Ex rodeo stars team up with Kelly's Landing favorite Chief Cicatriz

Press Release
June 28, 2018 03:13pm
Ex rodeo stars team up with Kelly's Landing favorite Chief Cicatriz
Photo: Coady Photography

Locally-based trainer Mike Johnson grew up as a child in Arkansas knowing the name Shawn Davis, a former three-time world champion saddle bronc rider and inductee in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and Johnson is helping Davis oversee his multiple-stakes winning sprinter Chief Cicatriz as he prepares for Saturday’s $75,000-added Kelly’s Landing Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Mike Johnson / Credit: Coady Photography“All of the guys involved with Chief Cicatriz are so much fun to be around,” Johnson said. “We had a great time with Shawn and Roy Evans, Chief Cicatriz’ owner, a few weeks ago when he won the Aristides. Shawn was the real deal on the rodeo circuit. He’s a three-time champion and Roy is a longtime supporter of the NFR (National Finals Rodeo).”

While Johnson isn’t necessarily a household name like Davis on the rodeo circuit, he used to be a professional bull rider and calf roper in college.

“I helped put myself through college riding bulls and roping calves,” said Johnson, who attended the University of Arkansas. “I liked riding bulls a lot more than calf roping. That’s how I really got to know Shawn was when I was riding bulls.”

Johnson is the former assistant trainer to Pete Vestal and took out his trainer’s license in 2007. The 42-year-old conditioner is accustomed to being around some of the country’s top horses. He galloped multiple graded stakes winner McCraken as a 2-year-old in 2016 and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah when he was based at Oaklawn Park prior to his triumph in the 2015 Arkansas Derby (GI).

Chief Cicatriz (11-8-0-0—$286,881), a 5-year-old gelding by Munnings launched his career at Zia Park in New Mexico. The homebred has been based with Johnson since April including his romping 6 ¼-legnth win in the $100,000 Aristides on June 2.

“We’ve helped Shawn oversee Chief Cicatriz for a little while now,” Johnson said. “We had him at Oaklawn last year and, after he returned to training from a minor setback, Shawn sent him back to us at Churchill and we helped prepare him for the Churchill Downs Stakes (GII) and Aristides.

“It’s been exciting having (Chief Cicatriz) in our barn but we’re starting to get some really nice horses of our own for some great clients.”

Chief Cicatriz was made 7-5 on the morning line for Saturday’s seven-furlong Kelly’s Landing and will once again be ridden by jockey James Graham.

The Kelly’s Landing, which attracted a field of 10 sprinters, is one of three stakes races on Churchill Downs’ 12-race closing day card. The seven-furlong contest will go as Race 10 at 5:26 p.m. (all times Eastern).


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