When Andiamoe hit the entrance to the Jim Norick Coliseum, the crowd was already cheering. They’d watched the absolutely masterful go-rounds, where Shawn Flarida and the royally bred mare had marked 228.5 and 224.5. They knew what they were in store for.
When Flarida hit the first stop, the crowd was so loud he wasn’t sure Andiamoe heard him. Regardless, Andiamoe knew the drill, sliding to a stop and scooting her way back to the center. From there, she riled the crowd up even further. On his final stop, Flarida’s smile was visible from the back gate.
As the score of 230 rang out over the audience, Flarida earned his seventh NRHA Open Futurity Championship and a payday of $350,000. With the win, he had launched himself squarely into the mix for The American Performance Horseman.
“She’s a very happy horse. I just tried to stay out of her way,” Flarida said. “She’s so determined, and she’s so confident. Sometimes I’ve just got to be there to pet her and tell her, ‘Hey, you did good.’ Very seldom do I ever have to tell her to work harder. We do a lot of petting and a lot of walking.”
Flarida called Andiamoe a clone of her mother, NRHA Million Dollar Dam Wimpys Little Chic. Flarida earned his fourth Futurity Championship on the palomino in 2007. To make the feat more impressive, Flarida earned an NRHA Open Futurity Championship on Andiamoe’s father, as well, NRHA Eight Million Dollar Sire Gunnatrashya.
“Andiamoe is just so special. She’s amazing,” Flarida said.
Andiamoe was bred, nominated, and owned by NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner Arcese Quarter Horses.
Flarida credited his steady mindset throughout the intense week to his family, saying his son Sam Flarida is the one who coaches him throughout the process.
“From the time I get my chaps on to the time I go in, he says some of the most important things to me,” Flarida said. “Tonight, he told me to move my hand slow, to trust myself, ‘This is yours. You’ve been building yourself up to do this, and your horse is ready, and she looks cool.’ He was very instrumental in making sure I got through that gate.”
Flarida said the list of those to thank would be too long for the page, but those at the top included his family, friends, wife, Sam, and his owners.
“And my horse. She is absolutely amazing,” he said.
Finishing as the Level 4 Open Reserve Champions were Customize My Dream and NRHA Three Million Dollar Rider Casey Deary. The pair put together a solid 228.5 run, earning a cool $150,000 for owner Devin Warren. Customize My Dream, by NRHA Eight Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream out of Gunna Be Custom, was nominated by Garth Hystad, who received $7,500.
Rounding out the top three and earning $100,000 was Abby Lengel and her horse Bringnthaheat. Lengel bred, nominated, raised, and trained the talented mare by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Inferno Sixty Six out of Tackie Dreams.
Level 3 Open Champions – Matt Mills & Walla Be A Bigstar
Drawing last in the MS Diamonds Level 4 Open Finals is a coup, and NRHA Million Dollar Rider Matt Mills planned to capitalize on it. He knew the scores to beat, so when he rode into the Jim Norick Coliseum on Walla Be A Bigstar, he did so with authority.
From the very first stop to the last, it was clear Mills and the flashy palomino stallion were true contenders. Unfortunately, a bobble on a rollback sparked a judges’ review, and Mills had to sweat.
Once the review was over, his score – a 222 – was announced. It was enough to not only win the Level 3 Open Championship but also good for seventh in the L4. That meant that Mills had won the $70,000 check for first in the Level 3 and an additional $52,634 for the L4.
“I’m just really happy for that horse. He’s incredible – we had that darn rollback, but I’m really, really pleased with this incredible horse,” Mills said.
Walla Be A Big Star, by ARC Gunnabeabigstar and out of Smart Little Walla, was bred and nominated by Danny Dalton. He was trained and started by Garrett Thurner, who was showing the horse at the Kimes Ranch Tulsa Reining Classic when he first came on Mills’ radar.
“I saw him showing that week, and I could see the horse was just oozing talent. I went right to Garrett and asked him if I could be first in line. I got a chance to try that horse there and bought him. Garrett did a phenomenal job training that horse, and I didn’t have a lot of time between here and Tulsa, but I’ve typically done pretty well in that situation,” Mills shared. “What a horse he is! I’m not going to lie – during that review, I was holding my breath wondering if we’d be drinking to celebrate or to cry.”
Making the win even more special for Mills was that Walla Be A Bigstar is owned by his longtime clients, Tim and Marybeth Ruckman. “I’m so happy for them. They have always supported me. I also thank my other owners, including Janice Dickson and Taylor Sheridan. It’s a team effort, and it took us all to get the horse here tonight.”
Tying for reserve in the Level 3 were Martin Larcombe and Jordan Larson, who each marked 221.5.
Larcombe, who passed the million-dollar mark in earnings during the NRHA Futurity, rode Vincent Van Whoa, a stallion he owns with Andrea Costa. Vincent Van Whoa, by Spooks Gotta Gun out of FM Master Tag Chex, was also bred and nominated by Kim Adamic, who received $2,125. Larcombe and Vincent Van Whoa also finished second in the Open Prime Time for total earnings of $44,076.
Larson and HA Tune Of A Mobster took second in the Level 3 and tied for eighth in the Level 4 for total earnings of $83,964. HA Tune Of A Mobster, by HF Mobster out of HA Lena Smart Tune, was nominated by Hillis Akin Family Partnership, who received $4,198, and is now owned by Heritage Farms.
Level 2 Open Champions – Guglielmo Fontana & CD Gunnas Chex Olena
Guglielmo Fontana and CD Gunnas Chex Olena earned the most frequent flier miles when traveling to Oklahoma City to compete in the NRHA Futurity. The pair made it count, putting together solid runs all week. With a 219.5 in the MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Open Finals, they ended the week as the Level 2 Open Champions. They also finished tied for ninth in the Level 3 and 14th in the Level 4 for total earnings of $78,957.
CD Gunnas Chex Olena, by ARC Gunna Sparkya and out of Mistis Chex Olena, was nominated and is owned by Società Agricola CD Horses SRL.
“I’m really happy with my horse. He gave me everything. For me, it’s a dream to be here, and I’m really proud for me and my horse,” Fontana shared. “This is a dream because this is my first time to show here in the states. We decided to come here three months ago, so this is something very special. To just be here tonight, it’s like I won.”
Fontana thanked both Matteo Rondanina and Francesco Martinotti. “Matteo arranged the flight for myself and my horse, and then after showing in Ardmore, I moved my horse to Francesco Martinotti’s,” he explained. “I say a really big thank you to both of them.”
Now Fontana plans to return home, which is in Italy. “We will see with the horse. Maybe we will come back next year. I don’t know yet; I have to speak about it with the owner,” he said.
Tying for second in the Level 2 were Chuy Chavez on Post Palone and Rodrigo Nieves on Spook Lil Whiz. Each marked a score of 218.5.
Post Palone, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Pale Face Dunnit and out of Blazed By Commander, is owned by Electric Shine Equine. The colt earned $20,000, with $1,000 going to breeder and nominator Alan Chappell.
Nieves and Spook Lil Whiz, by NRHA Five Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Lil Dreamer, qualified for the Finals in Levels 4, 3, and 2, earning a total of $$44,897. Spooks Lil Whiz is owned by Renata Lemannwas nominated by NRHA Professional Eduardo Salgado, who passed away earlier this year.
Open Futurity Finals Level 1 Champion – Graddytude & Ethan Wiley
Graddytude lived up to her name in the NRHA Open Futurity Finals, bringing home the Level 1 Championship from the first section of Open Finals Saturday, Dec. 3. The pair scored a 216.5 and earned $13,000 for the Level 1.
“She’s a really good-minded horse,” rider Ethan Wiley said. “There is nothing that she doesn’t try to think through. Her strength, to me, is that she’s a team player.”
Graddytude is owned by Lisa and Mark Doering and was teamed up with Willey a few months prior to the Futurity.
“She’s gotten better the whole way [including] when we got to this horse show,” Wiley said. “Today, she was like a machine, and I was able to chase her in the circles. The faster we went, the better she was.”
Sired by Thirteen Million Dollar Sire Gunner and out of Miss Little Addy Tude. She was bred and nominated by Toyon Ranch.
“I showed her at the Southwest before this, and we had a couple of turn penalties, [plus] her rollbacks were a little rough. So, we had some stuff we had to clean up,” Willey said. “Our plan [today] was to go in there and either make it or break it. I really thought I made a mistake on my first stop – I missed my timing a little bit – but that mare is so good that she saved me on that.”
Willey thanked Danny and Fred Tremblay, Mike Flarida, and wife Angie Willey.