Two riders came out on top in the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes Classic Amateur finals, which saw 34 horses compete for the title. The first was Langson Pattillo, who rode Dualin Smooth Legacy to a 221 from the 19th hole. The score was matched two draws later by James Vangilder and Smooth Sailing Cat.
“I’m feeling pretty good!” Pattillo said. “I’m pretty excited because I did decent on my first horse and then was able to get my other one through it as well. So I was happy about that.”
Pattillo also showed High Stylin CD (High Brow CD x Stylin Playgirl x Docs Stylish Oak), who he guided to the Classic Limited Non-Pro Reserve Championship earlier in the week, in the finals and marked a 219, which took third place. The 16-year-old high school sophomore believed the difference between his two scores came down to the cows – Dualin Smooth Legacy cut good ones, while High Stylin CD’s were pretty wild.
“But, he got through it and I was proud of him,” he said.
The Weatherford, Texas-based rider has only had Dualin Smooth Legacy (Smooth As A Cat x Dual Legacy x Dual Pep), who was bred by Mary Cavanaugh, for about a week and a half. The gelding was originally purchased to be his dad, Blake’s, horse, since next year Pattillo will be out of the $50,000 Amateur division and will be showing against Blake in the unlimited amateur. However, Blake tore his bicep and had to take some time off to recover, so Pattillo took over the horse’s reins for now.
“My first round I showed him and I didn’t do as well, but it’s just a learning curve,” Pattillo said. “You get on them and you’ve got to just feel them before all of it. It’s just different.”
While Pattillo has already amassed more than $18,000 this year, including a second place finish in the Abilene Spectacular 5/6-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur and the Bonanza Cutting 5/6-Year-Old Amateur Championship, the win at the NCHA Super Stakes was his biggest to date.
“It means a lot. I’ve always wanted to win something here, and it’s a big accomplishment,” he said.
For Vangilder, winning a title at the NCHA Super Stakes is not a first, but it was part of a comeback that has been several months in the making. The 2006 NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame inductee had gotten out of the sport to spend more time with his daughter, Grace, an avid cutter with earnings of nearly $125,000. But when the now college student found herself with several horses and no time to show, Vangilder stepped up and decided to get back in the show pen.
“My daughter, Grace, has been showing all along, and we made a decision early last summer as a family that we were going to get an arena and hire a trainer and get started back where we were training our own horses,” he said. “The intent was that she would show them, but then she started her second year of school at TCU [Texas Christian University] and changed majors. She’s now in an interior design program, and she has a lot of projects that she has to do outside of normal school hours. She just didn’t have time to go show. So now we have these horses and nobody to show them, and so I just decided it was time for me to maybe try it again.”
He admitted that it hasn’t been easy relearning the skills he once knew that helped him ride horses like Quintan Blue (Mecom Blue x Quiolena x CD Olena) to championships at Triple Crown events.
“My first time to the herd, all I wanted to do was still be in the saddle when the buzzer went off, and that’s about all I accomplished,” he said. “I couldn’t get up out of the herd, I couldn’t get the cows cut, I picked up my hand two or three times, I mean, it was awful. But every time it just got better, and I made fewer mistakes.”
The Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider first showed Pine Island Ranch-bred Smooth Sailing Cat (Smooth As A Cat x Pepto Olenas Dually x Peptoboonsmal) at The Cattlemens Derby and Classic earlier this year and made the finals in the 5/6-Year-Old Amateur. As they have worked together more, he said they’ve gotten more and more in sync.
“It’s thrilling. I never expected to win. That was beyond my wildest imagination,” Vangilder said of his Super Stakes Co-Championship. “My goals are to just get better and progress and try to get those skills back that I had lost. The riding part is not too tough – I can do that at the ranch – but the showing and the show skills, I lost a lot of those. It’s been a process to get those back.
“I’m a lot older so I’m realistic from the standpoint that I realize I’m probably not going to have the physical ability that I had 10, 12, 15 years ago,” he continued. “But I still want to make fewer mistakes and do the best job I can.”