Alexis Stephas hadn’t planned on being in Jackson, Mississippi, for the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Eastern Nationals this year, but the Weatherford, Texas-based cutter is pleased she made the impromptu trip. Marking a 217.5, Stephas won the Non-Pro and $4,835 aboard her mainstay mount Once You Go Black.
“The one thing about that horse is no matter what, he’ll try his heart out every single time,” Stephas said. “That’s something that I’ve always loved about him; I can always count on him.”
Once You Go Black, a 9-year-old stallion (Hydrive Cat x RG Sugar Lena x Poco San Lena), stands at SDP Buffalo Ranch, where Stephas works. After a discussion with Shane Plummer, the head of the breeding farm, a week before the Non-Pro started at Eastern, it was decided Stephas should try to win the $6,700 the horse needed to push past $200,000 in lifetime earnings.
“It was very last minute. We entered as add-ons a few days before Non-Pro. We wanted to make it a 24-hour trip, so we got in late the night before we showed, showed and then left,” Stephas said. “It meant a lot to do well on him because he is breeding right now. The goal was to come here and win it. You don’t expect it to happen, but when it does, it’s very special.”
Once You Go Black hadn’t worked cows since November but Stephas had been riding the stallion to keep him fit. After being collected on Monday, March 12, he went with trainer Kody Porterfield to brush up on working cows until Stephas had to leave for Mississippi. Despite his lack of time in the show pen recently, Stephas was certain that her horse would perform.
“He has been consistent ever since I started entering him in his 4-year-old year,” said Stephas, who claimed championships in the 2015 NCHA Super Stakes Classic Unlimited Amateur and the 2015 Showdown In Cowtown Amateur slot cutting on Once You Go Black. “He’s a phenomenal horse.”
This is the second time Once You Go Black and Stephas have won an Eastern Nationals title together. The first was in the $15,000 Novice Non Pro in 2014. The stallion also won the 2016 Western Nationals Open with Cullen Chartier.
Amanda Standish, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, rode Divas On Time (One Time Pepto x Desires Cat x High Brow Cat) to a score of 216.5 for the Reserve Championship, worth $3,941.