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 Owner Casey Hinton Crosses Million Dollar Milestone

NRHA Million Dollar Owner Casey Hinton.

With a career that has spanned disciplines, decades, states and roles, it’s fitting that Casey Hinton of Whitesboro, Texas, has achieved a career milestone that few have. The National Reining Horse Association Professional, who has also had an impressive career in the show pen, became a Million Dollar Owner in April.

Just a few thousand dollars away from that milestone, the success of Hinton’s horses at the National Reining Breeders Classic clinched the achievement.

“I think this is a major accomplishment in your career, but when I started out, this wasn’t my goal. You start out with a love of horses and training, owning, and showing them,” Hinton explained. “To reach a milestone that few have accomplished is very exciting.”

Growing up in Ohio, Hinton began showing horses in 4H. The All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, provided plenty of inspiration to the budding trainer. “It is such a big influence on every part of the horse industry. It gets you thinking that the horse business is something to be a part of,” he said.

While at Findlay College, Hinton was able to work with Dale Wilkinson. “He was the grandfather of reining, so with that exposure in college, the NRHA Futurity and the Congress both being held in Ohio, I wanted to direct myself towards a more advanced level of training,” Hinton recalled. “I saw what the successful horsemen were doing and wanted to emulate that.”

Hinton later worked for professional horse trainer Doug Lilly, and when Lilly made the move to Arizona, Hinton followed as his assistant. Soon after he began working for renowned horseman Al Dunning. “At that time, the horse training world hadn’t reached the point of specialization yet, so we trained cutters, cow horses, reiners, western riding horses, and more, because the all-around titles were the thing to win,” he explained.

Hinton soon went into business for himself, taking numerous youth and adult riders to all-around titles. His barn, however, began to evolve, transitioning from having a few reining horses to a specialized reining facility.

It was when Hinton and his wife Kathy moved to Texas that his business and career really flourished. The couple created Cedar Ridge Stallion Station, and began to diversify, not only with a training and competition division, but also breeding and selling. “We have been entrepreneurs and invested in ourselves by buying or raising our own prospects. We’ve had success with that, and are fortunate it has worked out,” he said. Cedar Ridge Stallion Station is home to NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream, NRHA Triple Crown winner Not Ruf At All, and two-time AQHA World Champion and earner of $188,000 In Like Flinn.

Hinton has owned several standout athletes, including Smarty Starlight, Lil Magnum Jessie, Black Hails Gold, Guaranteed A Magnum, and Mega Mag. It was on Lil Magnum Jessie, by NRHA $7 Million Sire Magnum Chic Dream, that Hinton won the 2009 NRHA Level 4 Open Futurity Reserve Championship. Hinton won the NRHA Level 3 Open Futurity Championship in 2013 on Black Hails Gold (by Shine Like Hail), and in 2017 on Mega Mag (by Magnum Chic Dream).

While Hinton initially competed on Guaranteed A Magnum (by Magnum With A Dream), he passed the reins to his assistant Jimmy van der Hoeven, who piloted the gelding to back-to-back NRHA Derby Championships in 2018 and 2019 (owned by Chad and Molly Cherry).

Hinton was adamant that his success as both an owner and showman is due to help from people surrounding him. “You can’t accomplish something like that without a team. We have had many great assistants help us over the years, and we have been a real team. I don’t think this is an individual honor for me by any means,” he said. Hinton shared that Kathy, who has owned NRHA earners of more than $720,000, has been the driving force behind the couple’s success.

The current team at Casey Hinton Reining Horses includes Casey and Kathy, along with NRHA Professional Jimmy van der Hoeven, Abby Kampman, Mateo Argentero and Rodrigo Nieves.

While achieving Million Dollar Owner status is a huge accomplishment, Hinton is not resting on his laurels and is less than $115,000 away from becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Rider. “We still have some more goals, and we hope we have the endurance to reach them. The fact that we can do what we love, which is raising, training, and showing reining horses makes us fortunate. It’s fulfilling, so we hope to continue for a long time,” he said. 

Three Sires Hit NRHA Multi-Million Dollar Milestones in First Half 2021

Several National Reining Horse Association approved events have boasted lucrative payouts in 2021. Those impressive purses helped push three already prolific sires to event bigger milestones. Magnum Chic Dream, now the associations fourth leading sire, became an NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire, while Spooks Gotta Whiz and Hollywoodtinseltown (now 16th and 19th on the leading sire list, respectively) joined the elite NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Club.

Magnum Chic Dream

Now 25 years old, Magnum Chic Dream has become a household name in the reining industry, and his foals have now won more than $7 million. The stallion, by NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Smart Chic Olena out of Sailin Barbee, is owned by Jack and Viola Scott of Sherman, Texas.

As a performer, Magnum Chic Dream, bred by Guy Du Ponchel, boasts $44,000 in lifetime earnings. The stallion then excelled as a sire, achieving NRHA Million Dollar Sire status in 2010 and reaching the seventh million just 11 years later.

Magnum Chic Dream’s top offspring include:

  • Chic Dreamin (out of Skeets Red Dunit) $247,272
  • Taris Dreamer (out of Taris San Cutter) $194,311
  • Mega Maggie Mae (out of Cinco De Mega) $182,116
  • Msdreamy (out of A Gal With A Gun) $181,720
  • Made By Magnum (out of Ready Make Cowboy) $168,523

Spooks Gotta Whiz

Spooks Gotta Whiz excelled in the show pen, earning more than $345,000 during his career. The stallion is one of an elite group of horses to win reining’s Triple Crown, consisting of the NRHA Futurity, NRHA Derby, and NRBC, which he did with NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Jordan Larson and NRHA Six Million and Leading Rider Shawn Flarida.

Spooks Gotta Whiz is by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Gun and out of Prettywhizprettydoes. Bred by Clint Haverty, the 2007 stallion is owned by Michell Anne Kimball, who purchased the horse from Duane Hicks in 2009.

The 14-year-old stallion surpassed three million dollars in offspring earnings during the final weekend of the 2021 NRBC, when his foals won more than $80,000 in the Non Pro and Open finals. Major earners included Trendsettter (ridden by Kole Price), Spooks Gotta Crush (ridden by Ruben Vandorp), Rambowhiz (ridden by Trevor Dare), Gotta Connection (ridden by Shelby Clausen), Exit 21 (ridden by Kelle Smith), and TR Baby Blues (ridden by Kim Muehlstaetter).

Spooks Gotta Whiz’s top performers are:

  • Spooky Whiz (out of Myo Starlight) $185,708
  • Gotta Twist It Up (out of Make It With A Twist) $183,837
  • Spooks Show Time (out of Dolittle Lena) $173,416
  • Spooks Grand Slam (out of Shiney Diamond Lady) 140,429
  • Spooks Gotta Crush (out of Megas Sugar Baby) 139,597


Hollywoodstinseltown first appeared on the NRHA Million Dollar Sire list in 2017, and has raced up the leading sire ranks. Prior to the 2021 NRBC, Hollywoodstinseltown was just over $11,000 away from Three Million Dollar Sire Status. Outstanding Finals performances by Hollywooddirtysecret (ridden by Sam Flarida), Cee Mr Stop and Mr Royal Hollywood (both ridden by Brian Bell) garnered an incredible $54,000, easily crossing the Million Dollar Mark.

Hollywoodstinseltown, who was laid to rest in 2020,  was royally bred. His sire was NRHA Hall of Fame Inductee and Six Million Dollar Sire Hollywood Dun It, and his dam, Miss Tinseltown, is also in the Hall of Fame.

The 2004 stallion was bred and owned throughout the course of his life by Silva Reining Horses of Pilot Point, Texas.

Some of his accolades include 2007 NRHA Prime Time Champion; 2009 NRHA Open Derby Reserve Champion; 2008, 2009, and 2010 NRBC Open top ten; 2010 USEF National Championships top ten; and 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) top ten in both individual and team competition. His NRHA lifetime earnings total more than $185,885.

The top five offspring from this flashy palomino stallion are:

  • Tinseltown Fly Guy (out of Fly Flashy Jac) $250,083
  • Shining In Town (out of Shine Ann) $199,780
  • Hollywooddirtysecret (out of Maximum Rpm) $172,257
  • Tinseltown Flash (out of Billie Gun Flash) $134,920
  • Mr Royal Hollywood (out of Cee Miss Hollywood) $106,360

Recognizing the 2020 NRHA Professionals of the Year

For Immediate Release – February 9, 2021 Oklahoma City, Okla. – The challenges of 2020 led the entire horse community to face uncertainty, unexpected change, and unprecedented challenges. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) proudly salutes its NRHA Professionals for rising to the challenge, providing excellent care to their horses in spite of the circumstances, and ensuring that their customers—and NRHA members—found opportunities to enjoy their reining horses when they needed the outlet most.

The NRHA Professionals awards allow pros to honor their peers by selecting the NRHA Becky Hanson Horsewoman of the Year, the NRHA Professional Horseman of the year, the NRHA Non Pro Coach of the Year, the NRHA Youth Coach of the Year and the NRHA Up-and-Coming Trainer of the year.

NRHA affiliates may nominate pros for each of the awards to recognize their dedication to the reining industry—in and out of the show pen—and commitment to Respect the Horse. Respect the Sport.

“As the new chairman of the Professionals Committee, it’s exciting for me to make calls to the recipients of these awards,” said NRHA Professional Nick Valentine. “We’re thankful to the affiliates that take the time to submit nominations and let us know about the great work NRHA pros are doing in each region. These are very special awards for our professionals.”

Becky Hanson Horsewoman of the Year: Debbie Brown

She might be short in stature, but Debbie Brown is a powerhouse when it comes to the reining community. A staple at shows around the country, Brown has dedicated her life to reining horses for more than 35 years and continues to be a regular face in the finals of major events on top of coaching countless youth and non pro riders to success. She selflessly shares her expertise with reiners of all levels, from beginners to accomplished non pros to seasoned professionals.

Brown is a longtime team member of Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses in Aubrey, Texas. Her NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE) exceed $123,000.

Horseman of the Year: David Hanson

David Hanson faced many challenges in 2020, including the death of his wife, Becky, for whom the Horsewoman of the Year award is named. The longtime NRHA Professional put his own hardships aside and focused on ensuring that others could compete by championing a successful show season for his affiliate.

David and Becky spent five years training horses in Italy and showing them across Europe. When they returned to the U.S. in 2000, the couple settled in Clements, California, where they built a thriving non pro and youth program, on top of training numerous major event finalists and top finishers. David continues to build his own legacy and honor that of his wife as an outstanding NRHA Professional.

Non Pro Coach of the Year: Dany Tremblay

Dany Tremblay’s charisma and unrelenting smile make him one of the most approachable NRHA Professionals in the industry, which means non pro riders gravitate to him for his advice and insight. The Canadian, now living in the U.S., is willing to help all riders be all they can be, no matter if they are his own customers or non pros navigating the sport without a professional coach. Tremblay’s eager to share his expertise in all aspects of horsemanship, from training and showing to care and attention to detail.

Tremblay (NRHA LTE $905,000) and his brother, Fred, operate Tremblay Performance Horses, a full-service training, showing, marketing, and sakes program out of Overbrook, Oklahoma.

Youth Coach of the Year: Bobby Avila Jr.

Patience and persistence are the cornerstones of Bobby Avila Jr.’s youth program. He endeavors to teach every young rider the values of paying attention to the details, respect for the horse and the sport, and confidence. Young riders under his tutelage—from short-stirrup youngsters to those who compete among the elite riders in the Level (L) 4 non pro classes—start with the basics of horsemanship, which makes them solid riders who can make confident decisions in the show pen as well as in daily life.

Avila’s lifetime of experience showing horses allows him to relate to the youngsters in his program, which operates out of Zimmerman Performance Horses in Rogersville, Missouri. Avila has more than $278,000 in NRHA LTE.

Up-and-Coming Professional of the Year: Austin Roush

The young reining horses of today become tomorrow’s top mounts under riders of all skill levels. Austin Roush’s abilities with young horses—including impeccable timing and feel—make him a standout young trainer and one to watch at the futurities and derbies, which led him to be chosen by his peers as the 2020 Up-and-Coming Professional of the Year. Most notably, Roush piloted Gunna Stop (Gunnatrashya x Stop Little Sister) to the 2018 NRHA Futurity L1 and L2 champion titles.

Training from Southern Trace Ranch in Belle Center, Ohio, Roush (NRHA LTE more than $175,000) also enjoys preparing non pro horses and coaching their riders.