Bama Jelly and Austin Shepard at the Eastern Nationals.
Austin Shepard rode Bama Jelly to the NCHA Eastern Nationals Open championship with a 228 in the finals. Photo by Video West Productions

Austin Shepard Jammin’ in Jackson, Mississippi

If you’re a betting man, one logical choice to guide one or more horses to a championship title during this year’s National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Eastern Nationals in Jackson, Mississippi, would be Equi-Stat Elite $8 Million Rider Austin Shepard. 

The Summerdale, Alabama, trainer has won numerous Eastern Nationals titles through the years and this year was not an exception with two more. 

Shepard, whose Equi-Stat lifetime record at the end of January totaled $8,423,162, won the Open finals with a 228 aboard Bama Jelly (Bamacat x Wood She Be Neat x Nitas Wood), a 2015 stallion bred and owned by Madalyn Colgrove of Boligee, Alabama. 

Shepard also placed fourth in the finals riding 2017 NCHA Futurity Open Champion and 2019 NCHA Eastern Nationals Open Champion Dual Reyish (Hottish x A Little Reylena x Dual Rey) to a 221.5 score.

“It was a pretty tough cutting,” Shepard said. “We had a [2]28, a [2]25 and a [2]23. I was just trying to have a really clean run and that’s what’s nice about having a really good horse like Bama Jelly, because if you can have a clean run, he sticks out.”

Bama Jelly, who in 2019 won the 4-Year-Old Open at the Augusta Futurity, as well as the 4-Year-Old Open at the Arbuckle Mountain Futurity, had lifetime earnings of $170,942, as of January. 

Shepard rode Bama Jelly’s sire, Bamacat, to the semifinals title and ultimately third in the finals in the 2012 NCHA Futurity Open division. The stallion has lifetime earnings of $352,194 and has sired 32 money-earners with total earnings of $489,247 — an average of $15,289. 

Bama Jelly is the stallion’s No. 1 money-earner. Bama Jelly’s dam, Wood She Be Neat, who was mainly shown in non-pro, amateur and youth cutting competitions, won $28,508 and has produced three money-earners with total earnings $189,833 — with Bama Jelly leading the way.

“He [Bama Jelly] has been an excellent horse to train and show, he’s so honest,” Shepard said. “Not only is he a very super-talented horse, but he gives you 100% every time you show him. It’s no different with people, that’s a great quality — when someone gives you everything that they have when they go to do a job. And not only is he good at his job, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, and that’s very important.”

Shepard said the horse is not only good minded, the stallion retains training as good or better than any horse Shepard has shown.

“If you tell him to do something when you are working him, he’s going to overdo it, when you show him. Every horse does that to an extent, but that horse probably sticks out in my mind more than any horse I’ve ever had. He’s super smart and tries to figure out every situation. And like I said, that’s a great quality and, as a horse trainer, I certainly appreciate it.”

Shepard, with CR Dualin Out Tuff, also won the $5,000 Novice division.

CR Dualin Out Tuff (Woody Be Tuff x ARC Catty Dual x Dual Pep), a 5-year-old mare bred by Center Ranch of Centerville, Texas, and owned by Julie Beasley of Montgomery, Alabama, scored a 225 in the finals. 

Shepard also tied for fifth riding Barney Ross (Bamacat x Haidandsmoke x Smart Smokin Pep), a 5-year-old gelding, bred by Darrell and Stephanie Copeland of McAlpin, Florida. He is owned by Shepard and his wife, Stacy.

CR Dualin Out Tuff and Shepard also tied for third in the $25,000 Novice finals — adding more dollars to their show records. 

Woody Be Tuff won $351,063 during his show career and is an Equi-Stat Elite $5 Million Sire with 240 money-earners in numerous disciplines. CR Dualin Out Tuff’s dam (ARC Catty Dual) was ridden by Phil Rapp to lifetime cutting earnings of $170,938. She has produced 17 money-earners with total earnings of $653,341 — an average of $38,432.

The Eastern Nationals run through Saturday.