The hard-stopping cutting stallion Smart Mate has died at the age of 30.
A 1990 stallion by Smart Little Lena, Smart Mate was euthanized Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the property of his longtime owner, Pat Fitzgerald, due to infirmities of old age.
The earner of nearly $50,000 and sire of more than $8.5 million lived in Paoli, Oklahoma, since Fitzgerald and his wife, Connie, bought the horse back in 1996.
“He was my buddy forever,” Fitzgerald said.
Smart Mate: The Show Career
Fitzgerald owned Smart Mate for almost 25 years, but if he would’ve had his way, he’d have owned the horse bred by Sandra Sims, of Fullerton, California, even longer.
“Shannon Hall, a friend of mine, called me his 3-year-old year and said, ‘Pat, if you want a horse you think you can win the Futurity [with], this horse can win it’,” he recalled.
The horse’s owners wouldn’t sell at the time, but Fitzgerald got him bought a few years later after watching him at a show. He competed with Smart Mate, and then owned the stallion for his entire breeding career.
Smart Mate started his show career with trainer Dean Smith, earning just shy of $1,000 in the Fall Festival Incentive Program as a 3-year-old for then-owner Steven Kitchen.
The stallion was ridden in the Open by Smith and Kobie Wood as a 4- and 5-year-old, and then at age 6, his new owner, Fitzgerald, began riding him in Open events.
With Fitzgerald aboard, Smart Mate won the 5/6-Year-Old Open at the 1996 Southern Cutting Futurity and was Reserve Champion at the 1997 National Western Stock Show. They also competed, and won, in multiple weekend events in 1997.
Going down the road with the stallion was a highlight for Fitzgerald.
“My wife and I, we hauled him to California and around all over,” he said of the trip. “The two of us really had fun.”
Sometimes Fitzgerald would be surprised by the scores, because the horse was deceptive.
“He was so smooth and could stop so hard, he never jarred you,” Fitzgerald explained. “It was like, ‘What’d we do?
“I think every good horse that’s really a great horse, they feel that way. “
Smart Mate retired with earnings of $49,598.
When Smart Mate retired, Fitzgerald had a plan for the son of Freckles Playmate (by Freckles Playboy).
“I’d owned [Doc] Quixote a long time; I owned him when he died, and I kept some of those Quixote mares back,” Fitzgerald explained. “And, I kept some of those [Doc’s] Hickory mares, because I stood Doc’s Hickory for a long time.
“I wanted something to breed them to. And, [Smart Mate] crossed on those mares like gangbusters.”
Nutn Buta Houndog, Smart Mate’s leading earner, is out of one of those Doc Quixote mares, Liza Quixote. During his aged-event career, he scored wins including the Brazos Bash Futurity Open with Troy Riddle and also earned the 5/6-Year-Old Open Reserve Championship at the NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular with Zeke Entz.
Nutn But A Houndog went on to have a highly successful weekend career that lasted several years and included Joe Howard Williamson’s championship campaign for the 2015 NCHA Non-Pro World Championship. The horse retired with $264,969 in earnings.
One of Smart Mate’s other leading earners was multiple aged-event finalist Mates Irish Rose ($178,582), a daughter of Hickory Badger Ina (by Doc’s Hickory).
Fitzgerald attributes the success of those two crosses to Smart Mate’s disposition.
“He didn’t really have a big motor — he was kind of a sensible horse — and the Hickorys were big-motored. The Quixotes I kept back were that way, too.
“I think that’s what made the cross — you bred a hot mare to a stud that wasn’t hot.”
At the time of his death, Smart Mate had compiled an Equi-Stat sire record of more than $8.5 million in progeny earnings. His daughters have foaled the winners of nearly that much — some $7.8 million and counting — cementing the stallion’s legacy as a maternal grandsire.
Smart Mate’s Legacy
It’s been several years since Smart Mate sired a large crop, but Fitzgerald looks to continue the horse’s legacy with two 2-year-olds and a yearling. He also has a limited amount of frozen semen.
Fitzgerald said he also owns some of Smart Mate’s daughters, who have proven to be valuable producers.
Leading earners produced by Smart Mate mares are NCHA Horse Hall of Fame inductee and NCHA $10,000 Novice World Champion Faith In My Cat ($559,708, High Brow Cat x Faith In Your Mate) and NCHA Non-Pro World Champion mount Woodys Baby ($393,014, Nitas Wood x You N Me Baby).
Another standout was Arosesuchaclatter, a mare by Smooth As A Cat and out of Mates Irish Rose who made the finals of the 2009 NCHA Futurity Open and Non-Pro en route to a lifetime Equi-Stat record of $324,471.
Looking back, Smart Mate made an impression on Fitzgerald because of his athleticism — that “unbelievable” stop he passed down to his foals and that his daughters passed down to their foals — but also for his sweet disposition.
“The kindest horse you’ve ever been around,” he said.