For EquiStat $800,000 rider Matt Palmer, it was a special opportunity Saturday, May 27 to swing a leg over Im Painted Special, a 2016 sorrel gelding. The chrome faced gelding is owned by Mark Hurd, who has been working with Palmer since Hurd’s daughters began showing in 2010.
Palmer marked a monster 226 on “Sam” to win the Level 3 and 4 Open Derby, and take home $9,013 for the weekend. Im Painted Special is by EquiStat $5 million sire Gunners Special Nite and out of Darlins Not Painted (Smokin Chic Olena).
Palmer has had the opportunity to train Sam since Hurd bought him as a 3-year-old from breeder Scott McCutcheon. In the beginning of his 4-year-old year, Sam was forced to slow down a bit with a tendon injury. He came back slowly, but Palmer says the now 7-year-old feels healthier than he has ever been.
Sam is an incredible Open horse, but what really sets the gelding apart is his demeanor. Hurd has been the gelding’s main rider and has had incredible success. Hurd only began riding around 2018, and went directly from a Green Reiner to showing Sam at Derbies.
“What makes this horse so special is he’s so good minded and so kind,” Palmer explained. “What this horse has done for [Mark] has just been incredible, but talent-wise, mind-wise he’s also an open horse. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime, I can tell you that.”
And he was a champion at Champion Center.
“I’ve been to the Buckeye before, but this year it was just something different,” Palmer said. “You knew it was going to be tough by the list of horses.”
This year’s draw boasted names such as Shiner On My Eye (Shiners Voodoo Dr x Flashy Lil Step x Wimpys Little Step), who placed second with EquiStat $7 Million rider Shawn Flarida just a half point behind Palmer. Sam Flarida was third on Alpha Jac Sparrow (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Chexanicki x Bueno Chexinic), one of the five reining horses to compete at The American Performance Horseman.
“This show is a staple that you want to win,” Palmer said. “You want to put that one under your checklist that you went and won, so it was pretty neat.”