Even though Time To Hangem had spent more than a year on the sidelines after surgery, Gaylon Wells rode the 10-year-old gelding into the James Brown Arena Thursday night with confidence.
He knew what the horse was capable of, and thought that included the ability to give the Oklahoman a second straight Mercuria/National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Series of Cutting Open victory at the Augusta Futurity in Augusta, Georgia.
“Repeat from last year,” said Wells, who won the 2017 event with Jay Moss Cougar. “That was seriously my intentions.”
The son of One Time Pepto’s Championship-winning 224-point performance made that goal a reality, putting them at the top of a deep field that included reigning NCHA Open World Champion Deluxe Checks.
“I knew I had a good horse and if I could get showed… You know, it’s all got to fit,” Wells said. “There was a whole string of good horses in there tonight, but I was just very blessed and fortunate to get showed better than the rest of the guys. And that’s what it amounts to, because any of those other horses could’ve done the same thing.”
A successful aged-event horse, Time To Hangem (out of Hangem High Pep x Hickorys Indian Pep) had an Equi-Stat record of more than $227,000 going into Thursday’s finals. However, colic surgery knocked him out of competition for more than a year.
“We’re just now bringing him back and started, about two and a half months ago, getting him ready,” Wells said. “I showed him here (in Augusta) earlier in the week just trying to kind of get things together and get prepared, and it all come together at the right time, you know? [He’s] just a phenomenal, great horse.”
He’s also young at heart. Wells said the gelding, bred by Frank and Robin Merrill, of Purcell, Oklahoma, acts like a 2-year-old.
“He’s one of them type of horses that he’s got some quirks about him,” he said. “He is very, very spooky. He has to be handled gently.”
The win earned $10,823 for Time To Hangem’s owner, Victoria Johnson, of Houston, Texas. The Reserve Championship check of $8,542 went to Phil and Mary Ann Rapp, whose Don’t Stopp Believin was ridden by Phil to a 220.
Although he said he would defer to Johnson for Time To Hangem’s future plans, Wells said the gelding might appear at some other Mercurias and bigger added-money events this year. He said Johnson would like to show the horse in the $50,000 Amateur.
Wells, 60, has about a dozen horses in training and a busy show schedule. He started riding cutting horses in his 30s, an admittedly later start than most, but has banked an Equi-Stat record of nearly $700,000.
“It’s a big deal for me,” Wells said of the Mercuria wins in Augusta. “I’ve been around a long time and I haven’t been one to have a lot of those big wins, you know? It’s all about horsepower and [I’m] very fortunate to have some people that have confidence in me and have given me the horsepower it takes to play the game at this level.”
Cutting is something Wells feels passionate about. He says he enjoys every aspect of the sport, from the first steps all the way to finishing up at shows.
“It’s just something that [when] the passion is there, it never dies,” he said. “It never dies.”
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