Special Nu Baby and Matt Gaines completed the hat trick at El Rancho Futurity on September 12, winning their third Mercuria NCHA World Series of Cutting finals in a row. And they did it in a big way, marking 234 for a six-point lead over Mike Wood and Smart Stingrey.
Only one horse has won three Mercuria finals in a row before, Dont Look Twice. She swept the finals at Augusta, San Antonio and Houston in 2012.
And Special Nu Baby tied Dont Look Twice for another honor – Special Nu Baby’s 234 at El Rancho and Dont Look Twice’s 234 at Idaho in 2011 are the highest scores ever recorded in the Mercuria NCHA World Series.
Gaines is no stranger to high scores. He also holds the record for an NCHA Triple Crown finals in Will Rogers Coliseum. He marked 231 on Sunettes Dually in the 2001 Super Stakes. Coincidentally, that was the same year he won the NCHA Derby on Nu I Wood, the dam of Special Nu Baby.
Special Nu Baby, who also won the Mercuria finals at San Antonio earlier this year, is piling up a big lead in the 2015 World standings, pursued by Smart Stingrey. She’s also qualified for the NCHA Horse Hall of Fame this year, which gave owners Gary and Shannon Barker of Madill, Oklahoma another item to scratch off their “to-do” list.
Special Nu Baby was bred by Eddy Longley’s Crystal Creek Ranch, by Dual Rey out of Nu I Wood. Gaines showed Nu I Wood for Longley, earning over $400,000. The mare’s babies have earned more than $900,000 so far.
Stephanie Haymes, the NCHA Non-Pro World Champion of 2008, marked 223.5 on Card Trick, to win the Non-Pro at El Rancho over Jeff Barnes on Spookys Cat Deville (222) and Bill Lacy on Melodys Pepto (221).
Her win should move her up a notch to third in the Non-Pro World standings, where the top four contenders are all previous World Champions: Joe Howard Williamson, Dan Hansen, Haymes and Mary Jo Milner. Two other World Champions, Constance Jaeggi and Paula Wood, are also ranked in the top 10.
Card Trick, who was also an Open Mercuria finalist with Matt Gaines twice last year, was bred by Drummond Land & Cattle Co. by Lizzys Gotta Player out of Moms Stylish Babe.
The 2008 gelding has earned more than $170,000.
Haymes, a Non-Pro Hall of Famer with earnings approaching $850,000, has also showed Mercedes Smoothe and Im Struck On You this year. This was her eighth Mercuria NCHA World Series finals, and her first win in the program.