A raucous crowd was entertained by incredible runs in the Jim Norick Coliseum as the scores of the 2023 National Reining Horse Association Futurity MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Finals climbed higher and higher. The audience was confident that Brian Bell and Crystalized Whizkey would take the win with a 225.5, but if the sport has proven anything, it’s that it’s not over until it’s over.
The crowd was one of the largest in Futurity history, and the energy was palpable as NRHA Eight Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani ran into the pen as the last draw of the night and attempted to circumvent the lead.
With another 225.5, Fappani had secured what could have been a co-championship. But for Bell, who had yet to win his first Level 4 Futurity Championship, it wasn’t enough. He rewrapped his horse’s legs, zipped up his chaps, and ran in again to earn another impressive score of 224.5 to earn the coveted title.
“I’ve been second twice, by half a point,” Bell said. “I just couldn’t do it, I needed to know that I risked it all.”
Bell rode Crystalized Whizkey, a mare by Whizkey N Diamonds out of Lonely At The Top, owned by Wallace Wood. This win earned the pair an incredible $350,000, with a portion of that, $17,500, going back to the nominator, Rhodes River Ranch.
Crystalized Whizkey is a niece of Shesouttayourleague, one of the competitors in the last run-off that occurred at an NRHA Futurity in 2015. Making the event one for the history books, Fappani rode Inferno Thirty Five, a son of NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Inferno Sixty Six, the other competitor in the 2015 run-off.
Heading into the NRHA Futurity, Bell was just shy of the money needed to be eligible to compete in The American Performance Horsemen presented by Teton Ridge in 2024, which factored into his decision to risk it all and go for first place, as second-place earnings wouldn’t qualify him.
“I just decided to go for it,” Bell said. “I know I’ve got a good horse; she’s strong, and she’s gutsy, so I’m not going to back off.”
Anyone who was a part of that roaring crowd, whether they were one who threw their hat in the arena or not, will keep this historic championship close to mind, but for Bell, it’s certainly a night he’ll never forget.
NRHA Open Level 3 Champions – Kole Price & Shez Got Addy Tude
An impressive score of 223 solidified Kole Price and Shez Got Addy Tude as the Level 3 winners in the NRHA Futurity at the OKC Fairgrounds.
“The cream always rises to the top,” Price said. “This mare… her runs just keep getting better and better.”
The L3 championship and placement in the top seven of the Level 4, gets the mare’s career off to a strong start, as the Futurity was her first time in the pen. Getting sick in the summer kept her from going to anything leading up to the Futurity, but Price was confident.
“It all worked out well. We worked really hard for this moment. We were very prepared, but everything just came together,” Price said.
The mare, owned by Capital Quarter Horses and nominated by Michell Anne Kimball, is by NRHA Five Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of Miss Lil Addy Tude.
“Reining is like a bad drug,” Price said, chuckling. “It’s so addicting. And I mean, the crowd is so electric; who wouldn’t want to be a reiner after being here tonight? Tonight will carry me through another year of waking up at four in the morning to ride.”
It’s a particularly exciting weekend for the Price family– not only did Kole win the Level 3 Open Futurity, but Kelsey Price won the Level 2 CINCH Non Pro Futurity as well.
“I can tell you I’m ready to go home, and then we’re gonna party. I told my wife and her friends, get ready,” said Price. “Honestly, I was so excited for my wife. I really wanted her to do good, so this win is just extra.”
NRHA Futurity Open Level 2 Co-Champion – Gabriel Diano & SS Whatcha Gun Doo
Gabriel Diano rode Alpha Quarter Horses’ SS Whatcha Gun Doo to a 221 to tie for the NRHA Futurity Open Level 2 Championship.
“This horse is really easy to prepare,” Diano said. “He’s always trying to help and do whatever you ask, so getting him ready wasn’t a big deal. The run was really nice. He stopped big in the first rundown. When I backed up, he kind of stuck on the turnaround, and that was a worry, but when I asked him in the circles and the other three stops, he was amazing. He was really there, so I’m really happy.”
SS Whatcha Gun Doo is a 2020 stallion sired by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Tinker With Guns and out of Xtra Black Magic. He was bred and nominated by Silver Spurs Equine. SS Whatcha Gun Doo is a graduate of the NRHA Markel 2021 Elite Yearling Sale.
“That horse is nothing but great for me since we bought him as a yearling,” Diano said. “He has been easy to start, easy to show. He’s been really nice for me. (When I first saw him), he had the look – that black color, that blue eye. He moved really pretty in the round pen, so that caught me, and I bought him for myself. When he was started, he was a good friend, always great-minded.”
A mistake in the first go kept Diano and SS Whatcha Gun Doo out of the Level 4 finals.
“We made Level 2, and he showed liked he should show,” Diano said. “Winning means everything.”
NRHA Futurity Level 2 Co-Champion – Luca Fappani & Playing With Da Boys
A big score of 221 took Luca Fappani and Playing With Da Boys to the co-champion title Dec. 2 in Level 2 at the 2023 National Reining Horse Association Futurity.
“She did every part to the best of her ability,” Fappani said. “She ran in and stopped good, and handled running through the gates and the lights and the crowd. She ran and stopped, turned good both directions. It might be her strongest attribute.
“She circled really good right for me, and then she circled really good left. Just coming around by the gate, she slipped and fell out of lead behind a couple of strides, then she went right back to work. The rest of the pattern was great. She stopped three times around the end and did everything she could.”
Fappani and Playing With Da Boys also tied for third in Level 3 and for 11th in Level 4.
“There’s nothing I would change preparing her as far as her effort,” Fappani said. “Just a little bit of tough luck, and she deserves the world.”
Playing With Da Boys is a 2020 mare sired by NRHA Five Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of My Berry Best Gun by NRHA 14 Million Dollar Sire Gunner. She was bred and nominated by Sergio Elia.
Playing With Da Boys is owned by the Neiberger-Camp partnership.
“My girlfriend’s family, along with some of their friends, the Camp family, owns her,” Fappani said. “They bought her as a yearling out of a sale because they wanted a nice horse.”
The mare was in training first with NRHA Four Million Dollar Rider Casey Deary, then with NRHA Million Dollar Rider Fernando Salgo before Fappani got the ride on her.
“It took a bit for her and I to click,” Fappani said. “The first go at the Futurity, she marked a 23, and she was great. In the semis, she marked a 19 and a half. I took it a little slower, just trying to do a nice ride, and she showed incredible for me in these finals. It’s a little heartbreaking, but I can’t be mad. She showed her heart out, I should have done a better job. She put everything out there for me.”
NRHA Futurity Open Level 1 Champions – Marcos Guimaraes & Shootin Wright
Marcos Guimaraes made dreams come true for himself and for owner Dustin Milhollen as he piloted Shootin Wright to a 219 and the Level 1 Championship on Dec. 2 at the 2023 National Reining Horse Association Futurity.
“I couldn’t ask for a better run,” Guimaraes said. “He drug his butt, he rolled back, he turned, he changed leads, he did everything. He was amazing.”
Not only did Shootin Wright win the Level 1 Championship, but he was also third in Level 2.
“He’s great-minded,” Guimaraes said. “He doesn’t say no. He doesn’t get crabby. He does what you want him to do, and if you make a mistake, the next day, he forgives you.”
Shootin Wright is a 2020 stallion sired by Guns R For Shootin and out of Wrightintinseltown by NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Hollywoodstinseltown. He was bred and nominated by Debbie Hubbert.
“I bought this horse as a yearling for Dustin Milhollen,” Guimaraes said. “He was supposed to be a non pro horse, and he ended up being a really nice open horse.”
The horse has $33,862 in earnings through the Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity and the 100X Reining Classic Invitational.
“We came up here, and he didn’t have the first go we were wishing for, and then he got better in the second go. He was amazing in the finals,” Guimaraes said. “It means a lot to me. He’s probably the best horse I’ve ever had. I’ve been in the States for eight years now, and I never had an opportunity to show a horse like him.
“I’d like to thank everybody that helped me – my owners, my parents, everybody,” Guimaraes said. “Especially at this show, a friend helped me with the slowdown. It took him 10 minutes to help me with that, and it saved me in the finals. Everybody – 7 Lakes helped me, Thiago Boechat, so many people I can’t even tell. All of them.”
Shootin Wright will get some time off before returning to the show pen and the bright lights.
“We’ll take a couple of weeks off, maybe a whole month, and then start thinking about next year, probably NRBC,” Guimaraes said. “Hopefully NRBC. He’s a big horse, so he’s going to look better in that big pen. “
NRHA Futurity Prime Time Champions – Craig Schmersal & Trythatnasmalltown
A 220.5 was good enough to push NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider Craig Schmersal to the Prime Time Championship on Dec. 2 at the 2023 National Reining Horse Association Futurity.
“He stopped good the first time, turned good both ways,” Schmersal said. “The last stop, I missed it, or I would really have won (big).”
In addition to the Prime Time Championship, Schmersal also tied for 11th in Level 4.
“I think he’s going to be a really good 4- and 5-year-old Derby horse,” Schmersal said, adding that the horse should improve with growth.
Trythatnasmalltown is a 2020 stallion sired by NRHA 12 Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz and out of NRHA Million Dollar Dam Dun It For Chex by Hollywood Dun It. He was bred, owned, and nominated by Cardinal Hill Training Center.
“Joao Marcos of Cardinal Hill sent that horse to me,” Schmersal said. “We’ve had him the whole time. He’s been fun to train. He showed really good tonight. I’m thrilled to show him.
“I thank my wife, (Ginger), because she helps me every day,” Schmersal said. “She gets me through the whole show. Joao Marcos – he’s been awesome.”