Austin Shepard & Kittennish * Photo by D'Albor

Kittennish adds Cotton Stakes title to Horse of the Year Scoreboard

Kittennish may have proven her prowess from the very start, but she’s nowhere near finished leaving her mark in the cutting pen. Many cutting fans were excited at the prospect of possibly seeing her at The Run For A Million, but EquiStat Elite $10 Million Rider Austin Shepard had different plans for the young mare.

“I showed her in Amarillo and I might have taken her but I was worried about taking her all the way to Vegas,” Shepard said. “I just felt like it was going to be a lot.”

The cutting season has already been long and strenuous for Shepard and the mare. The 2019 mare by Hottish and out of Show Biz Kitty (High Brow Cat) was already ahead in the race for Horse of the Year and Shepard wanted to make the most of the final shows in the season. She has 478 points including those earned at the Cotton Stakes.

“I wanted to get her prepared to come here because we’re leading the Horse of the Year standings, and that was our focus,” Shepard said.

She’s earned those points over eight shows this season. The shows must meet an added money requirement which qualifies them to have points which count towards the Horse of the Year award. So, when Shepard rode Kittennish to the Cotton Stakes Open Derby Championship they earned $11,000 and 40 points.

“There’s Vegas here in a couple of weeks, for the Pacific Coast Futurity, then we have the Brazos Bash at the begining of October, then towards the end of October the last show that you can get points at is the Southern Futurity in Jackson, Mississippi,” Shepard explained.

Kittennish and Shepard got off to a head start for owner Billy Wolf when they took the Reserve Champion slot at the 2022 NCHA Futurity and earned 160 points. At this point, they’re leading by 120 points, meaning that James Payne isn’t far behind on Nice Work Babe (WR This Cats Smart x Just U Babe x Lizzys Gotta Player). In fact the mare, bred by Wagonhound Land and Livestock, landed herself in the reserve slot at the Cotton Stakes. Right behind Kittennish.

Payne and his horse have been neck and neck with Shepard and Kittennish all year. Kittenish marked higher at the NCHA Futurity and the Augusta Futurity, and Shepard jumped ahead at The Ike. Then each team earned 20 points at the Arbuckle Futurity. Shepard once again got a jump at the Cattlemens and the Super Stakes. Payne gained major ground at the Breeders Invitational, The Non Pro + Pro and the NCHA Summer Spectacular. Both teams have attended the West Texas Futurity as well as the Cotton Stakes in their most recent neck and neck finishes.

Not to be counted out, Metallic Dawg and Adan Banuelos are only 20 points behind Payne right now. This team attended the Idaho Futurity recently to earn 40 points towards their tally.