High Brow CD, the 2007 NCHA Futurity open champion, who remains undefeated in 2008, after winning the Augusta Futurity and the Tunica Futurity, recently sold to Chris and Staci Thibodeaux, Jennings, LA. What follows is a continuation of my post from January 12 and a photo of the principal players. From left to right: Austin Shepard, Arthur Noble, High Brow CD, Don Ham, Staci and Chris Thibodeaux.

Chris Thibodeaux had his sights on Absolutely Stunning when he went to Fort Worth, for the NCHA Futurity Sales. But he ended up as under bidder for the 5-year-old Smart Little Lena daughter, when the hammer dropped at $575,000, for Jackson Land & Cattle.

“We got up to $570,000 and Al Dunning and Carol Rose [agents for Jackson Land & Cattle] bid $575,000 right back,” recalled Don Ham, Thibodeaux’s friend and advisor. “[Auctioneer] Don Green looked at him and said, ‘You be $580,000, I’ll bet he’ll be $585,000.’

“Chris said, ‘Yah, I bet that’s right.” So that was it. We didn’t buy the mare. Chris bases a lot on gut feeling. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

For several years, Thibodeaux and his wife, Staci, who keep three broodmares and Rio N Freckles, the 2005 NCHA $10,000 Novice world champion stallion, on their 700-acre Grace Ranch in Jennings, LA, had been looking for a stallion to upgrade their program, along with a few choice mares.

“We’d been looking at stallions and several deals had fallen through for one reason or another,” said Chris. “We watched High Brow CD at the Futurity, never knowing that he would become available and we would be the ones to buy him.”

“This horse could not be in better hands,” said Jim Ware, longtime livestock marketing specialist and the breeder of 2007 NCHA Open Futurity finalist Playware. It was Ware, with Thibodeaux in mind, who contacted trainer Austin Shepard and owner Arthur Noble, to see if the High Brow Cat son, out of Sweet Little CD, was for sale.

“Austin Shepard is the first person that I contacted,” said Ware. “He understands what’s going on in this business and he was able to catch lightning in a bottle with this horse.”

After conferring with all parties, Ware drafted contracts and the deal was finalized on January 21 during the Augusta Futurity, pending a veterinarian exam and semen evaluation that took place on February 11.

“We never ran into anything that caused us to hesitate,” said Thibodeaux of the negotiation process. “Everything just fell into place.”

Thibodeaux’s plans are for Shepard to show High Brow CD through the end of this year. “Austin has done such a great job with him, we don’t want to change anything right now,” said Ham. “But there are some people with really, really good mares that want to breed to him, so we will hand pick a few and hopefully breed them with frozen semen.”

High Brow CD’s next show will be the NCHA Super Stakes, which begins on April 1, in Fort Worth. Until that time, he will remain at Shepard’s training facility in Summerville, AL, where Shepard’s veterinarian will collect and ship his semen to Don Ham.

Chris Thibodeaux, 42, owns a physical therapy practice and is one of eight founding shareholders of Louisiana Health Care Group, a home health provider throughout the Southeastern U.S. He and Staci, a retired attorney for the Federal Government, were high school sweethearts. As students at Louisiana State University, they would sometimes watch horse shows at the Coliseum in Baton Rouge and it was there that they became interested in cutting horses.

“As we were eventually able, we dabbled in it more and more,” said Chris. “We like being able to have our whole family involved. It’s real rewarding.” The Thibodeaux have five children: MacKenzi, 11; Madison, 10; Meaghan, 7; C.J., 6; and Marie, 15 months.

“It’s just a blessing,” said Chris of the turn of events in their lives. “There’s no other way to say it. We named our place Grace Ranch because we feel like we’ve been blessed. We don’t know why, but we just try to be good stewards of what God gives us.”

In 2009, the horse will stand at Don Ham’s breeding facility in Whitesboro, Texas. Ham, 40, grew up in the Pilot Point area of North Texas and has had his hand on the lead shanks of some high-power stallions. One of his first jobs was with Bob Perry Quarter Horses, home at one time to Zippo Pine Bar, Zips Chocolate Chip, Freckles Playboy and Travalena.

He left Perry’s to work for Tommy Manion, when High Brow Cat was there, along with Smart Little Lena. Later, he helped put together the Strawn Valley Ranch breeding program in Texas for owner Don Horton. In 1999, Don and his wife, Lisa, established their own business. They currently stand 11 stallions in Whitesboro, TX.

Look for an interview with Austin Shepard on tomorrow’s post.