Pete Branch

Kit Kat Sugar, ridden by Pete Branch, overcame NCHA Futurity reserve champions Jewel Bars Cat and Ronnie Rice by one-half point to win the $170,000-added Bonanza 4-Year-Old Cutting with 223 points, on Thursday, in Glen Rose, Tex. Payouts are not yet official, but recent years’ winners have earned $30,000 or more.

Branch showed Kit Kat Sugar as a finalist in both the NCHA Futurity (20th) and the Abilene Spectacular (10th). The High Brow Cat son, owned and bred by Lonnie and Barbara Allsup, is out of a daughter of Little Badger Dulce, who Branch showed for the Allsups to become the first ever NCHA Horse of the Year (1993).

Jewel Bars Cat, also sired by High Brow Cat, earned $121,334 for owner Center Ranch, as the 2011 NCHA Futurity reserve champion.

“I’ll go to the Bonanza and Super Stakes and Breeders Invitational,” said Rice following the NCHA Futurity, where Jewels Bars Cat proved his resilience following surgery for upper airway obstruction.

“They operated on the flap in his throat,” Rice explained. “He still had some problems when we got him, but we got to where it’s managed.”

Rice, the all-time leader in number of NCHA Futurity finalists and the sport’s #8 all-time money earner with over $4.5 million, was showing with his own handicap, evidenced by a brace on his right wrist.

“I have no cartilage left in my wrist and this (brace) keeps my bones from touching,” he explained. “I’ve got to get it operated on sometimes, but I don’t know when that’s going to be. We don’t have much time on our hands.”