â€śWhen everything is really fast, but it’s still slow, it’s brilliant. And that’s what is was tonight for two and a-half minutes,â€ť said John Mitchell, following his 229-point win aboard Junie Wood in the 2014 NCHA Super Stakes.
â€śRuns just work at times and this one really came together. It was outstanding breakneck speed, but everything was still clean and you could see everything clean.â€ť
Mitchell’s only concern was at the end of the run, when the cheering crowd drowned out the sound of the buzzer. â€śI didn’t know, so I just kept cutting,â€ť he said. â€śOnce it gets really good and you get it capped off, then you don’t hear the buzzer.â€ť
It was the first Triple Crown event win for Mitchell, although he is an NCHA Hall of Fame Rider and an all-time leading open money earner, with over $3 million, and has placed second and third many times in Fort Worth.
Junie Wood, by Nitas Wood, is owned by Glade Knight, who purchased her following the NCHA Futurity, where she was Non-Pro Champion under Craig Crumpler, whose son Josh had trained her. Homegrown Junie Wood is also a full sister to the dam of Woody Be Tuff LTE $351,063, sire of 2012 NCHA Futurity co-champion CR Tuff Hearted Cat.
â€śShe is a special horse for sure,â€ť said Mitchell, who pointed to Junie Wood’s speed and cow sense as two of her best attributes. â€śIf you have the speed she has without as much cow as she’s got, you’ll miss the cow. It is amazing that she can go that fast but still read a cow.â€ť
Mitchell made his first mark in Will Rogers Coliseum as third-place finalist aboard Bobs Smart Chance, in the 1998 NCHA Futurity, shortly after he went to work for Glade Knight’s Slate River Ranch, Weatherford, Tex. At the same Futurity, Mitchell also won the Open Limited championship and placed as an Open finalist on Playdox.
â€śIt’s another dream,â€ť said Mitchell of his 2014 Super Stakes win. â€śThe first dream was that first year, after (Glade) hired me. I was a kid from Australia and he gave me a chance. We had three in the finals that year and nearly won it, and here we are again.â€ť
Mitchell struck out on a new venture several years ago, but is now back in the fold at Slate River Ranch.
â€śI’ve been fortunate to get to ride a lot of good horses for Glade over the years,â€ť said Mitchell. â€śAnd it’s outstanding that I’ve just gone back to work for him. He took this risk and was going to send this mare (Junie Wood) to my place, because I was still working for myself. He said, she’s yours and you take her and we’re going to show her together. And then a week later, we put the deal together for me to go back to work for the ranch.
â€śI got a lucky break tonight and got to win on her, but she’s Glade’s to show. We talked today about how we double up, but I told him, if anyone gets off this one, it will be me.â€ť
Knight, an NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame member and hospitality industry owner, has earned nearly $700,000, on horses mainly trained by Mitchell.
Mitchell was also a finalist (13th) Saturday on Playin N Fancy, bred by Slate River Ranch and out of Playin N Fancy Smart LTE $338,236, the 2008 NCHA Super Stakes Open champion under Kory Pounds, bred by Knight.
Junie Wood’s score of 229 points was the third highest ever scored in the NCHA Super Stakes. Sunettes Dually, ridden by Matt Gaines, holds the record with 231 points; Third Cutting, with Boyd Rice, scored 230 points in 2009.
Boyd Rice showed CR High Brow Letha, sired by High Brow Cat and owned by Center Ranch, to place fourth in the 2014 Super Stakes with 219 points.
Reserve champion Some Kinda Highbrow
Some Kinda High Brow came into the Super Stakes Finals as a handicap favorite after his 221-point win in the Semi-Finals, and 436-point high cumulative go-round score. And he did not disappoint the fans with a 222-point performance as the second horse to work in the Finals.
â€śI always knew he was a nice horse, but I didn’t know he was capable of this, until I started showing him,â€ť said Shepard who rode NCHA Futurity champion High Brow CD to score 227 points and share the 2008 NCHA Super Stakes championship win with Playin N Fancy Smart, owned by Slate River Ranch.
â€śI was partners with Todd Quirk on him and tried to sell him at last year’s Derby, but no one bought him. Then I let Cade show him and he got along so good with him that I bought Todd out of the partnership.â€ť
Cade Shepard, 12, Austin’s son, showed Some Kinda Highbrow as a non-pro semi-finalist in the NCHA Futurity and as a non-pro finalist (14th) in the 2014 Augusta Futurity. Austin also qualified Some Kinda Highbrow for the Super Stakes Open Gelding finals.
â€śThis was the first time that I’ve shown him in this arena,â€ť said Shepard, a leading NCHA open money winner and an NCHA Hall of Fame Rider. â€śHe just kept getting better and better. I never knew he would be this kind of a horse, but he is definitely a show horse.â€ť