Ten days of intense, world-class competition culminated Saturday, December 6, with the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Open Finals. The NRHA Futurity, held at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, featured top horses and riders from across the globe.
Thanks to the Futurity Challenge donors, for the first time in NRHA history the 2020 Level (L) 4 Open Futurity Champion earned $250,000.
Prior to the start of the MS Diamonds TX L4 Open Finals, NRHA Million Dollar Sire Shiners Voodoo Dr, NRHA Million Dollar Dam Princess In Diamonds, NRHA Million Dollar Dam Snip O Gun and NRHA Million Dollar Owner Hilldale Farm were all honored.
With a precise and powerful performance, NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani rode All Bettss Are Off to a score of 225, which earned the prestigious championship and a quarter-million dollars.
Owned, bred and nominated by Arcese Quarter Horses USA, All Bettss Are Off is by NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Gunner and out of Wimpys Little Chic. Fappani’s win tonight helped push Wimpys Little Chic to NRHA Million Dollar Dam status. Wimpys Little Chic won more than a half-million dollars in her career, including the NRHA Futurity, Derby, and National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC).
Fappani dedicated his win to Eleuterio Arcese of Arcese Quarter Horses, saying, “Mr. Arcese said it would be a dream come true for him to win another one. He has been such a big player, and I really want to dedicate this to him. I’ve got a huge group of people who support me and I want to thank everybody.”
In a year rife with unpredictability, Fappani is thrilled to earn the fourth NRHA Open Futurity Championship of his career. “This year has been so crazy, but with the Futurity paying a record $250,000 for the first time, it’s just amazing to win it,” he said.
Having three horses out of his Scottsdale, Arizona-based program secure top 10 finishes in the Open Futurity was a proud achievement for Fappani, who added that he is grateful the Futurity was able to proceed without interruption.
“I enjoy all the other shows, but the young horses are why I wake up in the morning. To come to the Futurity and show is why I do what I do,” he said.
Fappani chose All Bettss Are Off from a group of prospects and said the horse stood out to him from the beginning.
“He’s a super-talented horse,” Fappani said. “He’s a little different than what I’m used to and I think that pushed me. He was so talented. I really had to push myself to adapt to him rather than ask him to adapt to me.”
Achieving scores of 220 in the preliminaries, 220.5 in the L4 Semi-Finals presented by Not Ruf At All and Tamarack Ranch, and finally a 225 in the MS Diamonds TX Finals, Fappani accomplished his goal of steadily building momentum toward winning the title.
He added that one aspect of shows being canceled in 2020 enabled him to have more time at home to ride and train.
“We had a great group of horses, but I think because we were home so much, we were able to prepare them really well. I told Tish, ‘I think I’m set up to do as good as I’ve ever done at the Futurity, so I think I’m just going to enjoy it,’” Fappani said.
The L4 Open Champion has the option to receive a one-year lease for a gooseneck trailer or a $10,000 credit toward a new trailer build from Kyle Zanetti Trailers, Official Trailer of the NRHA.
MS Diamonds TX, Official Diamond Jeweler of NRHA, presented the L4 Open Champion rider and the owner of the winning horse with custom-made handcrafted NRHA Futurity Open Championship rings. Each L4 Open finalist owner was presented a commemorative pin from MS Diamonds TX during last night’s rider introductions.
Fappani was awarded a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles with silver from Montana Silversmith’s, a Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, a Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, one stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, and a garment bag by Brandt Blankets.
Sebastian Petroll Wins L3 & L2 Open Championships Riding Dunit The Walla Way
Sebastian Petroll, of Whitesboro, Texas, says he’s grateful to show a horse with as much try as Dunit The Walla Way. Petroll and the big-hearted filly won both the NRHA Futurity L3 and L2 Open Championships thanks to their score of 218.5. They also finished 12th in the Open L4 Finals for combined total earnings of $53,879. Owned and nominated by Ellen Lloyd Cummins, Dunit The Walla Way is by NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Walla Walla Whiz and out of Dunit The Gunner Way.
“We bought her mother several years ago,” Petroll said. “Her owner, Ellen Cummins, and I both showed her. It’s always fun when you are part of the whole process with a horse.”
Petroll says Dunit The Walla Way is a horse that he can always depend on to perform.
“She has a heart that I don’t know how it fits into her little body,” he said. “She is so kind and she always wants to be with you. You can count on her 100 percent of the time. That’s what makes her so special; that paired with some obvious talent, but mentally she is just very special.”
Petroll’s plan for the preliminary round was to make a safe run that was enough to get to the Open L4 semi-finals, sponsored by Not Ruf At All & Tamarack Ranch, which he accomplished handily with a 219.5. His aim was similar for the semi-finals. “I knew if I could finish in the upper half that I should be fine, so I tried not to use up my horse. In the Finals I just tried to get as good of a run together as I could, and it worked.”
With all the uncertainly in 2020, Petroll says he is happy that the Futurity went on uninterrupted.
“It means everything to get to show here, not just for me personally, but it’s very important that we were able to have the event for the sake of the entire industry,” Petroll said.
He is also thankful for Dunit The Walla Way’s owner, Cummins, who has been a client with him for more than a decade.
“She’s just been amazing. She’s a pleasure to work with and very important to our program. We can only do this because of all our great owners,” Petroll said, adding, “Also, my wife Melanie, she rode this horse for big stretches during her 2-year-old year. Without her, I couldn’t do this.”
For the L3, Petroll received a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Glycoguard. For the L2, Petroll was presented with a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Arcese Quarter Horses. For both the L3 and L2 championship, Petroll won a Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, a Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, one stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, and a garment bag by Brandt Blankets.
Dallas Cunningham Wins L1 Open Co-Championship Riding RFR Voodoos Fuego
NRHA Professional Dallas Cunningham, of Mitchell, South Dakota, rode RFR Voodoos Fuego to share top honors in the NRHA Futurity L1 Open, and tie for second in both L2 and L3 for a $24,348 payday. RFR Voodoos Fuego, by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Shiners Voodoo Dr out of Show N Tag, is owned and was nominated by Peter Smith.
Cunningham, who has been training professionally for the past decade, says RFR Voodoos Fuego impressed him from the start.
“He’s a super nice horse. We started him as a 2-year-old and right away I thought he was awesome, I felt he was really special,” Cunningham said.
RFR Voodoos Fuego has been a pleasure for Cunningham to show all year and he had high hopes for the horse coming into the Futurity.
“I showed him at Vegas and won the Level 2 there,” Cunningham said. “I showed him in Memphis and he was really good. He was a 218 in the first round, then when I showed him in the Finals and he fell out of lead to be a 224 (in Memphis), but he was awesome there.”
With 2020 being such an unpredictable year, Cunningham says he is thankful that the NRHA was able to produce the Futurity.
“I love this horse, so I was really looking forward to this show. I’m just dang glad we’re here,” he said, adding that he appreciates the help he gets from the many supporters who’ve assisted him to this point in his career.
“I went from being a bull riding, team roping, colt starter to doing this just by watching [Andrea] Fappani’s videos. I’ve got to thank that guy because he’s changed my career,” Cunningham laughed. “My wife, my customers, everybody is so supportive. I couldn’t do it without any of them.”
Cunningham was presented with a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, a Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, a Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, one stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, and a garment bag by Brandt Blankets.
Rodrigo Nieves Pilots Tagin Stiletto Chics to L1 Open Co-Championship
Rodrigo Nieves has never made the finals at the NRHA Futurity, but he qualified all three of his entries back to compete on Saturday. To top off an already exciting day, Nieves piloted Tagin Stiletto Chics to a 217.5 to tie for the L1 Championship, and finish in a three-way tie for the L2 Reserve Championship.
“We came here, and the first two runs weren’t like we expected, but today’s run was really good, and we are grateful for that,” he shared. In the first go, he and Tagin Stilleto Chics marked a 216.5 but followed that with a 214 in the semi-finals for a 430.5 composite.
Tagin Stiletto Chics is by Gunners Special Nite, unofficially an NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire, and out of Stiletto Tag. “I like how honest he is. He is super honest and a special show horse,” Nieves said of the colt.
In addition to a paycheck of $8,959, Nieves was presented with a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, a Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, a Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, one stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, and a garment bag from Brandt Blankets.
Tagin Stilleto Chics is owned and nominated by Jennifer Marley. “Duane Latimer started to ride the horse, and then gave me the opportunity to ride him in Ardmore at the Futurity there,” Nieves said, referring to the Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity, where he and Tagin Stiletto Chics claimed the reserve title for Levels 1 and 2. “I thank Duane Latimer, the owner, the team at XCS Ranch, my wife and daughter, and my family in Uruguay.”
Although originally from Uruguay, Nieves spent 10 years in Brazil, where he got his start with reining horses before moving to the United States. He has worked for Duane Latimer for a year and a half.
In addition to Tagin Stiletto Chics, Nieves qualified Alphasushienterprize (owned by Fernando Botteon) and Theoneyourelookinfor (owned by Eduardo Salgado) back to the L1 Open Futurity Finals.
Shawn Flarida and Whizsicle Win NRHA Open Prime Time Futurity
NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida, of Springfield, Ohio, rode Whizsicle to the top of the NRHA Open Futurity Prime Time championship with a 219.5 for owner Arcese Quarter Horses USA. Whizsicle, by SG Frozen Enterprize and out of Miss Whizzletown, was nominated by Jenny Ricotta. Flarida and Whizsicle also finished the L4 Finals in a tie for eighth, bringing total earnings to $30,932.
Flarida, age 51, remarked that tonight was the first time in 25 or more years that he’s been eligible to compete in a division other than the Open L4.
“I love to show,” Flarida said, “So having another avenue to win money is neat.”
Whizsicle was bred and started by Marco Ricotta and Flarida says the horse has been a pleasure to have in his program.
“This is just a really nice horse. I had a little bit of trouble kind of hooking up with him at the beginning of the year but he’s coming on and getting strong and finding his pace. He’s got such a great brain. He’s so pretty in the way he moves and lopes.”
In the Finals, Flarida’s focus was to avoid penalties and allow Whizsicle’s talent to shine.
“My goal was to try and eliminate any penalties on my part, avoid mistakes and let my horse be as good as he could be,” Flarida said. “I prepared him last night as good as I thought I could prepare him, and it all played out very well.”
Flarida thanked Whizsicle’s owner, Mr. Arcese, a man he credits for having owned several of the greatest horses Flarida has had the privilege to ride during his career— Gunnatrashya, Wimpys Little Chic (unofficially the NRHA’s newest Million Dollar Dam), and Walla Walla Whiz.
“He’s contributed so much to the sport for so many years,” Flarida said, adding that he would enjoy showing him at derbies in the future. “We’ll have to talk to Mr. Arcese and see what the plan is.”
Flarida was awarded a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles with silver from Montana Silversmith’s, a Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, a Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, one stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, and a garment bag by Brandt Blankets.
The NRHA greatly appreciates all NRHA Corporate Partners and Event Sponsors that make it possible to award the first-class prizes presented at the NRHA Futurity.