dual Smart Rey and out of the High Brow Cat daughter Cats Peptolena, had marked a 222 during the Open semifinals. She had posted solid but unspectacular consecutive 217s during the show’s first two rounds.
“They told me to sit there and let her do her thing,” Johnson said of the advice he received after the first two rounds. “I tell you, last night I probably sat as still as I have in 10 years, and she was great. All day today I told myself, ‘Sit there and let her do her thing.’ I just sat there and she just crawled underneath me. She was so smart. She stopped hard, and everything turned out great.”
A year and a half ago, Johnson won the NCHA Super Stakes 4-Year-Old Open during his first time as a finalist in that event. He pulled off the same trick in his first ride as an NCHA Futurity Open finalist.
Bred by Tim Brewer, Dual Smart Kitty is the first limited-age cutting horse purchased by Rusty and Shelly Simpson, of Nemo, Texas. The couple bought the horse as a late 2-year-old at the Western Bloodstock NCHA Futurity Prospects Sale in Fort Worth last December, based on advice from their original trainer, Jeremy Barwick, of Stephenville, Texas. Barwick left the training business early this spring, after he and his wife, Candace, bought Western Bloodstock.
Barwick encouraged many of his customers, including the Simpsons, to leave their horses at his Shadow Oaks, in Stephenville, Texas. Johnson, 34, who previously worked with the Barwicks, stepped in as trainer.
“I really want to thank Jeremy and Candace,” Johnson said. “This mare has been easy to work. It has worked out great. And it’s been a great night.”
Open Reserve Champion Stunned, a stallion ridden by T.J. Good, earned $100,159 with a 222.5 finish. Bred and owned by JLC Performance Horses, of Lipan, Texas, Stunned (High Brow Cat x Absolutely Stunning x Smart Little Lena) simply found a higher gear in the finals. In their first three runs, Good and the stallion marked 216.5, 215.5 and 217.
“It’s my first time to make the (NCHA) Futurity finals, and I’m in shock right now,” said 33-year-old Good. “I’d never really got him shown close to his potential. I hoped to do that in the finals, and it worked.”
Johnny Reyngo (Dual Rey x Hissy Cat x High Brow Cat), owned in part by trainer Tatum Rice, placed third with a 221.5. Rice’s top career check as cutter so far will be split among The 51 Partners horse ownership group. It includes Tatum, who is 28, and his wife, Kylie Knight Rice, Kylie’s parents, Kevin and Sydney Knight, and Ken and Becky Polk. All three couples own property along Highway 51 in Weatherford, Texas.