From first go-round to the last, High Brow CD maintained his mettle and Austin Shepard proved his showmanship in the NCHA Open Futurity.
Last night, the dynamic duo upped the ante late in the first of two sets of cattle. Their 226-point score topped the field by 8.5 points and earned them $250,000. Only Desires Little Rex and Bubba Matlock, reserve champions with 222.5 points, came close enough to see their dust, four-deep in the second set.
“I was just trying to be smooth on my second cow, but it wouldn’t let me off and I kept having to be more aggressive,” said Shepard. “I didn’t think it was ever going to turn away. My horse was out of air and I was trying to slow myself down.”
When the first cow finally turned away, and Shepard turned back to the herd, Shepard spotted a volunteer close to the front. When helper Brett Davis told him that it was fresh, Shepard trotted up and cut it.
“I didn’t have any idea how much time I had,” he said. “It felt like I worked it forever. But when I went back (to the herd) I had twelve seconds left. So I kind of went back to my weekend experience.
“One thing I have learned through showing is that you can’t make a run like that. It just has to happen and you have to be aggressive and smart and pick your opportunities. But when it’s meant to happen, it happens.”
High Brow CD had tied for second with Al Poocino, ridden by Tom Dvorak, in the first go-round with 221 points. Special Nu Kitty, ridden by Clint Allen, won the first round with a record 227 points and the standings remained the same at the end of two go-rounds — Special Nu Kitty followed by High Brow CD and Al Poocino, with a tie.
If wagers had been taken before the Futurity Finals, Allen on Special Nu Kitty, for Wrigley Ranches, would have been the odds-on favorite. But it was not the High Brow Cat’s night to shine and Allen, last year’s reserve champion on Highdrive Cat, rode out, when with seconds left on the clock, a second cow joined the one he had cut.
“When that happened to him and he came straight out, I thought that showed a lot of character,” Shepard said.
It was in the Semi-Finals that High Brow CD and Shepard gave a taste of what was to come, with a 224-point “we’re out to win” performance.
“He’s been one of the nicest horses to train that I’ve ever had,” said Shepard of the High Brow Cat son, owned by Arthur Noble, Madison, MS. “He’s one of those you dream about.”
Noble purchased High Brow CD, his first yearling, for $63,000 at the 2005 NCHA Futurity Sales. Shepard happened to walk through John Justin Sale Arena just before the horse was to sell and Noble asked for his opinion.
“I told him that I loved the mare (High Brow CD’s dam) and we should look at the baby,” Shepard recalled. “If I hadn’t gone to work another horse in the practice pen, Clint Allen could have had that horse and his great mare (Special Nu Kitty). I stood right beside Clint and he was bidding against me.”
Last week during the NCHA Futurity Sales, Sweet Little Kitten, a full sister to High Brow CD out of Sweet Little CD, sold for $93,000, during Western Bloodstock’s Invitational Yearling Sale. Sweet Little CD, by CD Olena, is out of Sweet Lil Lena, a full sister to Smart Lil Scoot, sire of Philip Layne’s 2007 NCHA Futurity Amateur and Non-Pro Limited champion Dual Ya Scoot, as well as Open finalists Moms Stylish Scoot (8th/9th), with Jason Clark for Darren Blanton, and Playware (15th), under Austin Shepard for Lynn Davis.
Sweet Lil Lena is also the dam of Sweet Lil Pepto, sire of Some Kinda Sweety, an Open Finalist under Shannon Hall for Clay McCullar, and Pepto Taz, sire of Heza Smart Taz, a finalist with Michael Copper for George Ward.
Ironically, it was Shepard, at the time part-owner of the horse, who started Futurity reserve champion Desires Little Rex on cattle. Bubba Matlock has had the Smart Little Lena son, with Futurity winnings of $197,004, since last February. Matlock had career earnings of just over $300,000 prior to the 2007 NCHA Futurity.
Shepard, who lives in Summerdale, AL and has NCHA lifetime earnings of nearly $3 million, was a finalist in the 2004 NCHA Futurity aboard Cats Good Intentions, and again in 2005 on CDs Nitty Gritty. He also rode Widows Intentions as 2006 Super Stakes Classic champion and NCHA Derby reserve champion.