Necessity is the mother of invention, so when the 2020 NCHA Kit Kat Sugar Super Stakes was cancelled due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Association got busy finding a solution.
While cutting is a fun recreation for many, for trainers, breeders and other professionals, it’s a livelihood. So the loss of a major show creates a big financial hole.
NCHA Director of Shows, Shianne Megel, said that the 2020 Super Stakes was the most discussed and researched topic the Association dealt with all year in 2020. After the 2020 cancellation, a portion of the Stallion and Foal funds were still available to be paid out to eligible horses.
To show at the Super Stakes, the competing horse and its sire have to be nominated. The owners/breeders pay into a pot that increases the prize money and adds extra awards.
A task force was formed to evaluate all factors surrounding the 2020 NCHA Kit Kat Sugar Super Stakes. It was composed of members from the NCHA Executive Committee and the NCHA Stallion and Foal Committee. They made recommendations on several factors including potential refunds, program restructure and the most responsible way to handle the unprecedented situation.
“There were two decisions made regarding the seven-year-old competition. First, a seven year-old division would be included in the 2021 NCHA Super Stakes, and second, that Limited Age Event show producers would have the option to include seven-year-olds in their events during the 2021 point year,” said Megel.
“These are the best horses in the country, and it was exciting to welcome them back to Fort Worth and be able to provide an opportunity for them to compete this year,” she said.
The 2021 Super Stakes broke the classes down into a four-year-old, a five-year-old and a six/seven class in the open, non-pro and amateur divisions. The NCHA chose to organize the classes this way instead of adding a stand-alone seven-year-old event.
“Following numerous meetings, financial reviews and intense evaluation, the decision was made to structure the 2021 Super Stakes with a four-year-old Derby, five-year-old Special and a six/seven-year-old Classic based on the best fiscal management of the Stallion and Foal Program Funds,” Megel said.
Open six/seven finalist, Morgan Cromer, felt that it was fair that they had a combined six/ seven class to give the horses that chance. Cromer had nice seven-year-olds and was glad for the chance to show them again.
Open six/seven winner, Geoffrey Sheehan said, “I thought the finals were really cool. It was as good a cutting as you’ll ever see. The cows were great.” On April 17th, all three finals in the Open were held. It was six exciting sets of the best cutting in the country.
The scores just kept getting better with Geoffrey Sheehan marking a 228 riding Hiss N Vinegar, Kenny Platt winning with a 229 aboard Dr Sueish in the five-year-old and Tarin Rice victorious on Catolena Cashin In marking a 230 in the four-year-olds.
Sheehan said the class schedule was a lot to manage since they were competing in two arenas. At one point, the non-pros and open riders were going at the same time which made it tricky to coordinate.
Cromer said that it was a long show and agreed the scheduling was challenging to juggle. But she said her owners were happy their horses got to show at the Super Stakes again.
Cromer shared an interesting perspective from her amateurs who told her, “If we do good in the Watt, then we get to show in the Coliseum.” It was almost like a qualifier, she said.
“If they could shorten the shows by utilizing [the Watt], I would be all in,” Cromer said. Cromer said if the NCHA can improve the scheduling, then she would be supportive of showing in the Watt to shorten the show. She added that keeping things as they always have been just for the sake of it can negatively impact a business, so making a change makes sense.
Despite its success this year, the six/seven year old class will not be permanent, according to the NCHA.
Morgan Cromer said that if the six/seven class was here to stay, it would hurt the weekend classes in places like the West Coast.
“We struggle to make those Novice classes and Open classes, if you take another year away from the weekend classes you could hurt the [weekend] entries,” Cromer said.
Sheehan said that it was great that the non-pros and amateurs got to show the older horses one more time.
The NCHA said that the added money, that was originally intended to be awarded to the four-year-old horses in 2020, was paid out in the Special five division during the 2021 Super Stakes.
According to the NCHA, the incentive from the Texas Quarter Horse Association partnership featured $100,000 that was paid out to horses competing in the Super Stakes Classic. This resulted in a record-setting Super Stakes and more than $725,000 additional dollars in prize money compared to previous Super Stakes.
“Overall the payouts were really good. People said the six/seven payout wasn’t as strong, but that’s the five/six payout normally. It wasn’t much different. The Special five-year-old paid really well. But that was the four-year-old money from last year because the four-year-old pays really well,” Cromer said.
“They paid down in the five-year-olds and six/seven. They had a consolation payout. If you’re going to compare it to a lot of other cuttings, a lot of horses left the [Super Stakes] getting a check.”
Sheehan was very happy with the prize money. The high purses are important for industry growth and the businesses that rely on the prize money as income.
“I thought the prize money was really good. I think cutting is heading in the right direction. We’re starting to get the purses back to where it’s paying better. That’s what needs to happen, the horses can win more and be worth more,” Sheehan said.
“It was a strange year as we all know. But I think they did the right thing by offering [the six/seven] at the cuttings that were cancelled last year. I was happy that they stuck to their guns and [had the class],” said Cromer.
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By: Sophia Skeith