Being the first to go in a class can be intimidating to even seasoned riders, but Im Countin On Annie and Matt Miller did not let it get in their way as they cut to a score of 222 in the 4-Year-Old Open at The Non Pro Plus The Open, taking home a $10,000 paycheck.
“It’s always nerve-wracking a little bit when you do good first because then you have to watch everybody else,” Miller said. “But it seems like it’s worked a lot this year for people that are first in a set. If you can go out with a really good, hard, clean run and kind of set the bar high, then you’ve got a good chance.”
Miller and Im Countin On Annie definitely set the bar high for others, besting the second-place horse Summer Time Fun, ridden by James Payne, by 3.5 points.
Im Countin On Annie is a sorrel mare owned by Holy Cow Performance Horses. She is sired by Im Countin Checks, who earned $514,757 and has sired earners of more than $4.6 million. Im Countin On Annie’s dam is Smarty Hicat Annie (Cats Merada x Smart Ann x Smart Little Lena), who earned $23,800 in competition. Im Countin On Annie is Smarty Hicat Annie’s first money-earner.
According to Miller, Im Countin On Annie took a while to come together and mature.
“At the BI [Breeder’s Invitational], I was third in the novice on her there, and that’s when I finally felt her come in and felt like I got accomplished what I’ve been after,” he said, adding that the pair had been building momentum together, and it all came to fruition at The Non Pro Plus The Open. “She worked great this whole week, and I felt like she was ready.
“[We] had a good 219.5 in the first round,” he added. “She was really smart, stayed accurate the whole time, so I felt pretty confident that with our draw today, if we cut good cows, we would have a good shot.”
Miller and Im Countin On Annie were next pointed toward the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Summer Spectacular, where they will be walking into the arena in Fort Worth with a little more hardware and confidence.
5/6-Year-Old Mid-Level Open
The Non Pro Plus The Open, put on by Della Hillerman, featured a new leveling format this year with three levels in each division, including the Mid-Level and the Limited. Faced with a talented pen of horses and riders, Cheshire The Cat and rider David Stewart rose to the top with a score of 220 in the 5/6-Year-Old Mid-Level Open finals. The pair took home a $4,000 check for owner Jeff Neidhart, adding to the stallion’s $47,400 in lifetime earnings.
Cheshire The Cat is by Equi-Stat Elite $81 million sire High Brow Cat and out of Autumn Boon, an earner of $259,685 in the cutting pen and producer of more than $1.8 million. Autumn Boon is by Dual Pep and out of Equi-Stat Elite $2.6 million producer Royal Blue Boon.
Royal Blue Boon is also the paternal great grand-dam of the 4-Year-Old Open winner, Im Countin On Annie. Cheshire The Cat’s bloodlines set him up for success, but Stewart credited the horse’s work ethic.
“That horse has shown good here all week. I showed him a few other times, and so I had a lot of confidence,” Stewart said. “The cows were good, everything was good. I just tried to cut aggressive, clean and let him do his thing.”
As for what’s next for Cheshire The Cat and Stewart, they too have their sights set on the NCHA Summer Spectacular.
Second Spot & Lloyd Cox
13M (Spots Hot x Reycy Moon x Cats Moonshine)
Owner:Barker Ranch Cutting Horses LLC, Madill, OK
Breeder:Barker Ranch Cutting Horses LLC, Madill, OK
4-Year-Old Mid-Level Open
Smart Sugar Kitty & Wes Ashlock
15M (Kit Kat Sugar x Dual Smart Kitty x Dual Smart Rey)
Owner:Buck Creek Quarter Horses, Nemo, TX
Breeder:Rusty Simpson, Nemo, TX