The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes Classic Unlimited Amateur finals saw some big scores posted, with four riders marking above a 220. But Gary Barker and his homebred gelding Smooth Nu Cat blew them all away when they landed a 224 to win the title and a check for $13,815.
Barker, who was in a meeting when the finals ended, had no idea at first he had won. It was when his wife called him and let him know that it all sunk in.
“I thought there were a couple other horses that would probably step up and top that, but fortunately, they didn’t,” Barker said. “It’s great to finally win. I hadn’t been doing all that good, especially this year. I hadn’t made a finals I don’t think all year!”
He went on to say he cut three good cows, which helped his score, but his horse stepped up, too.
“The more the cows challenge that horse, the better he is at it,” Barker said of “Duke.” “He’s smarter at it than I am. I’ll override him or underride him, but he knows where to go, and he’ll get there for me.
“He was so small when he was born, and I said he’s going to have to get tougher, so I named him after John Wayne,” he added. “He’s tough [now]. He held his own.”
Duke, who is by Smooth As A Cat, is out of Special Nu Baby (by Dual Rey), an earner of $486,156 who was the 2015 NCHA Open World Champion. With more than $156,000 on his record, Duke is by far “Baby’s” highest money-earner.
“This one feels like her,” Barker said of his gelding. “That mare [Baby] was a little quicker and probably a little stronger than this horse, but she was bigger than this horse. Their style is similar.
“He is really quick and stops hard, and he’ll throw you over the front,” he continued with a laugh. “[I have to] try and not hit him between the ears with my nose. I’m trying to really push hard on the horn, but it doesn’t always work. He unseats me and people laugh at me and give me a hard time about it, but he’s so much fun to ride.”
Barker, of Madill, Oklahoma, has been cutting for about 20 years. He currently trains with Lloyd Cox, and since he lives so close, he can easily go to his place and practice. Outside of cutting, Barker is a rancher, and his wife, Shannon, is in the oil and gas business.
Barker thanked his help at the Super Stakes – Cox, Casey Green, Clay Johnson and Jamie Snider – for all of their assistance and advice. He also appreciated his wife’s encouragement.
“She’s very supportive about me cutting and she cuts some, too,” he said. “She’s been great. We bought horses for her, and she lets me have them if I want them.”
The Reserve Championship went to Jacob Taurel and Little Jewels Olena (Athena Puddy Cat x Jewels Lil Olena x Smart Little Lena), who was bred by Rodney Wrinkle Cutting Horses LLC. The duo marked a 223.5 and secured a check worth $12,416.