Cade McCutcheon and Super Marioo Claim Level 4 Open Championship

Ten days of intense, world-class competition culminated Saturday, Dec. 7, 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.

When the curtain fell as the final horse left the arena, it was 19-year-old Cade McCutcheon who emerged victorious, not only winning the Level 4 Championship but also tying for the Reserve title.

It’s been a banner year for Cade McCutcheon, who turned in his non pro card in January to become an NRHA Professional. Prior to the NRHA Futurity, he had won more than $706,616 in lifetime earnings, not including the $307,500 he won in August at the inaugural Run for a Million event.

Still, he wasn’t counting on winning the Level 4 Open Championship at the NRHA Futurity. “I didn’t expect to win it my first time here as a professional, but that’s everyone’s goal,” he said.

McCutcheon had three shots at finishing in the top spot of the Level 4: Deja Vu With A Gun, Super Marioo, and Guns And Dynamite. He competed first on Deja Vu With A Gun (owned by David Silva), marking a 212.5.

Next up was Super Marioo, and the pair scored a 224.5. “I ran in and hit my first stop. I got turned big, and before I loped off, I thought to myself, ‘Just make sure you lope off on the correct lead. Don’t screw it up,’” he recalled. “That horse was there for me the whole way. There are a couple things that could have been better, but overall, what can I say?”

Just five horses later, NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida entered the arena on the 2018 NRHA Markel Insurance Prospect Sale high seller Shine Colt Shine. With gracefully executed circles and powerful stops, it looked like McCutcheon’s lead could be in jeopardy. When the score was announced, Flarida and Shine Colt Shine fell just short with a 223.5.

Competing in the third from last set, McCutcheon rode Guns And Dynamite. The 19-year-old trainer piloted the colt through another great run, resulting in a 223.5, tying Flarida for second.

After that, McCutcheon couldn’t have told you how the last seven horses scored, but he could have given you an update on college football. “I went to the bus and was watching Wisconsin vs. Ohio State and doing my best not to pay attention to it. I was just waiting for my mom to call me,” he admitted.

Unbeknownst to him, his scores held, and McCutcheon won not only the Level 4 with Super Marioo, but also Levels 3 and 2, for $196,175 in earnings. Super Marioo’s nominator, Hillis Akin Family Partnership received $9,808.

McCutcheon also tied for Reserve in the Level 4 on Guns And Dynamite, and took sole possession of the title in Levels 3 and 2. Combined with his earnings on Deja Vu With A Gun, McCutcheon’s winnings for the evening came to $341,899. That unofficially pushed him to NRHA Million Dollar Rider status.

Super Marioo, owned by Story Book Stables, is by Gunnatrahya out of HA Chic A Tune. McCutcheon began riding the colt in early fall when he was purchased from Gunny Mathison by Freddy Brassfield. “Gunny sold me this horse this summer. He did a phenomenal job training him, and I just had to pick him up and do some of my things. Without Gunny, this never would have happened,” McCutcheon said.

Shortly after McCutcheon showed the colt at the Best of the West Futurity, he received a phone call from Brenda Joyce, owner of Story Book Stables. “She said she wanted to have a horse with me and asked about Super Marioo. She bought him from Freddy, and has been amazing to work with ever since,” he said. “This is the first horse I’ve had with her, and I’m really excited for the future, whatever she decides to do.”

McCutcheon and Kirstin Booth’s Guns And Dynamite, by Gunners Special Nite out of Chic Olena Starbuck, won a total of $145,724 across the three levels. Nominator Turnabout Farms received $7,286.

“I thank my parents and grandparents for doing whatever it takes to make me as good as I can be,” he said. “There are hundreds of people who played into this, and I’m lucky I had the right horse to win tonight.”

Flarida and Shine Colt Shine pocketed a check for $110,752 for the Level 4 Open Reserve title, with nominator Sally Amabile receiving $5,637. The Shine Chic Shine colt, out of Gunners Miss Oak, lived up to the high expectations of being the 2018 Markel Insurance Prospect Sale high seller. The colt is owned by Gaynia Revenberg.

Jacob Ballard and Flashin Benjamins Win Level 1 Open Championship

On October 6, Jacob Ballard took Flashin Benjamins into his training program. He was familiar with the horse, who he started as a 2-year-old, but the stallion had spent the last year-and-a-half with Kole Price. The pair only had two months to sync back up before the NRHA Futurity, but Ballard rose to the challenge, and the duo scored a 218 to win the Level 1 Open, and place in Levels 3 and 2.

“I’ve dreamed about being in the finals of the [NRHA] Futurity forever, and to pick off the Level 1 was pretty exciting,” said Ballard, who is 26 years old. “I can’t describe it.” Prior to running pattern 10, Ballard said he knew if he could execute the run-in, stop, and back-up well, everything else would fall into place. The horse didn’t let him down, turning even better under the bright lights than he did in the warm-up arena.

“After I loped off [from my turns], I knew that he was locked in and I could go and push him in his circles,” Ballard said. “By the time I got done with my second lead change, I knew I was home free. All I had to do was turn the corner and go stop him. He just killed the ground like he does every time.”

Ballard, who apprenticed under Price before going out on his own at the beginning of 2019, said it was a testament to Price’s program that he was able to click with the horse so quickly. Since he only had two months before the NRHA Futurity, he knew he needed to make every ride count. Schooling at his local college gave him a place to practice in a show setting, which he thinks gave him an advantage.

Flashin Benjamins (Gunnatrashya x Shiners Hot Flash) was owned by Leann Spurlock at the time of the NRHA Futurity and was nominated by Nicole Miller. Ballard said the horse’s owners have been very involved, which he respected and appreciated.

“You can’t get to where I am without having good owners,” he said. “Everyone wants to talk about the horse and other factors, but the owners are a huge part of it.” The stallion may be moving on to new things, as his owners received an offer on him at the NRHA Futurity. Ballard has some other prospects waiting in the wings, but he won’t forget the colt he started and then rode to an NRHA Futurity L1 Open Championship.

“I remember stopping him when he first got sliders on, and he stopped really smooth — about 10, 12 feet,” he said. “He has that same effect, only now he does it with 25 feet. He hasn’t changed a whole lot as far as talent goes, just a lot of the buttons are different and more progressed.

“It’s been a long road of ups and downs, but I’m thankful for all of it,” he added. “I wasn’t sure it was the best move in January [to go out on my own], but God is on my side as far as the events and people he’s put in my life to get me where I am.”

The Level 1 Reserve Championship was won by Josh Tishman and Lanas Lil Joe, by Lil Joe Cash and out of Elanachics. Lanas Lil Joe is owned by Steve Carr and was nominated by Rainbow Ridge Equestrian.

Martin Larcombe Wins Prime Time Open on Shines Like Spook

It didn’t take much convincing when Rosanne Sternberg, and NRHA Million Dollar Owner,* asked Martin Larcombe to ride Shines Like A Spook. The royally bred colt is by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook and out of Ebony Shines, who recently became one of two NRHA Million Dollar Dams. “Rosanne bred this horse, and owns both the sire and the dam, so this is a pretty good promotion for her brand. You can imagine in April when she said she had this colt that it didn’t take much to get me to try him,” Larcombe said with a laugh.

Larcombe and Shines Like Spook qualified for the Level 4 and 3 Open Finals, as well as the Prime Time. Their score of 220 equated to good checks in the Level 4 and 3, and the win in the Prime Time. All totaled, the pair took home $42,672 in finals cash. “I’ve taken him to a couple pre-futurities, and he’s been respectable. I know he has a lot of ability and a lot of stop. I think he will mature a bit more and get more solid as a show horse,” Larcombe shared. “Even saying that, I can’t complain about how good he’s been this week. He has stepped up all week. He’s going to be a show horse.”

Sternberg and Larcombe have a long history together. They got to know each other when Larcombe was training reiners in Europe, and the relationship continued when his family moved to the United States. “I thank Rosanne. She’s had horses with me the past few years and has been a great customer. I also thank my crew, which is basically my family,” he said. “I also thank my great customers who support me.”

Larcombe went one-two in the Prime Time, taking Reserve on One Sensationaldream, owned by Neylon Performance Horses LLC. The pair marked a 217.5, worth $11,410, with nominator Kathy Bagnell receiving $498. One Sensationaldream is by Magnum Chic Dream and out of Dun Up Sensational.

*During the Level 4 Open Finals, Rosanne Sternberg unofficially became an NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner. Rosanne is only the second owner to reach this milestone, following Arcese Quarter Horses that reached the Two Million Dollar mark in 2012.

Xtra Half N Half Tops NRHA/Markel Marketplace Sale

On December 7 during the 2019 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships, 56 horses walked through the ring at the NRHA/Markel Marketplace Sale. As Xtra Half N Half strode into the sale arena, bidders sat up and took notice.

The handsome 2018 sorrel colt (Shiners Voodoo Dr x Cremes Chic Olena x Smart Chic Olena) brought a final bid of $64,000 from Jimmy Nichols, of Templeton, California, making him the highest seller of the day. Consigned by Heritage Farms, he is a half-brother to the earners of more than $250,000. Xtra Half N Half is enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program and the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC).

“We just liked the way he’s bred, the way he’s made. He’s so pretty-headed,” Nichols said. “Watching him in his video, he’s just really physical, but he seems really quiet-minded.”

Nichols planned to send the colt to Mathieu Buton for training.

Nichols and his wife, Nancy, also purchased the second-highest-seller Lil Whizin Inferno (Inferno Sixty Six x Miss Jacspins Whiz x Conquistador Whiz), a 2018 red dun filly who was consigned by Terry and Warnetta Martin. Nichols said he saw the same characteristics in her that interested him in Xtra Half N Half.

“She’s not very big, but she’s so physical,” he added. “We’re going to take her home, and I’ll ride her myself and get her ready. I’ve shown in the Open all my life and trained there in California, and we’ve had our own now for five or six years. I’m actually considering going back and doing the non-pro with her.”

Lil Whizin Inferno was in training with Josh Visser for 60 days at the time of the sale. She is five panel negative and enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program, NRHA Euro Nomination Program, and NRBC.

The gavel fell at $31,000 for Heritage Farms/Parker Slavin Performance Horses consignment HF A Winforthechics, a 2018 buckskin filly. Purchased by Gabriel de la Torre, the mare (HF Mobster x Win Smart Chicy x Smart Chic Olena) is a half-sister to National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) money-earner and American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) point-earner Duallers Smart Chic.

HF A Winforthechics is enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program and NRBC.

The NRHA/Markel Marketplace Sale wrapped up the NRHA Futurity Sales. Complete results can be found online at

McKinnon Larcombe Claims Second Adequan® NAAC Title on Designed With Shine

The Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships, held during the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity, culminated Saturday afternoon with the Youth 14-18 competition.

McKinnon Larcombe and Designed With Shine capped off a stellar week with yet another Adequan® NAAC title in the Youth 14 – 18, after winning both the Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro earlier this week.

In Saturday’s competition, the pair marked a 220, winning a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, a Montana Silversmiths buckle, an Adequan® vest, a Platinum Performance jacket, product from Classic Equine, and gift certificates to Bluebonnet Feed and SmartPak.

“I went in today with the mentality that I didn’t need to run her as hard as I did the other day for the Non Pro. She was so good for me then, she didn’t have to do anything more for me to make me happy, but she went in there and did it once again,” Larcombe said. “She was perfect. She turned remarkably well for me, circled like she always does, and ran and stopped really well. I was so happy with her.”

Designed With Shine, by Smart And Shiney out of Taris Designer Genes, is owned by McKinnon’s aunt Shauna Larcombe. “When I rode her the first time, I told my aunt I could easily take her into the show pen the next day. She’s so well-trained and easy to get along with, but I never imagined we would be this successful. I never thought in a million years I would have a horse like this to show. I’m very lucky,” she said.

Winning an Adequan® NAAC title has been a goal of Larcombe’s for many years. “There are some incredibly great horses in these classes, and you have to bring your A-game when you walk in the pen. There are great sponsors that make it possible for you to compete for saddles and big trophies, not to mention all the other fantastic prizes you can win,” she said. “It’s exciting because you know you have something to run for.”

Larcombe shared how thankful she was to her great family and friends who support her. “Thank you to my auntie Shaua. Without her, I wouldn’t be mounted on such a good horse. I thank my parents who pay for this hobby which is not cheap. My dad is a great coach who helps me every day. I thank everyone at the barn from Team Larcombe and Sterling Ranch. I thank my great friends. It takes a crew and there are too many people to name, but I’m appreciative of all of them,” she said.

Taking second in the Adequan® NAAC Youth 14 – 18 with a 213.5 was Raeanna Thayn and Coded N Karma (Electric Code x Whiz N Snap). They won an Adequan® vest, a Platinum Performance jacket, a Montana Silversmiths buckle, product from Classic Equine and SmartPak, and gift certificates to Platinum Performance and Bluebonnet Feed.

Reserve in the ancillary Youth 14 – 18 was won by Alexia Tordoff and Blue Collar Tag with a 218. Blue Collar Tag is by Whiz N Tag Chex and out of Kachina Oak Olena.

Custom Vintage Berry Tops Markel Futurity Prospect and Select Broodmare Sale

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA)/Markel Futurity Prospect and Select Broodmare Sale, held December 6 during the 2019 NRHA Futurity and Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships, kicked off by auctioning breedings to 12 stallions to benefit the National Reining Horse Youth Association (NRHyA). A total of $20,400 was raised to support youth activities and scholarships.

The evening was topped by the $175,000 sale of Custom Vintage Berry, a 2017 bay roan colt (A Sparkling Vintage x Custom Roan Berry x Custom Crome). Steve Simon consigned the horse, who was then purchased by Elementa.

“She [Elementa owner, Cecilia Fiorucci] loved the horse from Europe as soon as she saw him,” said agent Domenico Lomuto of Slide or Die LLC. “He will go to Elementa, and I think Cira [Baeck] will show him at the next [European] Futurity. I think that with him, it will probably be one of the best stables in Europe for sure.”

Custom Vintage Berry was in training with Nici Schneider West for 335 days by the time of the sale. His dam is a full sister to American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Champion Custom Red Berry, an earner of more than $187,000. Custom Vintage Berry was enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program and the NRBC.

A bid of $67,000 made Xtra Kiss Me Again the second-highest seller. Consigned by Gabriel Diano, the 2017 sorrel colt was purchased by Karl Roberts.

Xtra Kiss Me Again (Boom Shernic x SS Kiss Me Kate x Wimpys Little Step) is a grandson of One Tuf Muffin, an earner of nearly $78,000 who was an NRHA Non Pro Reserve World Champion. He was enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program and the NRBC.

The third-highest seller went for a price of $62,000 and was a young broodmare. Im Mizzen Gunner, a 5-year-old palomino mare consigned by Toyon Ranch LLC, was purchased by Russell Coiles.

Im Mizzen Gunner (Colonels Smoking Gun x Mizzen Shine x Shining Spark) was injured as a yearling and sold as broodmare sound. She had carried two foals in the past but was reset this year, and sold with an embryo conceived May 9, 2019, by SG Frozen Enterprize. Enrolled in the NRHA Nomination Program, NRHA Euro Nomination Program, and the NRBC, the mare was five panel negative.

For those looking for a good deal on a quality reiner, the NRHA/Markel Marketplace Sale will start tomorrow, December 7, at 9:30 a.m. in Barn 3 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, following the Quarter Horse News Sale Breakfast at 8:30 a.m.

Jesse Asmussen and Ruf Style Of Play Win NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity

Great horses and riders were shining under the Friday-night lights of the Jim Norick Coliseum at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) CINCH Non Pro Futurity featured the top horses and riders from the preliminary round, and the champion was decided in an exciting runoff.

Jesse Asmussen & Ruf Style Of Play — CINCH Levels 4 & 3 Non Pro Futurity Champions

Jesse Asmussen and Ruf Style Of Play drew the dreaded No. 1 position for the CINCH Non Pro Futurity finals, but the pair made it count, marking a 220 to take the lead of Levels 3 and 4. As rider after rider took a shot at the lead and fell short, Asmussen and his team worked hard to stay busy. “We were back at the stalls sitting around, pacing, sweeping, and doing anything to just stay busy,” he said. “You don’t really expect a tie. You think someone will come in and beat you.”

Luca Fappani had a wild run-in with a dog that jumped into the pen during his finals’ run, even though State Fair Park requires leashes for all dogs and were checking them at the door. Fappani was given the option of running again after the last draw. “I was just waiting for Luca to go at the end, and then he also marked a 220. We decided to run off, and we had only 15 minutes to get ready,” Asmussen explained. “This mare has been at Kole Price’s, and he told me to just trot her around and that she’d be good to show. It was nerve-wracking, but she was great.”

Rules dictate that the runoff occurs in the same draw order as the original, so once again Asmussen knew he had to set the pace. Once again, the 3-year-old mare gave her best, resulting in a 222. “She was phenomenal in the runoff. I couldn’t believe she was better there than the first time I showed her in the finals,” he said.

The win came with a bounty of prizes, and checks totaling $61,455. “Winning this is a dream every year, and until it happens, it is hard to imagine.”

Asmussen purchased Ruf Style Of Play, by Not Ruf At All and out of UB Stylin With Me, from Vaughn Zimmerman earlier this year. “Bobby Avila Jr. called me in June and told me I needed to buy her. I didn’t need another horse at the time, but he kept calling me and talking to me about her, so we ended up buying her without ever trying her,” he explained.

After showing the mare a couple times, Asmussen elected to send her to Kole Price. “We live in Iowa, and the weather was really bad, so I sent her to Kole’s and he did a phenomenal job getting her ready to come here. She felt so well-trained and easy. I owe him a huge thank-you. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Kole’s wife, Kelsey, did a great job of getting her pretty and making sure everything looks nice,” he said. “I also thank my wife and boys. It’s been a long week, and the boys have been great. My wife does so much at home and keeps me from self-destructing. My mom and dad are also huge supporters. I thank them so much.”

Making this win extra-special for Asmussen is that his long-time friend Dave Kunkle was able to be present. “Dave is the guy who got me started, and both times I’ve won it before he’s been in Iowa, so him being here was pretty special,” Asmussen said.

Luca Fappani & Gotta Get Diamonds — CINCH Level 4 & 3 Non Pro Futurity Reserve Champion, Level 2 & Youth Champion

Luca Fappani didn’t know he’d get to show his horse three times in the non pro finals at his first NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity. While competing as draw 30 in the finals, Fappani was completing his second set of circles when a dog catapulted itself into the ring and tried to herd Fappani and his horse.

“The first run was going pretty good. I saw something black and white run out in front of my horse, and I kept going, but the dog kept cutting the circle. I didn’t want to run him over, so I stopped. I’d never seen anything like it,” Fappani said.

Fappani and Gotta Get Diamonds were given the option of a re-run at the end of the finals, but that only gave him nine horses to prepare for yet another run. “He was pretty good the first time, so I trusted him the second time, and he was great. He did everything I wanted,” Fappani said.

When the score of 220 was announced, Fappani had taken the lead of the Level 2 and Youth divisions but was tied with Jesse Asmussen for the lead of the Level 4 and 3. “My horse was great, but I wasn’t sure he could do the same in the runoff. Before the runoff we stayed here and gave him some water and just touched on a few buttons,” Fappni said.

Fappani and Gotta Get Diamonds marked a 218 in the runoff, finishing as reserve champions in Levels 4 and 3. Still, earnings for the day came to $56,910. “This was my first futurity, and it was definitely one to remember,” Fappani said.

Luca’s parents, Andrea and Tish, purchased Gotta Get Diamonds, by Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Tinker With Diamonds, from Rancho Oso Rio in October. “Dad showed him a couple times, and marked a couple 218s, I think. I tried him at Best of the West, and then had a game plan coming in here to make the finals,” Fappani shared. “I took him out there and opened him up. He gave it everything.”

The 15-year-old was gracious, thanking the many people who supported him. “Thank you to my mom and dad and my brother. My whole family supports me,” he said. “Thank you to Rancho Oso Rio for letting us buy him.”

Finishing second in the Level 2 Non Pro was Jessicah Keller and Snips Shining Gun with a 218. Keller and Snips Shining Gun, by Colonels Shining Gun out of newly inducted NRHA Hall of Fame mare Snip O Gun, also placed in Levels 4 and 3. Keller and Snips Shining Gun, owned by Hilldale Farm, pocketed $37,030.

Taylor Zimmerman and Its All About Ruf, by Not Ruf At All and out of Dun Pretty Nifty, finished reserve in the Youth division with a 217.5. Zimmerman won $24,707 for her finals runs on Its All About Ruf. Its All About Ruf is owned by her grandfather, Vaughn Zimmerman.

Blair McFarlin Wins CINCH Level 1 Non Pro Futurity on Starlights N Dreams

Blair McFarlin had never shown at the NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity before, but she made it count, qualifying for the finals of the Level 1 through Level 3. In the end, she and her horse, Starlights N Dreams, won the Level 1 Championship with a 215. “I’m extremely excited to even be in the finals. I had a futurity horse a few years ago, but this is the first one to bring here,” she said. McFarlin’s earnings for all levels came to $20,760.

McFarlin and Starlight N Dream, by Magnum Chic Dream out of Strike A Star, had to make an extra run to earn a finals berth. “The first time I went in there and let her do her job, and she was good for me, but not good enough to make it back, so we rode in the consolation round on Wednesday,” she explained. “That really solidified for her and me where we are and what we need to work on.”

McFarlan’s trainer, NRHA Professional Nathan Piper, did most of the prep work on the mare. “He would ride her early in the morning, and then I’d just cruise her around before we went in,” McFarlin said. “Before the finals, Nathan told me to go have fun and stay out of the penalty box.”

McFarlin felt confidence from the first stop of the run. “She ran in and dragged her butt, so I knew we had started on a good note. She got turned well for me, and that’s been her weak spot, so when we got through that I knew we were golden,” she said.

McFarlin, of Franklin, Tennessee, has been riding reiners since she was 12 years old but spent the last four years in college. “I’ve been out of the loop a little bit, but she’s been a fun horse to get back into it,” she said. “I thank my dad, Mike McFarlin, for sticking with me and supporting me all these years.”

Sally Berg and Had Us At Hello (REF Black Mamba x Dunit N Continental) finished as reserve champions in the Level 1, and placed in Levels 2 through 4, winning more than $21,645.

Jose Vazquez Tops CINCH Prime Time Non Pro With Xtra Winding Step

Over the years, Jose Vazquez has built an impressive breeding program and has made an impressive career on the resulting foals of his program. He won the Prime Time Non Pro title and placed third in the Level 4 Non Pro on one of those foals, this one a colt named Xtra Winding Step.

“It was a fun run,” Vazquez said of his 219-point run in the finals, which resulted in a $20,862 paycheck. “He showed he can compete at a high level. I showed him two times before here. He came out here and put together two quality runs. Of course, you want to win every time, so I hope our turn is right around the corner.”

Xtra Winding Step is by Wimpys Little Step out of SLJ Smartlikewhinny. “This is a horse we raised. I showed his grandmother, mother, granddaddy. The first good horse I showed was his grandmother,” he added. “This one is a little more special than the rest. He’s one of the best. I hope you hear from us again soon.”

Vazquez was quick to thank his friends and family. “I thank my family and Alejandro and Mario, his brother. They work hard so I can have fun. Everything is a team effort. My veterinarian, my horseshoer — we all work as a team. That’s how we compete on this level,” he said.

Finishing tied for second in the Prime Time Non Pro was Andre Lauzon and Kelle Smith. Lauzon rode A Whizard Dream (Magnum Chic Dream x Miss Poco Whizard), while Smith rode Spookadoodlede (Tricked Out Spook x Tivitos Top Starlet). Lauzon also placed in the Level 3, for total earnings of $8,696. Smith placed in the Level 3 and Level 4 to take home $16,296.