The 53rd running of the National Reining Horse Association Futurity was history making, a young phenom from an acclaimed family of horsemen and horsewomen taking his place among the most prominent parts of the annals of the NRHA.
A year ago, Cade McCutcheon sat among the spectators watching the Futurity open division, as he had since he was a little boy, with his usual keen eye on the competition and horses.
He also knew that it was time.
“Last year, I sat up top and I thought, ‘this is what I want to do. I want to be in front of a crowd like this,’” McCutcheon said. “That’s what really made me decide, ‘yeah, let’s go be an open rider.’”
Never in his wildest dreams, however, did he know his time would come so quickly.
On Saturday, McCutcheon finished off an incredible, record-setting year with an eye-popping night, becoming the youngest to win the NRHA Futurity Open championship, riding Story Book Stables-owned Super Marioo, a son of Gunnatrashya, to a 224.5 at the Norick Arena in Oklahoma City. In addition to the Level 4, McCutcheon and Super Marioo won Levels 3 and 2.
If that weren’t enough, McCutcheon’s Guns And Dynamite (Gunners Special Nite x Chic Olena Starbuck x Smart Starbuck) earned a share of the Level 4 Reserve title with Shine Colt Shine (Shine Chic Shine x Gunners Miss Oak x Colonels Smoking Gun) and Shawn Flarida with a 223.5, a score that earned full Reserve shares for the 19-year-old in Levels 3 and 2.
We all need the recipe for the black-eyed peas this guy ate on New Year’s Day.
“It’s surreal,” said Tom McCutcheon, Cade’s dad and himself an NRHA One Million Dollar Rider. “I’ve never won the Futurity and I’ve been coming here for a long time. To be first and second, I don’t know if that’s ever been done.
“For him to do what he’s done at his age is unprecedented. But he’s worked hard at it … worked as hard as anybody. He didn’t just fall into it. He’s worked hard at it.”
Soon, after the NRHA accountants are done, McCutcheon will also officially become the organization’s youngest One Million Dollar Rider in history.
His take on Saturday included more than $341,000, officially putting him over the benchmark threshold. With his winnings as co-champion of The Run For A Million, he had already gotten there, though the NRHA didn’t recognize that take for its records.
“It’s been a dream come true,” McCutcheon said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better year. It’s taken a lot of luck. A lot of things have fallen into place.”
Super Marioo is the son of Gunnatrashya and out of Ha Chic A Tune (x Smart Chic Olena). He was bred by the Hillis Akin Family Partnerships of Gainesville, Texas.
Super Marioo was owned by Gunny Mathison of Tioga, Texas, who once worked for Tom McCutcheon and remains a very close family friend. “He is family,” Tom McCutcheon clarified.
A week or so before The Run For A Million in Las Vegas, Mathison sold Super Marioo to Cade McCutcheon and an associate.
Cade McCutcheon called Mathison a best friend.
“To give that kid that opportunity means the world to me,” said Mathison afterward, in tears. “And I took less money for that horse for that kid. I’m a family friend. It just feels good to do the right thing. I’ve been given flak from a few of my friends for selling him ‘too cheap.’
“I promise you, I gained more out of this evening than the money means to me. Period. I would have sold him to him for a $1 if I knew this was going to happen.”
It was Mathison and his staff at Mathison Reining Horses who did all the work on Super Marioo.
“Gunny, they all did a great job on him,” McCutcheon said. “He’s been easy all along. We’ve had our disputes, but he’s been easy here all week. I had a really good feeling before I went in there that he was going to be there with me tonight and he was.”
What McCutcheon has accomplished in his first year in the open is tantamount to just about anything any other young phenom has achieved in his sport at this stage of his career.
McCutcheon said that, sure, he asked for advice from his father and grandfather, Tim McQuay – “Go hard, but be smart. Show the horse you have. Don’t overshow him” – but it was Mathison he leaned on most this week.
Stay in the moment, make sure you do your job and the rest will come together.
It was heady advice.
“I had two really good horses and it all lined up for me,” McCutcheon said. “I don’t know what’s next. I’m just trying to live in the moment. And then go back to work on the 2-year-olds and try to make it back next year.”