The West Texas Futurity featured the Mercuria/National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Series of Cutting Open and Non-Pro finals, drawing a big audience, big payouts and a great sense of déjà vu after the NCHA Summer Spectacular, which ended in early August.
James Payne and Playgun stallion PG Heavily Armed spent more than two minutes dueling it out in the showpen to earn a 226, a run which would ultimately secure them the Mercuria Open Championship.
“It actually went about as good as I could have hoped. Those cattle suited him and put him in a position to show off his stops,” Payne said. “They were his style of cattle, it felt like it fit. I knew there were a lot of tough horses in that finals. The whole run just kind of built, and it worked out how you’d hope it would.”
Payne, an Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Rider, and the 6-year-old stallion were in the winner’s circle just a few short weeks ago when the duo marked a 229 to claim the NCHA Summer Spectacular Classic/Challenge Open title. The West Texas Futurity sent Payne out of the arena earlier in the week with an armful of cash and prizes when he piloted Stylish Hailee to win the 3-Year-Old Open finals.
“We cut everything we had talked about. The only thing that surprised me a little bit was that they cut so easy and so quick that I still had a lot of time left on the third cow,” Payne said. “I went ahead and went with it and worked it for a long time, and it paid off. I took a little bit of risk cutting it for as long as I did, but I didn’t want to let that cow get away from me.”
Payne hasn’t been in the habit of letting cattle get away from him or his mounts in the showpen since he brought home his first check in 1997.
“My parents used to live out in Hereford, Texas, so its always been like going home,” said Payne of the West Texas Futurity, which is held in Amarillo, Texas. He has been attending the show almost every year since the early 2000’s.
PG Heavily Armed, who is owned by Michael and Brenda Armstrong, of Marietta, Oklahoma, brought home a check for $10,800 which he’ll add to his already acquired purse of $179,887.
“The horse feels like he’s gotten really smart. He’s always been smart, but his name of the game has always been physical. The older he’s gotten, the tighter and smarter he’s gotten. He’s a great horse,” Payne said.
The stallion, who is out of Not Quite An Acre (by Bob Acre Doc), will continue to cut his way into the limelight throughout the remainder of his limited-age career, after which he will direct his focus toward the breeding shed. Until then, the team plans to continue their winning streak as they head to the Cotton Stakes, in West Monroe, Louisiana.
Steve Anderson and his 2012 gelding Littlemak marked a 222 from the first draw in the Mercuria Non-Pro finals, a score which would remain uncontested to the last. The duo is on a roll, coming into the West Texas Futurity hot off a Classic Non-Pro title from the NCHA Super Stakes as well as an NCHA Summer Spectacular Classic/Challenge Non-Pro Championship.
“We drew first, which seems to be a good draw in this pen. When you’re up first, you just gotta go show as strong as you can,” said Anderson, of Victoria, Texas. “Our first cow was one of our picked cows, a good cow, but I didn’t stay on him very long, and I ended up having to shape cut my second cow. Then the third cow was my favorite. We cut it with a lot of time. The horse was just great, and we stayed with it until the buzzer.”
Littlemak, who is by Starlights Gypsy and out of Justa Swinging Gal (by Justa Swinging Peppy), had $170,048 to his name before he and Anderson earned another $11,242 for their efforts in Amarillo.
“It was fun. There was a lot of energy and the crowd was good. it’s a really good cutting!” Anderson said with a laugh. “It was very exciting, I had to walk around for an hour just to calm down.”
The gelding, who was bred by Joann Parker, of Millsap, Texas, performed even better in West Texas than he did at the Summer Spectatcular, according to Anderson. While the horse is known to “get nervous” away from home, he was remarkably relaxed in Amarillo. Anderson gave a lot of the credit to John Burgess, who rode the horse in the Open go-round the night before, for getting Littlemak “pretty sharp and good to go.”
“Littlemak has a real unique style and I have a lot of confidence in him because I know I’ve been able to win on him,” explained Anderson, who had acquired $801,437 in earnings prior to his success in Amarillo. “He’s real strong, and he puts up with me. You gotta use your mind, but if you get a little off center on him, it’s OK.”
The duo will be taking a “little breather” coming off their back-to-back wins, as Anderson has cattle to work outside the show pen at his ranch in south Texas, which will demand his full attention. They will be back at it, giving the competition a run for their money later in the year.