National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Finals.Mary Jo Milner clinched her eighth Non-Pro World Championship and One Time Choice locked up the Open World Championship during Nov. 29-30 opening rounds of the
Milner, of Southlake, Texas, is the wife of fellow NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame member Jim Milner. Since 1972, Milner has 24 Non-Pro Top 10 finishes. This year, she competed exclusively with the 8-year-old gelding Smooth Asa Zee. They clinched the year-end title with a third-place 220 on Nov. 29, the first night of the World Finals.
“Zee,” sired by Smooth Asa Zee and out of the Dual Pep mare Zee Dually, has carried Milner to earnings of $100,358 so far this year. This is the first time since 2004, when Milner accomplished the task with late great gelding Red White And Boon, that a single horse has carried a rider to the Non-Pro title.
“Now, we’ll have fun the rest of the show,” said Milner. “I already felt calm. You don’t want to feel like you are trying to beat somebody. I think it’s really best just to go out and concentrate on each run and let the rest take care of itself.”
The combination of original trainer John Mitchell and Austin Shepard, “Zee’s” tune-up specialist the past two years, prepared him to compete consistently well with Milner.
“John did a great job,” Milner said. “And from the time Jim bought him for me (two years ago), anytime Austin is around, he works him for me. I brought him here two weeks early, and Austin worked him along with his (NCHA) Futurity horses. He is a great horse, but he’s kind of particular. I have a lot to be grateful for.”
One Time Choice, a 6-year-old mare by One Time Pepto and out of Hickory Choice, by SR Instant Choice, has earned $96,845 this year with trainer Chubby Turner. Turner, who earned his first Open Top 10 finish in 1980, bought One Time Choice and her dam for J Five Horse Ranch, of Weatherford, Texas, for $35,000 when the mare was an untested 4-year-old.
“I’ve bought a lot of $150,000 ones that didn’t cut. I made up some ground on this one,” Turner said. “It’s been a lot of fun for all of us at the ranch.”
Turner, 65, believes he might be the oldest rider to earn a year-end NCHA Open World Championship. “I don’t feel old at 65,” Turner said. “I feel as good as when I was 40. And I’ve had so much support, and so much help.
“She’s not a Dont Look Twice,” Turner said of One Time Choice. “Dont Look Twice is like an elegant ballerina that can lift weights. This mare is like a quick little cat. And she’s got three or four years less experience. I think if I get another year in her, she still won’t be a Dont Look Twice, but everybody will know who One Time Choice is.”
The four-round NCHA Open and Non-Pro World Finals continue on Dec. 4 and conclude on Dec. 7. NCHA world championships will be determined in eight other Open, Non-Pro and Amateur divisions.