Gaylon Wells laughed when asked the question.
What’s so special about Augusta that brings out the best in him?
A year ago, Wells returned to the Augusta Futurity after a long absence to claim the Mercuria Open title. He decided to come back this year with the goal of repeating on a different horse. After pulling off the feat, Wells had no answer for his performance.
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know.”
Aboard Time To Hangem, Wells rung up a score of 224 to win the Mercuria Open finals by four points Thursday night at James Brown Arena. The event is the first of eight Mercuria World Series of Cutting stops this year around the country.
With the victory, Wells earned $10,823. Phil Rapp and Dont Stopp Believin placed second at 220 for $8,542, while Cullen Chartier and Little Pepto Cat finished third (219, $6,262).
“There was a whole string of good horses out there tonight,” Wells said. “I was just very blessed and fortunate to get showed better than the rest of the guys. Any of those horses could’ve done the same thing.”
Time To Hangem is a 10-year-old gelding by One Time Pepto out of Hangem High Pep owned by Victoria Johnson. The horse took a year off after undergoing colic surgery. Three months ago, Wells started training him and getting him back in cutting shape.
Wells and Time To Hangem competed in the NCHA Open cuttings Sunday and Monday in an effort to get ready for the Mercuria Open finals. In the championship round, the pair clicked.
“It all came together at the right time,” Wells said. “He’s just a phenomenal horse.”
Wells credited Austin Shepard with originally training and competing with Time To Hangem in the aged events years earlier. Despite the horse’s age, Wells said Time To Hangem is still fresh.
“He still acts like a 2-year-old,” he said. “He’s one of them type horses that has some quirks about him. He is very spooky. He has to be handled gently. It’s one of them deals where you have to work with him, not against him.”
The 60-year-old Wells lives in Sulphur, Okla., with his wife, Sunny. They celebrated their 40th anniversary in June.
They have three adult sons – Josh, Evan and Gage – who are all members of the NCHA Youth Hall of Fame.