~Article as printed in the NRHA Reiner.
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Competition was tight during the $232,00-added 2014 Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity Finals on Friday, December 5, where 60 finalists competed in a clean-slate finals for their chance to win a piece of the $600,000 in prize money and a multitude of prizes. As each rider ran through the Gateway of Champions and performed their best NRHA Pattern 10, the scores remained close. In the end, a mere half point was all that separated the Level 4 Champion and Reserve Champion.
As the second section of the Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity finals started, Two Million Dollar Rider and Hall of Fame inductee, eight-time Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity Champion Mandy McCutcheon aboard MJG Colonel Dry (Gunner x MJG Hollywood Dry) competed seventh out of the 32 Level (L) 4 finalists and took an early lead with a score of 215.5. Taylor Larson showed Wimpys Dolled Up just three horses later to tie McCutcheon, but the two ladies were quickly outscored as draw 12, Ron Thompson and his mare Magnum Marilynmonroe, marked a 216. Thompson's score held strong throughout most of the finals until 14-year-old Cade McCutcheon on Starbucks Finale ran through the gate as draw 26 and marked a 216.5 to loud cheers and applause. As the final six horse and rider teams competed, Jesse Asmussen knew he had an opportunity most reiners only dream of; the last draw to compete in the finals aboard a horse he knew had the potential to win. And Asmussen didn't disappoint as he piloted Blue Berry Jac through a solid pattern complete with fast spins and big stops to mark a 217 and win the Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity L4 Championship. "It's the position that everyone hopes they'll draw and to have it all work out that way was just incredible. It really hasn't all sunk in yet," Asmussen said.
The win marked the second time for Asmussen to win the Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity L4 division, but it was the first time for him to have the spotlight all to himself. In 2012, Asmussen and Smart Chuka tied Mandy McCutcheon and Customized Gunner for the high score in the finals. After a dramatic run-off, the two competitors tied once again and decided to share the Cinch NRHA Non Pro Futurity championship. "The first time was just kind of a whirlwind and a lot of pressure with the run-off," Asmussen said. "This time I really had a lot of fun and to win it outright was pretty special." But Asmussen did admit that his heart skipped a beat while waiting to hear their score. "When I finished, I knew we had a nice run, but when the announcer started talking and did his long pause before announcing our score I thought 'oh no not again' because it reminded me of two years ago," Asmussen recalled. "So when he announced a 217 and everyone went crazy cheering, that's when I really knew we had won." The win added $42,878 to Asmussen's NRHA Lifetime Earnings bringing his total to $264,584. The nominator, Xtra Quarter Horses LLC, earned $2,100.
Blue Berry Jac (Wimpys Red Berry x Mainly Jac) was purchased by Asmussen in late March of 2014 on a recommendation from Xtra Quarter Horses' head trainer, NRHA Professional Thaigo Boechat and assistant trainer Trevor Dare. "I had never ridden anything by Wimpys Red Berry before, but after riding 'Blue' for a while we liked him so much that we went back and bought three yearlings, now 2 year olds, by the same stud," Asmussen said about the blue roan stallion. "This horse has really been easy to train and he is really great minded. But I couldn't have done all of this without the help from the whole Darling 888 Ranch crew, especially NRHA Professional Gabe (Hutchins) and trainer Gaetan (Gauthier) because they were really the masterminds behind getting my horse ready and me ready to show." Asmussen also credited his family as well as his fiance, NRHA Professional Rebecca Adkins, with helping to keep him mentally prepared. Although the whole family isn't able to come to all of the shows, everyone was at the futurity to watch Asmussen win, making his night all the more special.