Calgary Futurity Non-Pro Champs

Les Jack of Rocanville, Sask., and Im No Average Blonde teamed up to win Sunday’s marquee Non-Pro Futurity class at the 31st annual Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity, presented by Wrangler, at the Corral on Stampede Park. Victory was worth $6,652.80 to Jack, a veteran performer at Canada’s premier cutting event. Photo: Calgary Stampede

He may not be a Jack of all trades, but he’s definitely the master of one.

Les Jack of Rocanville, Sask., really seems to find his cutting groove in Calgary when the leaves start to change colour. A multi-time Non-Pro champion at the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity, presented by Wrangler, Jack was again riding high Sunday afternoon as the 31st annual edition of the Stampede’s Futurity drew to a close at the Corral on Stampede Park.

Jack and his three-year-old quarter-horse mare, Im No Average Blonde, teamed up to win Sunday’s marquee class, Non-Pro Futurity, marking a score of 210 on three head of cattle. The victory was worth $6,652.80 to Jack, a veteran performer at Canada’s premier cutting event.

“Well, like the old saying goes, even a blind squirrel gets the odd nut, eh?” chuckled Jack.

Ever modest, Jack estimates that Sunday’s win was his eighth at the Stampede’s fall Futurity, dating back to a Non-Pro Derby championship in 1998. Most recently, Jack claimed the Non-Pro Futurity and Non-Pro Derby titles, in one fell swoop, during the 2009 edition of the event.

The Stampede’s five-day Cutting Horse Futurity, which concluded with weekend category finals, offers more than $300,000 in prize money annually and attracts about 100 riders and 200 horses from as far away as Texas and Ontario. Trainers and professional riders took centre stage during Open finals on Saturday night, but on Sunday afternoon the spotlight was trained on the riders of the Non-Pro classes — Futurity for three-year-old horses, Derby for four-year-olds, Classic Challenge for five- and six-year-olds, and 7 Up for horses aged seven or older. Non-Pro riders make no part of their income training cutting horses, and can only compete on horses owned by themselves or immediate family members.

Jack — who would later win the Non-Pro 7 Up class aboard Catting — bought Im No Average Blonde as a yearling in Fort Worth, Texas, and has more or less trained the horse himself all the way through to her maiden show season in 2011.

“I rode her right through until about a week-and-a-half ago, actually, and (professional trainer) Scott Hanson (of Mountain View, Alta.) helped me to put a little more finish on her for the Calgary Futurity here. A victory like this makes it feel even better, because a lot of time and energy goes into this sort of thing,” said Jack.

“She tries pretty hard, and has kind of a nice look on a cow when required. My horses get a lot of ranch miles, and she’s got enough bone and substance to her that she can go up and down the hills and move cattle around, too.”

Elvin Kopp of Westerose, Alta., and Playgun Rush were reserve champions, or runners-up, in Non-Pro Futurity, posting a 207 and collecting $4,039.20.

Jack got what he came for, and so did Cody Hedlund of Weatherford, Texas. Hedlund came all the way to Calgary for the first time, trying to collect points for his four-year-old mare, Teles Bout This Cat, which is in a dead heat for the National Cutting Horse Association’s Non-Pro Horse of the Year Award. And thanks to their victory in Sunday’s Non-Pro Derby final, Teles Bout This Cat is now eight points up on its nearest rival with one show to go — the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Futurity at Paso Robles, Calif., which begins Wednesday.

Hedlund and Teles Bout This Cat were Non-Pro finalists at the NCHA Futurity last December, winning the NCHA Super Stakes (Non-Pro) in April and the 4-Year-Old Non-Pro at Oklahoma City in June.

“She’s honest. And every time I go out there, she gives me 110 per cent, no matter what . . . everything she’s got. And that helps a lot,” said Hedlund, who marked a winning score of 220 on Teles Bout This Cat, and jams $7,129.75 in his Wranglers. “We had a good draw in the finals, and we were able to cut some good cows that tested us but didn’t threaten us too bad.”

Mike Santangelo of Nanton, Alta., and DMAC Velvet Spoon were runners-up in Non-Pro Derby, their 215 earning Santangelo a cheque for $4,563.04.

Last year, Sandy Reid of Sherwood Park, Alta., and her mount Lil Pepto At The Bar were Stampede Futurity winners in Non-Pro Derby. This year, they tasted victory again — by moving up an age category and clinching the Non-Pro Classic Challenge crown. The pair scored a 216 in the 13-team final for a winning pay day of $7,821.65, edging out reserve champion Scott Wardley of Okotoks, Alta., and HAH Rey by a single point. Wardley collects $6,174.99 for his troubles.

“It’s always a good time coming back here, especially when you win. We drew up first, and that was a good spot to be in during the finals, because the cows got a little tougher as things went on,” said Reid. “My horse (a five-year-old quarter-horse gelding) is really laid-back. He doesn’t take a whole lot of schooling, and he’s got a fabulous mind. He’s not a horse who frets or worries, and he stays relaxed in his stall when he comes to these shows. He was on his game today, and everything fell into place.”

Saturday evening, a live and silent auction — which included a championship saddle donated by Canadian cutting icon Bill Collins — raised just over $12,000 for the Bill Collins Youth Excellence Award cutting scholarship fund.

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