After a year of neck-and-neck competition, Junie Wood has officially won the race for National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Open Horse of the Year. Piloted by Slate River Ranch’s resident trainer, John Mitchell, the 4-year-old mare secured the title late in the season.
Junie Wood (Nitas Wood x Tuffs Junie x Tuff Lena), bred by Craig and Janet Crumpler, of Wichita Falls, Texas, earned 684 points in her battle for Horse of the Year, beating out 2013 NCHA Futurity Open Champion Dual Smart Kitty (Dual Smart Rey x Cats Peptolena x High Brow Cat) by 69 points.
Mitchell, of Weatherford, Texas, and Junie Wood picked up their first points for the Horse of the Year race when they finished third in the Bonanza Cutting Derby Open. From there, Junie Wood tied for sixth in the 4-Year-Old Open at the Arbuckle Mountain Futurity and won the NCHA Super Stakes Open. As the season continued, the duo continued to make Open finals at shows like the Breeder’s Invitational and NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular, where they finished as Reserve Champions.
As the fall approached, Slate River Ranch owner Glade Knight and Mitchell decided to make a late push for the title. With a win in the Derby Open at the Brazos Bash and a second-place finish in the Cotton Stakes Derby Open, Junie Wood seemed to be on a roll.
Mitchell and Junie Wood took off for the Southern Cutting Futurity in Jackson, Mississippi, where they won the Derby Open to take the lead by just a few points. So, it all came down to the final leg of the Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting at the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri.
When Dual Smart Kitty failed to make the Open finals, Junie Wood solidified her place as Horse of the Year; however, the mare wasn’t quite finished with her standout 4-year-old season. She finished the Mercuria Open finals as Reserve Champion, sending her derby year off with a bang.
NCHA Non-Pro Horse of the Year Race Continues
The NCHA Non-Pro Horse of the Year race will come down to the NCHA World Finals this year. Cody Hedlund’s Meteles Cat (Metallic Cat x Teles Lies x Lenas Telesis), bred by his father, Rock, has a substantial lead, as of mid-November, with 339 points earned.
While Meteles Cat is a solid 123 points ahead of his nearest competition, there are hundreds of points up for grabs during the World Finals. Constance Jaeggi and Saguaro Ichi (Cat Ichi x Playboys Heidi x Freckles Playboy) are currently leading the Non-Pro World standings, and if Saguaro Ichi leaves the World Finals as the new Non-Pro World Champion, he could surpass Meteles Cat in the Horse of the Year race.
The long shot in the battle for Non-Pro Horse of the Year is Sly Chance (That Sly Cat x Oaks Smart Chance x Doc’s Oak), a 7-year-old gelding shown by Ashley Snider. Sly Chance has 124 points going into the World Finals, and he is ranked second in the Non-Pro standings with Snider behind Saguaro Ichi by $23,934.
For complete coverage of the NCHA Horse of the Year race and the NCHA World Finals, subscribe to Quarter Horse News.