Stuart Bozeman on Checkers Live Oak.
The last time Stuart Bozeman made the finals in Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, he was 11 years old in the NYCHA Scholarship Cutting. On Sunday, the 33-year-old from Idalou, Texas, rode into his second finals, and rode out with a $17,199 winner’s check in the Non-Pro Classic Challenge at the NCHA Summer Spectacular, presented by Great American Insurance.
He marked 221 on Checkers Live Oak as the third rider in the first set and held on for a 2 1/2-point win over Cody Hedlund on Meteles Cat.
Checkers Live Oak was bred by Dale Stallkamp, by Im Countin Checks out of Cats Live Oak, a High Brow Cat mare that won the Breeders Invitational with Lloyd Cox, and was a limited age finalist in a long string of events with Dirk Blakesley.
Bozeman bought the 2010 mare from NRCHA Hall of Famer Don Murphy with the idea of maybe winning the Snaffle Bit Futurity. That’s not too far-fetched when you consider he’s been a Snaffle Bit Futurity Non-Pro finalist multiple times, and once won a total of five championships at the NRCHA Celebration of Championships.
“I worked her on a cow, cutting on her, the first time in March of her 3-year-old year,” Bozeman recalled. “She had not worked many cows, but she told me that day, ‘I’m going to be a great cutting horse.’ I thought I could get her ready for the Snaffle Bit Futurity, but it was too much training for her.
“The day after the Snaffle Bit, I said, ‘Okay, we’re going to be cutting on you because that’s what you need to be doing.'”
On the way to the Summer Spectacular, Checker Live Oak and Bozeman made Non-Pro and Limited Non-Pro finals, earning more than $79,000 together.
“She’s taught me what a legit great horse is,” he said. “So I get frustrated riding some of my other horses, sometimes.
“She’s always at the stall door waiting on you. She’s good around people. She’s like a big, old dog. But when it’s time to ask her for her life, she always steps up to the plate. That’s everything I could want in a horse.”
Bozeman, who marked 216 and 217.5 in the go-rounds to qualify for the finals on the bubble, said, “I felt like I was catching fire a few times at this show. We just got her cut clean. I couldn’t have asked her to stop any harder and she just got better and better every time I showed her here.”
But he did get nervous waiting through the next 18 horses, which included some of the sport’s most accomplished Non-Pro riders of recent years.
This was Checkers Live Oak’s final show in Will Rogers Coliseum, and she’s closing in on $100,000 in career earnings. Bozeman may take her to some Mercuria NCHA World Series shows next year, and he’s already got three babies on the ground, with another trio on the way.
Reserve champion Cody Hedlund of Lipan, Texas, and Meteles Cat marked 218.5 midway through the second set.
Bred by Cody’s parents, Rock and Landy Hedlund, Meteles Cat is by Metallic Cat out of Teles Lies, by Lenas Telesis. The reserve championship takes the horse’s unofficial earnings over $399,000.
Hedlund and Meteles Cat won the Western Bloodstock Summer Showdown in Cowtown and the Breeders Invitational last year, as well as the Bonanza and The Ike this year.
Cody Hedlund on Meteles Cat.