Abilene Spectacular 4-Year-Old Open Champions One Alley Cat & Cullen Chartier • Photo by Dawn Baxstrom

The Day Belongs to Hercules

It doesn’t take long for limited-age cutting to start up in January. Riders and their horses arrive in Abilene, Texas, for the Abilene Spectacular Cutting just days after New Year’s. On Saturday, Jan. 6, all the attention was on the 4-Year-Old Open finalists, and One Alley Cat, nicknamed “Hercules,” stole the show.

Ridden by Weatherford, Texas-based trainer Cullen Chartier, One Alley Cat (High Brow Cat x Nod N Smile Baby x One Time Pepto) drew next to last in the first of two sets in the 32-horse finals. The duo had marked a 219 and 218.5 in the go-rounds, but it would take more than that to secure top honors in the division. A stingy bunch of cattle gave them just what they needed for the extra edge.

“We had a pretty good game plan before we went down there,” said Chartier, who was sick and walked to the herd with blurry vision, but admitted the adrenaline took over during his run. “Our first cow was right on the top, and it cut good and got my run started off clean. It got my horse in the groove.

“My second cow let me drive her up clean, and it turned out to be another good cow; it let that horse swoop around and do his deal,” he continued. “Then I was able to chip [my last cow] off the top and really finish up the run real clean and smooth. It just built.”

The judges scored Hercules a 223, which surpassed his nearest competitors and the co-reserve champions – Dontt Happen Twice and Phil Rapp; Catarism RG and Michael Cooper; as well as Dual Primetime and Tate Bennett – by 3 points. Including the incentive bonus, he earned a $31,000 paycheck, which was boosted by an additional $4,848 thanks to a first-place finish in the Novice class.

“It was a really, really tough set of cows, and I don’t know how to explain it, but that horse just slows everything down,” explained Chartier, who was especially grateful to his father for driving back and forth from Weatherford each day to help. “It’s like he slows the cows down. It’s hard to explain, but he just makes it look so easy. He’s got a lot of draw and a lot of reach, and he’s got a big, swoopy move, but he’s so smooth that it doesn’t scare a cow. He does it so effortlessly.”

Chartier first rode Hercules while visiting his good friend Hayden Upton in the summer of 2017, and he fell in love after just a few turns. His client Jarrett Callahan soon purchased the horse, who marked a 222 in the first round of the Open at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity. When the stallion failed to advance, he was put up for sale.

“Tom and Hilary Watson, who were in my barn at the time, said it was a no brainer. They bought him almost instantly,” Chartier recalled, noting that he hoped this win would brighten the day for Hilary, who is battling pancreatic cancer. “I’m just really thankful for these owners, because they’re some special people. I really thank them for being in our lives.”

Hoping to continue the momentum from Abilene, Hercules’ next appearance will be at the Augusta Futurity, scheduled for Jan. 13-20, and then The IKE toward the end of the month.

“He’s sound as can be and built to last and built to go,” Chartier said. “I’m not going to overdo it, but I’m sure enough going to go try to win some money on him.”

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