Remembering Renowned Jockey & NRHA World Champ John Rotz

John Rotz passed away on July 12, 2021, at the Rotz Farm in Warrensburg, Illinois. A member of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, Rotz lived a storied life. Renowned for his humble demeanor and talent with a horse, Rotz, known by his nickname “Gentleman John,” had an extraordinary career as a jockey.

John Rotz was the 1987 Novice Horse Non Pro World Champion. (Photo by Waltenberry)

He was also a National Reining Horse Association World Champion.

Rotz was born on December 16, 1934, in Niantic, Illinois. After graduating high school in 1952, he went to work as a groom, hotwalker and exercise rider at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Illinois, before becoming a professional jockey in 1953.

During Rotz’s 20-year racing career he won a total of 2,907 races. In 1962 he won the Preakness Stakes on Greek Money and then the Belmont Stakes on High Echelon in 1970. He rode in the Kentucky Derby six times; his best finish was fourth on Native Charger. In both 1969 and 1970 he won more stakes races than any other jockey in American racing.

In 1973, Rotz received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given to a jockey who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack. He retired from riding that year following surgery for a foot injury but remained active in the industry.

In 1983, he and his wife, Mary, returned to Warrensburg, Illinois, where they purchased a 280-acre farm where Mary rehabilitated wildlife and Rotz began his western performance horse career.

Many people were familiar with Rotz as a superstar in the racing world but for many reiners, he was first and foremost a fellow competitor. It was after former NRHA President Rick Weaver won the NRHA Futurity in 1982 that he met Rotz. Rotz had just purchased Big Red Item and visited Weaver’s facility for help. For Weaver, it was instantly clear that Rotz had a great relationship with and a feel for horses. In 1987, Rotz went on to win the NRHA Novice Horse Non Pro World Championship on another horse named Doc Star Time.

There were fewer reining shows back then and typically only two classes to compete in, so Rotz began showing cutting horses. It reduced travel time as there were more cutting shows around Springfield. “I would see John at the state fairs, and I kept a friendship with him. When I first worked with him, some of the only reinings were at the fairs, so we would travel from fair to fair and I got to know him well,” Weaver said.

What impressed Weaver the most was the man’s humility. “I think the thing that is most important that people know about John was how he conducted himself. For a world class athlete that won the Preakness and the Belmont, I was so struck at how humble he was. It was probably my first glance of what it looked like to be going through your life and living with grace,” Weaver shared.

Weaver expanded on that thought, noting that despite all Rotz accomplishments and achievements, many people were unaware of his success unless they had read it somewhere or somebody pointed it out.

 “He was such a good horseman, and the relationship he had with a horse was something that clearly served him well at the track,” Weaver recalled. “I still remember going to Churchill Downs and going through the museum there and seeing his name and pictures. It is such a loss for us all. He was a great horseman and such a gentleman.”

Smart Like Juice, Inc. Becomes NRHA’s Newest Two Million Dollar Owner

Impressive performances at the North American Reining Stakes unofficially catapulted National Reining Horse Association Owner Smart Like Juice Inc. past $2 million in earnings.

Jose Vazquez of Smart Like Juice, Inc.
(Photo from Smart Like Juice Facebook)

Prior to the event, the entity was less than $3,000 away from that milestone. Jose Vazquez, the man behind Smart Like Juice, Inc., piloted Mr Chexy Dream and Smartgals Like Juice to more than $8,300 in prize money in the North American Reining Stakes and Leonard Trailer Non Pro Derbies.  

Vazquez’s Smart Like Juice, Inc. was first named as an NRHA member in 2004, and in that time more than 250 horses have been part of the program.

Smart Like Juice, Inc. is named for Vazquez’s renowned stallion, NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Smart Like Juice. An NRHA Hall of Fame inductee, Smart Like Juice (Smart Little Lena x Jessies Oak) was bred by Lindy Burch. The now 25-year-old stallion was purchased by Justin and Vaughn Zimmerman as an early 3-year-old. After watching the horse place seventh in the open finals at the 1997 NRHA Futurity, non pro rider Vazquez (now an NRHA Million Dollar Rider) knew he had found his new horse. Smart Like Juice went on to compete with both Vazquez and NRHA Professional Ed Fear, winning $56,096 before retiring to the breeding shed.

Earning his first Million Dollar Sire title in 2008, Smart Like Juice was inducted into the NRHA Hall of Fame in 2017 for his contributions to the reining industry.

The top earners for Smart Like Juice, Inc., (at the time of ownership) are:

Like Shiner (Smart Like Juice x Wind Her Up Shiner) $164,962

Moonshine Juice (Smart Like Juice x Wind Her Up Shiner) $122,365

Wound By Juice (Smart Like Juice x Wind Her Up Shiner) $110,459

Juiced Up Doc (Smart Like Juice x Jokes Startime) $83,475

SLJ Ruf Juice (Smart Like Juice x Ruf Catalyst) $73,572

NRHA Celebrates With ‘The Run For A Million’ on New Title Sponsor

Teton Ridge Named Title Sponsor for The Run For A Million

Emerging western heritage brand invests in reining’s most prestigious event with the goal of keeping the values and traditions of western horsemanship alive

The richest event in reining has a new title sponsor, Teton Ridge. The company is determined to not only help grow the sport of reining, but to preserve, protect, and ensure the future of sports born of America’s most iconic way of life. Beyond the brand’s title sponsorship, Teton Ridge will also sponsor and present the $150,000 Invitational Fence Work Challenge for open bridle horse competitors.

Created by visionary entrepreneur Thomas Tull, Teton Ridge is an authentic western brand with a long-term vision that will focus on everything from performance horse breeding and training, to western apparel and gear, to hosting western experiences and events.

The Teton Ridge sponsorship of The Run For A Million marks the first collaborative effort for Tull and the driving force behind The Run For A Million, Hollywood’s western storyteller, Taylor Sheridan.

“Teton Ridge is uniquely positioned to bring awareness and excitement to our sport and the western performance horse world in general,” said Sheridan. “Teton Ridge’s title sponsorship of The Run For A Million speaks to that commitment, and our joint ventures in the future will continue to spread the excitement TRFAM has started.”

“Taylor and I share common vision when it comes to riding disciplines which have grown from the life and culture of the American West,” said Tull. “There’s an integrity, honesty, and purity to these sports that represent the unique heritage of our nation.”

Teton Ridge’s sponsorship of TRFAM underscores the brand’s mission to preserve the traditions and values of the West, while celebrating the athleticism and spirit of the men and women who compete in western equine sports every day.

The second annual TRFAM, which was postponed in 2020 due to COVID concerns, happens in Las Vegas from August 18th through the 21st, at the famed South Point Arena and Equestrian Center.

About Teton Ridge
Teton Ridge is a multi-platform brand devoted to the iconic American Western way of life and western equine sports. Teton Ridge will create a team of elite equine riders from multiple disciplines, invest in the breeding and training of the most sought-after pedigrees in the quarter horse industry and engage audiences to elevate and expand western equine sports through innovative technology. Additionally, Teton Ridge operates a philanthropic foundation that provides invaluable funding for land stewardship, fosters community by preserving the American West’s cultural heritage, and ensures the future of ranching and riding sports. For more information about Teton Ridge, please visit or @tetonridge on Instagram @tetonridgeusa on Facebook.

Katie Harvey
KGBTexas Communications
(210) 410-1139 (mobile)

Cody Shown
KGBTexas Communications
(210) 913-2639 (mobile)

The National Reining Horse Association is not responsible for the information contained in this press release. Please contact the author or submitting organization for further information, requests, or questions.

The Preeminent Showcase for Reining Horses Adopts New Names

The National Reining Horse Association Markel Futurity Sales represent the elite of the western performance horse industry. Lucrative for consignors and a gold mine of potential for buyers, the event is a must-attend during the NRHA Futurity each year.

The 2021 NRHA Markel Futurity Sales are set for Thursday, December 2. As in the past, the sales will offer an outstanding group of two-year-old reining prospects, yearlings, stallions, broodmares, and show horses from leading breeders, owners, and trainers.

The deadline to consign is August 31, and this year’s selection process has been streamlined with the elimination of photography and video requirements for yearlings,* and modified 2-year-old preview opportunities.**

All sales are managed by the NRHA staff with support and direction from the NRHA Sales Task Force. Rick Clark, John Tague, Rosanne Sternberg, Frank Costantini, Tim Anderson, Rick Ford and Jake Dahl serve on this task force along with NRHA Senior Manager of ReinerSuite and Futurity Sales Angie Honeywell.  

The quality and integrity of the NRHA Markel Futurity Sales is reflected in the records of exemplary graduates of previous sales and those horses have won millions in NRHA earnings since the first 2-year-olds were sold in 1993. To represent the elevated quality of horses sold in each sale, the Sale Task Force has renamed three of the four sales. The Select Yearling Sale will now be the Elite Yearling Sale, the Select Breeders Sale has been renamed the Preferred Breeders Sale, and the Marketplace Sale will now be known as the Premier Sale.

It’s more than semantics, as contemporary reining horses and prospects truly represent the culmination of years of development for the breeding industry. “The Sale Task Force felt these names were a better representation of the high-quality horses we have. Sale graduates from each sale have been incredibly successful in the show pen and breeding barn, and they wanted every aspect of the NRHA Markel Futurity Sales to reflect that,” noted Honeywell.

To read more about the NRHA Markel Futurity Sales, including more exciting changes for 2021, click here. For consignment information, visit

*Video and photograph requirements will not be compulsory as part of the yearling consignment application procedure. Please note that videos, photographs, and radiographs will still be required prior to the NRHA Markel Futurity Sales for marketing materials and to be available for buyers. New guidelines will now govern yearling placement. Foals of dams with $25,000 or more in progeny and/or lifetime earnings will be placed in the Elite Yearling Sale, while those not meeting that threshold will sell in the Premier Sale.

**Two-year-old preview opportunities have expanded into two-hour sessions in Arena 6. To provide ample time for consignors to present their horses in a controlled environment, these sessions will be held on November 30 and December 1 at the conclusion of each day’s Futurity Semi-Finals.

NRHA Markel Futurity Sale Grads Shine in Derby Competition

Over the past few weeks, graduates of the National Reining Horse Association Markel Futurity Sales have excelled in the show pen. At the 2021 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel and the 2020 NRHA European Derby, these top horses have scored high, won titles, and earned a lot of cash.

Futurity Sale Graduate Whizin Off With Guns won the Level 2 Co-Championship and Level 1 Championship at the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel.

In Oklahoma City, there were 12 Open and six Non Pro sale alums qualified for the finals of the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel, and several others who cashed in while competing in the Tamarack Ranch Open Stakes, the Colston Paving Non Pro Stakes, and the GlycoGuard Novice Horse Derbies.

The high-earning Open sale graduate of the Derby was Whizin Off With Guns, ridden by Franky Vazquez, who won more than $30,350 for owner Bethanie Penning. In the preliminary round Whizin Off With Guns, by Tinker With Guns out of Whizin Off Sparks, marked a solid 217 to qualify for the finals of Levels 3, 2, and 1. There, the talented gelding tied for the Championship of Level 2, took sole honors in Level 1, and finished sixth in Level 3.

Whizin Off With Guns walked through the NRHA Markel Futurity Sale ring in the 2017 Select Yearling Sale (now Elite Yearling Sale). Consigned by Sterling Ranch and purchased by Koby Kempel, the colt commanded a price of $30,000.

The Non Pro high money earner was Roseswhiz, who with Raeanna Thayn added $26,342 to her lifetime earnings. The duo qualified for the finals of Levels 4, 3, 2, and Youth, and also won money in the Colston Paving Non Pro Stakes. Roseswhiz, by NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Rose Electric Step, was consigned to the 2018 Marketplace Sale (now Premier Sale) by the Houde & Tremblay Partnership, and purchased by Robbin Thayn.

All totaled, NRHA Markel Futurity Sale graduates won more than $121,000 at the Four Sixes NRHA Derby.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, sale graduates competed in Austria at the 2020 NRHA European Derby, which had been postponed due to the pandemic.

There were several NRHA Markel Futurity Sale Graduates who qualified for the finals – and finished in top spots – of the Colonels Shining Gun Open Derby.

With Alessandro Roasio at the reins, Il Be Automatic – a 2017 Futurity Prospect Sale graduate – tied for reserve honors in the Level 1, and was a Level 2 finalist. The 6-year-old gelding, by NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream out of Hickadora, was bred by David Pratt, and then consigned by Bobby Avila, Jr., and purchased by Quarter Dream SRL. He is now owned by Norbert Juhasz.

Tying for third in the Level 3 and winning third in the Level 2 was Hey Joe, ridden by Nimroid Vannietuelt for Steve Vannietuelt and Gine De Pauw. Hey Joe was consigned to the 2014 Select Yearling Sale by Wagman Ranch, Inc, and purchased by 4V Livestock LLC. By NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook out of Best Stop, the 8-year-old stallion now has lifetime earnings exceeding $123,000.

Also qualifying for various levels were Spooks Gotta Deal (2016 Marketplace Sale, consigned by Cinder Lakes Ranch), Walla Whiz Dun It (2016 Marketplace Sale, consigned by Heritage Farms), Wrapped In Tinsel (2016 Select Yearling Sale, consigned by Kyle Ranch), and Bugs At Nite (2016 Marketplace Sale, consigned by Gary Putman).

Wimpy Margarita carried Francesca Ferrarol to the Championships of the Smart Spook Non Pro Level 4 and Level 3, while Lil Jo Rush, ridden by Gina Schumacher, tied for Reserve in the Level 4.

By NRHA 12 Million Dollar Sire Wimpys Little Step and out of Custom Margarita, Wimpy Margarita sold in the 2015 Futurity Prospect Sale. The 8-year-old mare was consigned by Judy Box and purchased by Sergio Elia.

Lil Joe Rush passed through the ring during the 2016 Select Yearling Sale. Consigned by ProFit Equine (Agent), the 6-year-old sold for $24,500 to Jonathan Gauthier. The colt is by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Lil Joe Cash out of Rush N Cat.

The 2021 NRHA Markel Futurity Sales will be held Thursday, December 2, and the consignment deadline is August 31.

To read more about the NRHA Markel Futurity Sales, including more exciting changes for 2021, click here. For consignment information, visit