San Starlight was the dam of many top cutting horses, and her daughters also produced many winners. She is pictured winning the 1995 NCHA Super Stakes Amateur with Melanie Barnes. • Photo by Teresa Jett.

Remembering San Starlight

The cutting horse industry recently lost a top producer—San Starlight—a millionairess who ranks among the discipline’s leading broodmares of all time.

National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Non-Pro Hall of Champion rider Jeff and Kay Barnes owned the mare most of her life. She was humanely euthanized recently due to infirmities of old age.

“She was 32, and she had developed some arthritis the last two years. Up until the last day she was eating well, and her mind was strong,” Jeff Barnes said. “She started to show symptoms of heart failure and we didn’t want her to suffer.”

The Wilton, California cutter bought “Spooky” as an early 4-year-old. Despite a limited number of trips into the show pen, she tallied an EquiStat record of more than $30,083. One of her biggest career highlights was a fifth-place finish in the Derby Open at the 1993 NCHA Super Stakes.

Bred by Tina Gaither of Morgan Hill, California, the sorrel mare by Grays Starlight and out of Doctresa San (by Docs Holliday) has foaled the winners of more than $1,554,913. Thank ranks her 13th among the all-time leading cutting producers as recorded by EquiStat, excluding incentives.

 Her oldest money-earning foal, Spookys Cash (by Miss N Cash) arrived in 1997 and compiled an impressive EquiStat record of $291,410. Her 1999 foal, Spookys Smarty Pants (by Smart Aristocrat), tallied an EquiStat record of more than $258,027. Her top money-earning performer, Spooked By A Cat, a Cat Ichi gelding who is her top-performing offspring with $374,502 earned in limited-age and weekend cuttings.

“When we bought her, they called her Spooky after her sire. She lived up to her name. She was a sweet horse, but always a little spooky,” Jeff explained. “We kept that name, and through that name she became famous. People didn’t know her by San Starlight so much as they’d ask if we had any Spooky babies available.”

The mare has influenced more than her foals — her winning genes also passed along to her grandsons and granddaughters as her daughters have foaled the winners of more than $1.7 million. In 2019, Barnes rode her granddaughter Spookys Jackpot (High Brow CD x Spookys Got Cash x Miss N Cash) to three non-pro futurity reserve championships at the Cascade, El Rancho, and the Pacific Cutting Horse Association (PCCHA) futurities. 

San Starlight also is the granddam of the young stallion Reyzin The Cash (Dual Rey x Spookys Cash x Miss N Cash), an EquiStat Elite $1 Million Sire who earned $278,766 in the cutting pen prior to moving to the breeding barn.  

“It didn’t really matter what we bred her to. She always produced a good one,” Barnes said. “I’ve kept six of her babies that I’ve shown and will continue to breed her daughters with that name to keep it out there.”