2020 NRHA Derby Presented by Markel Breaks Records

The 2020 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel was expecting a subdued look and feel. The Oklahoma State Fair implemented new protocols because of COVID-19. This included increased stall spacing, face mask requirements for staff, mandatory social distancing, and closing the event to the public.

All those measures were followed, but as the event unfolded it became clear that there was nothing subdued about the size of the show or the quality of the competition. The 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel became the largest in NRHA history. Not only was there a record number of horses, riders, and entries, the total purse for the show was also record-breaking, surpassing $1.1 million.

The combined payout for the Open and Non Pro Derbies set another record at $1,012,581. The Non Pro Derby had an all-time high payout of $354,620. The Open Derby had the third-highest payout in history, awarding $657,961.

“Our members were very happy that we were able to have this show and their enthusiasm was felt throughout,” said NRHA President Mike Hancock. “Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the exhibitors for their spirit of camaraderie and cooperation. Not only was it a huge show – it was a great one!”

That off-the-charts momentum continued in the Adequan® Arena, where the traditional horse show classes sometimes went well into the night or even the early hours of the next morning. NRHA Events Manager Cheryl Cody said, “When the unprecedented entries became apparent for the first weekend, we were able to shorten two extremely long days by showing concurrently in Arena 6. Once the Derby competition began, we could not do that. Thanks to the commitment of our staff and officials and the cooperation of our exhibitors, we were able to get through those incredibly long days.”

In 2020, there were 1,433 stalls filled – another record. That translated to 820 horses actually entered in the show – up from 664 last year.

The number of riders competing at the event rose substantially as well, going from 499 in 2019 to 637 this year. All that equated to record entry numbers, up to 3,301 entries from 2,750 the previous year.

The huge show led to several career achievements, including three unofficial millionaire milestones. Andrea Fappani’s Open win in the Adequan® Arena early in the week made Rancho Oso Rio LLC an NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner. When Jason Vanlandingham won the Level 4 Open Derby Championship on Saturday evening on A Vintage Smoke, he surpassed the NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider mark in earnings, and his horse’s sire, A Sparkling Vintage, became an NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire.

Competition Wraps Up at NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

A long day of competition at the 2020 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel wrapped up Sunday afternoon. It was the largest Derby in the event’s history, with 3,301 entries – up from 2,750 in 2019. Complete results can be found at NRHADerby.com.

Colt Mitchell Wins Short Stirrup [2] on Playgun Chic Olena in Exciting Runoff

The only run off of the week at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel took place Sunday afternoon in the Jim Norick Arena when Colt Mitchell and Logan Flaherty battled it out for the championship in the Short Stirrup division. It was a hard-fought battle, and in the end, Mitchell finished with the win.

“It was my first run off and I thought it was pretty exciting. My game plan was to do better than I did the first time and just have fun,” Mitchell shared. “Logan did a really good job and showed that horse great, so it was a good competition.”

He added that Playgun Chic Olena, by NRHA Seven Million Dollar Stallion Smart Chic Olena out of Mamas Packin, has never really been a fan of the coliseum. “Each year he gets a little better, and this year was the best,” he said. “My stops in the runoff were the best we have had in a while. I was pretty proud.”

Mitchell added, “I thank my family for supporting me and helping me train him. I also thank the good Lord for keeping me safe and giving me this wonderful horse.”

Madison Rafacz Takes Youth 13 & Under [2] Win on Whizenboonsmal

After a busy week, Madison Rafacz wanted to take the opportunity to show one more time at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel. Sunday’s youth classes were held in the Jim Norick Coliseum, giving her a perfect opportunity to expose her horse to the arena in preparation for the American Quarter Horse Association Youth World Championships.

“He was good today. I just went in there and let him go quiet and see the arena,” the 12-year-old said. Whizenboonsmal is an 8-year-old gelding by Peptoleap out of She Whiz A Star.

While most people might be ready to go home at the end of an event, that’s not the case for her. “I’m not really ready to go home. I don’t like leaving them, especially since we haven’t been to one in a while,” she said.

Luckily, she won’t have to stay home long, as she’ll be competing at the Mid-Atlantic Reining Classic in just two weeks. “I would like to thank my parents and the entire MR barn,” she said.

Lydia Bell Takes Youth 14-18 High Point Championship on Chics Want My Number

Lydia Bell and Chics Want My Number put together two consistent runs over the weekend to win the high point championship of the Unrestricted Youth class. “He was good at this show. There is always stuff to work on, but we just keep going as a team,” she said.

Bell began showing Chics Want My Number, by NRHA 11 Million Dollar Sire Wimpys Little Step out of Dixie Chic Olena, a few years ago. “I got him from Christy Morgan. He was her derby horse, and when she had her son Cooper she decided to sell him. We’re good friends with her, and we were looking for a youth horse for me, so we bought him,” Bell said. “He’s really fun and is a mess. He keeps my life interesting because he’s always playing or getting into things.”

Bell, 17 years old, added, “I thank my parents, Christy Morgan, and God, because who knows where I would be without him.”

Anna Clausen and Smart Tinseltown Win Youth 14-18 [2] and High Point

After tying for the win of the Youth 14-18 on Saturday, Anna Clausen won the class again on Smart Tinseltown with a 143.5. The pair also won the high point for the division.

Earlier this week, Clausen and Smart Tinseltown won the Level 1 8 & Up Non Pro Derby. Smart Tinseltown, owned by Clay Clausen, is by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook and out of Tinseltown Lil Step.

Rita Clausen Wins Youth 13 & Under High Point on Kansas City Whiz

It was a good week for Rita Clausen, who finished with the Youth 13 & Under high point championship after winning the class on Sunday and finishing as part of a three-way tie in Sunday’s section. Clausen rode Kansas City Whiz, by Easy Otie Whiz out of Kansas City Royal.

Kansas City Whiz is owned by Clay Clausen.

Bo Van Duys Wins Unrestricted Youth [2] on Voodoo Smokin Annie

Topping the second slate of the Unrestricted Youth [2] was Bo Van Duys and Voodoo Smokin Annie with a 142. Voodoo Smokin Annie, by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Shiners Voodoo Dr out of Caleys Smokin Peppy.

Logan Flaherty Sweeps Green Reiner Classes on SS Spyderman

It’s been a good week for Logan Flaherty. Just days ago he and SS Spyderman won both Green Reiner classes, and he returned to the Adequan® Arena on the last day of competition to do it again. “He was good for showing three times in a row,” the 9-year-old said. He and the 12-year-old gelding marked a 140 to win the second slate and secure the high point buckle.

His father, NRHA Professional Committee Chairman Patrick Flaherty, said, “I told him to go faster than he did the other day, but he didn’t. I guess he went just the right speed.”

Logan shared he didn’t change anything from the previous day showing and prepared his horse like he always does.

SS Spyderman, by NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz and out of Chics Velvet Lady, is owned by Jenny Ricotta. “I thank my dad, and I thank Jenny Ricotta for leasing him to me,” Logan said.

Patrick added, “We really thank Marco and Jenny Ricotta. We were looking hard for a horse for him this year, and having trouble finding one when Jenny let us try him. We are lucky to have this horse to show. He’s turning into a really special horse for our family.”

Eduardo Ramirez and Jeweled Out Sweep Rookie 1 and 2 [2]

Eduardo Ramirez schooled Jeweled Out all week leading up to the Jackpot Rookie 1 and 2 [2] classes on Sunday, June 21. It all paid off when the duo laid down a smoking run that scored a cool 144.

The 15-year-old earned his way out of the Level 1 Green Reiner classes last year but has never rode away with a championship. That made this win extra special.

“I’m usually up there in second or third, but this was my first win,” Ramirez said. “I’m really proud of him (Jeweled Out).”

When Ramirez first entered the Adequan® Arena, Jeweled Out was right there with him. The only concern Ramirez had was picking up the right lead.

“He looks everywhere a lot in his right lead,” Ramirez said. “I don’t normally talk, or cluck, to him much, but this time on the right lead I clucked to him to see if I could get his attention and it worked.”

The 9-year-old gelding is by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Cromed Out Mercedes and out of Whiz Jewels. The pair has only been competing together for the last two years. Earlier in the show season Ramirez and Jeweled Out qualified for the Rookie Shootout at the Run for a Million.

Before Ramirez saddled up the gelding, he hadn’t been consistently ridden for a few years. Ramirez got connected with NRHA Professional Luke Gagnon and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I would like to thank Luke Gagnon, Sergio Elia and his wife, and my parents,” he concluded.

Amy Mitchell Wins Prime Time Rookie [2] and High Point on Skeets Forty Five

The Mitchell family had a great ending to the NRHA Derby presented by Markel. While Colt won the Short Stirrup title, his mom Amy pulled off the win of the second slate of the Prime Time Rookie on Skeets Forty Five. She also claimed the high point championship for the division. “I’m probably more excited for Colt right now. It was fun to get to see him in the run off,” she shared. “Today I thought my run was better than the other day. I thought my horse was perfect. All the errors were pilot errors. It was wonderful and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Skeets Forty Five is by Skeets Peppy and out of Select A Forty Five. “This horse belongs to my daughter Molly. We have had him for 11 years, and he’s 16 years old now,” she said. “He’s such a great horse. I have ridden horses my whole life but just recently started reining, and he takes care of me.”

Amy and her family have a busy schedule ahead, with plans to compete at the Mid-Atlantic Reining Horse Classic and the National Reining Breeders Classic, as well as the AQHA Youth World Championship Show. “I thank my family. They’re all very supportive, and I had a lot of friends come and cheer me on the other day. It was a lot of fun,” she said.

Allison Thorson Wins Rooke Level 1 & 2 High Point on Smart Cowboy Whiz

Two consistent runs in the Adequan® Arena resulted in the high point championship of Rookie Levels 1 and 2 for Allison Thorson and Smart Cowboy Whiz. The pair tied for first in the first slate of classes, and second in Sunday’s set. Thorson has owned Smart Cowboy Whiz for only a year, having purchased the gelding just before the 2019 NRHA Derby.

Smart Cowboy Whiz is by Who Whiz It out of Little Smart Jac.

Jason Vanlandingham and A Vintage Smoke Win Level 4 Open Championship at 2020 NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

A Vintage Smoke blew into the Jim Norick Coliseum during the Level 4 Open Finals of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel. At the reins was his trainer, Jason Vanlandingham. The newly crowned NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider and the flashy black stallion had already made their mark on the reining industry by winning two of the three largest reining events: the 2018 NRHA Futurity and the 2019 National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC). The only accolade missing from A Vintage Smoke’s resume? An NRHA Derby presented by Markel Championship.

That was remedied on Saturday night when the pair wowed the judges with flawless maneuver followed by flawless maneuver. The crowd held its breath as the pair exited the arena, awaiting the results. When the score—a 227.5—was announced, the applause was deafening.

For Vanlandingham, the win came with a feeling of relief. “I was disappointed with myself last year because we had a chance of winning it, but I missed my last stop. There was a lot of pressure to get it done, and this horse came through. He was really awesome,” he said.

Feeling the pressure, he had to take a few moments for himself before competing. “I was pretty nervous, to the point where I had to get with the good Lord and do some praying because my confidence wasn’t there. A big feeling of relief came over me, and I just told myself to put my confidence in the right place,” he shared.

That resolution was what he needed. “We went in there about as hard as he could go, and he stopped huge the first time. We were last in the set so there was no ground left, but he was locked in, and I was very proud of him,” he recalled.

The win came with a big check for $60,000, with 5% going to nominator Karl Hapcic. Vanlandingham and owner Diane Mesmer were also presented a bevy of prizes, including a Kyle Zanetti Trailer; a saddle by Bob’s Custom Saddles; a Montana Silversmiths trophy buckle; Anderson Bean Boots; and product or gift certificates from Classic Equine, Platinum Performance, Bluebonnet Feeds, SmartPak, CINCH, and Shorty’s Caboy Hattery.

This is the second horse that Vanlandingham has ridden to win the three largest NRHA-approved events, which include the NRHA Futurity; the NRHA Derby presented by Markel; and the NRBC, an event for derby-age horses. The first time he accomplished that feat was with Not Ruf At All (A Sparkling Vintage x All Ruffed Up).

“This horse is right there with Not Ruf At All. He goes in there on Saturday night, and he just gets it done. That takes a special horse,” he said. “This is an accomplishment I’ve been hunting for. It’s special to me because with our program being on the smaller side like it is, I’m never going to catch the top guys in earnings. To do something no one else has done is pretty special.”

Vanlandingham shared that Mesmer plays a huge role in the stallion’s success. “She’s been great. She’s one of those owners who lets you do your thing and never puts any pressure on you. She’s been matter of fact about us eventually winning all three of these events, and she’s been right,” he said.

A Vintage Smoke, at only 5 years old, has two years of derby eligibility left. “As long as he continues to show good for us, we’ll continue to show him. Everything from here on out is just gravy; he has nothing left to prove. I love showing him, and Diane loves watching him show, so we’ll just keep rolling,” he said.

Vanlandingham added, “I thank God. He’s the top priority for us. Also, if it wasn’t for my wife, I’d have to find something else to do because she’s the backbone of our operation. If it wasn’t for her, I’d be on the street somewhere.”

Taking the Level 4 Open Reserve Championship were Nathan Piper and Patriot. Piper and the 5-year-old stallion, by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook out of Dunit A Lil Ruf, won $47,572 for owner Shannon and Hershel Reid. Patriot was nominated by Toyon Ranch.

Piper and Patriot have gone head-to-head with Vanlandingham and A Vintage Smoke since the start of their competitive careers. In fact, the two teams split the Level 4 Open Championship at the 2019 NRBC.

Kole Price Wins Level 3 Open Championship at NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

Competing in the first section of the Open Finals, Kole Price knew he and Gunna Stop would have to catch the judges’ attention quickly. With that in mind, he pushed the 5-year-old stallion into the pen to run down for a big stop. “He stopped big and backed up really pretty, and then just stood there quiet as a church mouse. He was super hooked up, stylish, and quiet,” Price shared. “Coming around the ends, my reins were a little tangled up and I couldn’t steer him quite like I wanted to, but he took care of me. In the last stop, he dragged his butt, and it was just like how we prepared. He was incredible.”

The judges agreed, awarding a big score of 222.5. That held on for the win of the Level 3 Open, worth $23,477. It was a special win for Price and owner Amber Gokey. Ali, Amber’s sister, who owned the colt, was diagnosed with AML, an aggressive form of leukemia. Unfortunately, Ali recently succumbed to the disease.

“People don’t realize that horses can do strange things for people, and I witnessed that through Ali. It is so much more than what we see, and this horse definitely helped her keep going. I still get choked up every time I talk about it. She loved this horse, and I think she kept fighting for him. I honestly feel like Ali was up there with me when I was riding,” Price shared. “You do this for the love of the horse, and Ali was a perfect example of that. She loved everything about him.”

Gunna stop was originally trained by Austin Rousch, and the pair earned the 2018 Level 1 and 2 NRHA Futurity Championships, and qualified for the finals in Levels 4-1.

“First, I have to thank Ali [Gokey]—she was an inspiration,” Price said. “Obviously, without her, I never would have got this horse. I have to thank the whole Gokey family for continuing to support us, my wife [Kelsey], my groom, Javi Soto, because he’s the one up in the middle of the night icing this horse and taking extra care. I want to thank my assistant, Diego Gaona—he’s another set of eyes for me. Along with my shoer, Seth Jordan and our vets, Josh Donnell and Jason Walter. It’s a team, but everyone pulls their own and everybody comes together.”

Arno Honstetter and Special Made Whiskey Win Level 2 Open Championship

Arno Honstetter and Special Made Whiskey were last in the draw of the Level 4 Open Derby Finals and shook up the leaderboard. After scoring a 220.5, they took the Level 2 Open Championship and placed in the Level 4 and 3, totaling $34,676.

“It was nice,” Honstetter said. “I ran out of horse after my circles, so I didn’t get my stops as nice as I wanted, but the first three-fourths of my pattern was really nice, and he tried really hard.”

The 7-year-old stallion owned by Gordon Robinson, nominated by Dean Latimer, is by NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Gunners Special Nite out of Starlight Acres.

“He was a 217.5 in the preliminaries—I missed one stop, but that was me,” he said. “He ran really nice, and we were in the bunch who made it back to the finals. I was lucky that he made it. He’s a really nice horse. We wanted to try for the Run for a Million, and that never happened. I showed him in Arizona and I think we will show at the National Reining Breeders Classic.

“He’s been a good horse and shown for a lot of people—I’m very thankful I have him; he is a really talented horse.”

Taking second in the Level 2 Open was Cody Sapergia, who piloted Chicowhiz to a score of 218.5. Not only did the pair take second in the Level 2, they also qualified for the Level 3 and Level 4 finals, bringing total earnings to $20,230. Chicowhiz, by NRHA Seven Million Dollar Sire Smart Chic Olena out of Whizicle, is owned by LaRizzi Corporation. The 5-year-old stallion was nominated by Equine Plus.

Torri Sims Wins Level 1 Open Championship on Codalicious

Saturday’s Open Finals was only the second time that Torri Sims has shown Codalicious. Competing in the first section of finals, Sims and Codalicious marked a 214.5, a score that held up to win the Level 1 Open title, as well as $4,263. “She’s a spectacular horse. I’ve been riding her a couple months now,” Sims explained.

“Today, Tracer Gilson told me to just go show her, have fun, and leave it all out there. I pushed on the gas and she was right there with me trying to be the best she could be,” Sims recounted. “I knew as soon as I ran in and she stopped like she did, that she would be right there with me and there wouldn’t be any problems. It was such a cool feeling.”

Sims and “Gracie” had a solid run in the preliminary round. “I showed her a little conservatively in the go-round. We showed on the second day, so I knew where I needed to be to make the Level 1 finals,” she shared.

Codalicious, a 5-year-old mare by Electric Code out of Custom Easy Breezy, is owned and was nominated by Loren Booth. “I worked for Loren for about a year. She’s the most spectacular individual I’ve ever met. She’s so supportive and always happy. I so appreciate her.” Sims added. “I thank Tracer and Trish Gilson and their daughters. I have such a great support system from them and Loren. I also thank Mike Boyle who gave me my start in reining. I was able to ride and show a lot with him. I got a lot of experience from that, and now I’m able to kind of step it up in the bigger stuff and play with the big dogs.”

Tell Edgmon and Shiney Chexy Chic took reserve honors in the Level 1 Open with a 213.5, worth $2,901. Shiney Chexy Chic, by Shine Chic Shine and out of TH Great Big Chex, is owned by Texas Horse Power Ranch LLC and was nominated by Robert Sutherland.

Fernando Salgado Wins Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby with Gotta Shiney Peso

It’s only the second year for the Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby, which gives derby-age horses that haven’t won a lot of money early in their careers a chance to expand their earnings. The division title is decided during the preliminary round of the NRHA Derby presented by Markel, and it was Fernando Salgado and Gotta Shiney Peso who were victorious.

Salgado and Gotta Shiney Peso, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Cee Bee Shine, marked a 219, worth $6,131. It was some good luck for the 4-year-old colt which, until recently, had a lot of bad luck. “I got this horse at the end of his futurity year. I always really, really liked him, and my brother Eduardo was the one who had him in training. Diane Beckman raised him, and we were lucky to buy him,” he shared. “But he got sick and then he got hurt; everything happened his 3-year-old year.”

Salgado still entered the colt at the NRHA Futurity. “He was very good in the first go, but then was a little sore and missed the finals by half a point. Since then he’s been good, but he had some more bad luck in Arizona a few weeks ago,” Salgado shared.

Gotta Shiney Peso is now owned by Pedro Hernandez. “Pedro is a really good customer of ours. Everything finally got together here, so I’m very happy, especially for the owner. He’s been a great supporter of us and our whole program, and it’s nice to get it done for someone like that,” Salgado shared. “I thank Pedro and all of our customers. I also thank my wife and the whole team. We have a great group. We work long hours, so it’s nice when it works.”

There was a tie for second in the Novice Horse Open Derby between Sean McBurney and Americasnextdiamond and Ann Salmon Anderman and Maximum Mag. Both entries marked scores of 218.5 to win $3,265 each.

Americasnextdiamond, a 3-year-old mare by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Whizkey N Diamonds and out of Americasnextgunmodel, is owned by Rhodes River Ranch. He was nominated by Rhodes River Ranch. McBurney and Americasnextdiamond also qualified for the Level 4 finals, where they took home an additional $3,900.

Ann Salmon Anderman Wins Prime Time Open on Maximum Mag

The Prime Time Open Derby Championship was also decided during the preliminary round, and it was Ann Salmon Anderman and her horse Maximum Mag who emerged victorious. The pair marked a 221.5 (including handicap) to win the division and a check for $2,205.

Anderman later marked a 214.5 during the Level 4 Open Finals. This placed her in the money in the Levels 4–2, and she pocketed an additional $6,450.

This win was extra special for Anderman because of her mount. She bred and raised his dam, Dunit A Lil Ruf, and showed her to a Level 2 Open Championship at the 2013 NRHA Derby. “Where I live in north Texas, the quality of trainers in our area is fantastic, and there’s only a certain number of really good horses, so I thought I’d try to raise my own,” she shared.

When she got a chance to purchase an embryo from A Bueno Poco Dunit, she jumped at the chance and got a foal from Lil Ruf Peppy. That foal, Dunit A Lil Ruf, now 13, helped fill Anderman’s barn.

“Dunit A Lil Ruf has turned out to be an excellent producer,” she said. “We feel really blessed to have her.” Maximum Mag actually showed against his half-sibling, Patriot, who is out of the same dam, during the Open Finals.

“She (Dunit A Lil Ruf) crosses with so many wonderful stallions, that’s why we’re on this crazy ride,” Anderman added. Maximum Mag also boasts an impressive sire: he’s by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream.

“Making the Level 4 Finals today was a gift,” she said. “I just hope I can take advantage of each time I get to go in there with all these other great trainers.

“I want to thank my husband, Monte Anderman,” Anderman continued. “And of course, my vet, farrier, and our breeding vet.”

There was a tie for second in the Prime Time Open between NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida and NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Duane Latimer, with both men marking a 219.5 to win $1,536. Flarida rode Bill and Patty Fingland’s Spooks Gotta Spark, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Dolittle Lena. Latimer was mounted on Alittlewhitetrash, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Gunnatrashya out of Wimpy Little Girl, owned by XCS Ranch LLC.

Adequan® Arena Competition Continues at NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

As the weekend got started, ancillary action continued in the Adequan® Arena at the National Reining Horse Association Derby presented by Markel. On Friday, Green Reiners and Rookies had a busy day, and Saturday was all about the youth competitors with the Youth and Short Stirrup classes.

Logan Flaherty Wins Green Reiner 1 & 2 on SS Spiderman

With a score of 145, Logan Flaherty won both Green Reiner classes in the Adequan® Arena on Friday afternoon, June 19. He rode SS Spyderman, a 12-year-old gelding by NRHA 12 Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz out of Chics Velvet Lady. “I’ve been showing him about seven months now, and this is my second show for the year,” the 9-year-old explained. “I’ve done pretty well with him. He’s quiet and laid back.”

When asked his show pen strategy, Flaherty, son of NRHA Professional Committee Chairman Patrick Flaherty, shared, “We just go fast, spin, and then go in the show pen.”

Flaherty made sure to thank SS Spyderman’s owner. “I thank Jenny Ricotta for letting me ride this horse. I really appreciate it,” he said.

Tate Wynn Wins Para-Reining on Lil Nu Gunz

Tate Wynn has only been riding Lil Nu Gunz since March, and the NRHA Derby presented by Markel was their first event together. While some riders might have trouble competing on a horse they’ve had only a few months, Wynn handled the class like a pro. “I wasn’t worried about showing him. The only thing I was a little nervous about today was the spins. He’ll sometimes overspin just a little bit, but I timed him just right, and he was able to do it perfectly,” he shared.

Lil Nu Gunz is by Lil Gun and out of Nu Bar Freckles. “Bobby Avila Jr. found him for me,” Wynn said. His mother, Teresa, added, “He came from one of Shannon Rafacz’s clients, Dana Ferguson. She wanted to step up to a derby horse, so he became available, and he and Tate were a perfect match.”
Wynn made sure to thank a few key people. “I thank Bobby Avila Jr., Tristan Bagby, and Taylor Bagby,” he said.

The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has made planning shows a little shaky. “I don’t know where we’ll go next. It just depends on the shows and if they cancel or not. We hope to go to the Congress for sure,” Wynn said.

Allison Thorson and Smart Cowboy Whiz Win Rookie Level 1 & 2 [1] Co-Championship

It was one year ago that Allison Thorson and Smart Cowboy Whiz won their very first class together at the 2019 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. That was in the Green Reiner, and now the pair has moved up the ranks into the Rookie. Once again, the pair finished at top of their class in their return to the Adequan® Arena.

“We have a year under our belts showing elsewhere and have used that year to work our way up the system. It’s hard to put it all together, but when you finally can, I was going to be happy no matter the outcome. Plus, there were 93 horses in that class. To be successful in that big of a class is very exciting. I’m very grateful and fortunate to be able to compete with the best of the best in these classes,” Thorson shared.

Thorson and Smart Cowboy Whiz, by Who Whiz It out of Little Smart Jac, will compete in the second slate of Rookie classes on Sunday. “We’ll wipe away our success from today and try again tomorrow,” she said. “It’s eight minutes you go in there to show, but there is a lot leading up to that, so I appreciate the Schmersal Reining Horse team. They’re wonderful, not only in working hard at the barn but also at the shows. They have really helped to put me and Cowboy together as a team. I also thank my family and my boyfriend for all the support.”

Haley Hoffman Takes Rookie Level 1 & 2 [1] Co-Championship on Wilmas Gotta Whiz

It was the first show back since people began sheltering from home, but Colorado’s Haley Hoffman was only a little nervous prior to competing in the Rookie classes on Friday evening. In the end, she and Wilmas Gotta Whiz, owned by her mother, Lisa Hoffman, tied for the win in Levels 1 and 2 with a score of 144. “She walked in really good and calm. Her turns were really good, and she was really dialed in,” Hoffman said.

Lisa raised the mare, by Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Ansons Ole Girl. “My mom also trained her all by herself. I’ve only gotten to show her a couple times, but she is really easy to show,” Haley shared. “I thank my mom and Devin Warren.”

Valencia Pitzing Claims Prime Time Rooke [1] Win With RC Fashion Chic

Valencia Pitzing of Alabama sent her horse RC Fashion Chic to NRHA Professional Ruben Vandorp in Texas for a tune-up more than a year ago, and she’s never brought him home. While she doesn’t have another reiner to practice on at home, it’s clear that the arrangement works, as she and RC Fashion Chic won the Prime Time Rookie [1] with a 140.5. “I don’t even get lessons because I live so far away, and I went about 11 weeks without riding because of COVID-19,” she shared. “We schooled at the Redbud last weekend, and Ruben had my horse ready to go for me.”

RC Fashion Chic is by RC Fancy Step out of Shesa Fashion Chic. “He’s super fun to ride and is just a really nice horse. Last night he was ready, and he was ‘on’ for me in all the maneuvers,” Pitzing said. “I thank Ruben and Arnaud Ferret for always having my horse ready and coaching me. I also thank my family for supporting me and my horse addiction.”

Pitzing and RC Fashion Chic will compete in the second slate of Rookie classes on Sunday. “I’m going to try to step up my turnarounds and rundowns and be better in my stops. My horse can do it, I just have to be better,” she said.

Anna Clausen Ties for Win of Youth 14–18 on Smart Tinseltown [1]

Anna Clausen and Smart Tinseltown are already two-time winners at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel. Earlier this week, the pair won the Level 1 8 & Up Non Pro Derby, and they returned to the Adequan® Arena to tie for the win the first slate of the Youth 14–18.

“We were just trying to go for a nice, chill run where we make sure everything is correct,” Clausen said of her run. “This is not a pattern we typically run, so it was good to practice to make sure your horse is always listening to you.”

Smart Tinseltown, who’s by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Spook out of Tinseltown Lil Step, is owned by Clay Clausen. “We’re showing again tomorrow and are going to do the same thing we did to get him ready today,” she said. “I thank my parents and Patrick Flaherty.”

Brogan Hill and Quik Draw McGraw Tie for Win of Youth 14–18 [1]

Brogan Hill and Quik Draw McGraw have been a team for less than a week, but if Saturday’s run in the Youth 14–18 is any indication, they’ll be a team to beat. “I think he did a phenomenal job, and I couldn’t be more impressed with him,” Hill shared. Hill and Quik Draw McGraw tied for the win of the Youth 14–18 with a 143.

Hill first laid eyes on Quik Draw McGraw, by HF Mobster out of Nestle Quik Chic, at Casey Deary’s place in Weatherford. “I was invited to go to the Deary Ranch and stayed a week. Casey told me to ride this horse. I rode him about three days, and Casey told me he thought I should buy him,” Hill said. “As soon as I got on this horse I fell in love, and we got along super great, and quickly, too.”

The 17-year-old added, “I thank my parents, my friends, Casey Deary for sure, and all the people at Deary Ranch. Most of all, I thank my horse.”

Rita Clausen Wins Youth 13 & Under [1] on Kansas City Whiz

The Clausen sisters were both victorious in Saturday’s classes, with Rita Clausen topping the Youth 13 & Under on Kansas City Whiz. “It was a good run. It was a really funky pattern, and it tripped a lot of people up, but I just tried to steer him around and not really let him do anything crazy,” Clausen shared.

Kansas City Whiz, owned by Clay Clausen, is by Easy Otie Whiz and out of Kansas City Royal. “I’ve been riding him three or four years. He’s just a really great horse and is easy to show,” Clausen said. “I thank my parents and Patrick Flaherty for helping me and supporting me through all this.”

Clausen will show again in tomorrow’s Youth and Green Reiner classes.

Colt Mitchell Takes Short Stirrup Championship on Playgun Chic Olena

It’s Colt Mitchell’s last year in the short stirrup class, and the charismatic competitor is making it count. On Saturday, he and Playgun Chic Olena claimed yet another Short Stirrup victory in the Adequan® Arena. “It was a pretty good run. I had a couple bobbles in there. In my right slow down, he almost broke gait, but I caught him. It wasn’t his fault, because he’s a great horse,” he shared.

Mitchell noted that he’s looking forward to competing in the 13 & Under classes. “I’m pretty excited to start competing in those classes. I figured I’d stick around in the Short Stirrup for now and go for it all,” he said. “I haven’t shown a horse since the NRHA Futurity, but I was ready to go and win.”

Mitchell said he’ll work Playgun Chic Olena, by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Smart Chic Olena out of Mamas Packin, on just a few things before the second slate of Short Stirrup classes on Sunday. “I’m going to work on my slowdowns and how I place myself in those,” he said. “I thank my family for helping and supporting me, and the good Lord for keeping me safe and giving me this awesome horse to show.”

Indy Roper Wins Level 4 Non Pro Championship on Spooks Show Time at NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

Indy Roper Wins Level 4 Non Pro Championship on Spooks Show Time at NRHA Derby Presented by Markel

Indy Roper was all smiles as she exited the Jim Norick Coliseum Arena on Friday evening, June 19, after her first run in the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby presented by Markel Non Pro Finals.

She knew her performance on Spooks Show Time was good, and when the score, a 222.5, was announced, the cheers were resounding. However, Roper had drawn number 2 in the Level 4 Non Pro Finals, meaning she had to sweat through 31 additional runs before she was declared the victor. When the last rider had cleared the arena, it became official: Indy Roper had won her first Non Pro Derby Championship; several great prizes, including a year’s use of a beautiful Kyle Zanetti Trailer, a Bob’s Custom Saddle, Anderson Bean Boots, a custom Montana Silversmiths belt buckle, product from Classic Equine, and gift certificates to Platinum Performance, Bluebonnet Feeds, SmartPak, Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, and CINCH; and a check for $18,800. Nominator Bobby Lewis will receive 5% of the total payout.

“I’m speechless. When we started this, winning the Derby was on our bucket list. My dad and I sat down and wrote down what we wanted to accomplish, and this was it. I’ve had many ups and downs in that arena, and this is definitely the pinnacle,” Roper said.

Spooks Show Time, nicknamed “Raymond,” is known for his big stops, so the run-in stop of pattern 10 fit him perfectly. “He ran in, stopped good, and backed up nice. We got through the turns, and then I knew I could push him hard. Like I said, his claim to fame is his stops, so the final three stops showed what he could do,” Roper said.

Roper’s father, Tim, purchased Raymond in 2018 from NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner Rancho Oso Rio. “Andrea and Tish Fappani encouraged us to try him. I liked his demeanor because he’s fun to be around, and he’s smooth to ride,” Roper shared.

Spooks Show Time is by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Dolittle Lena. “He’s 7 now, so he’s done with his derbies, and he has a home for life at Roper Farms. I have twin nieces who are going to be over the moon that he’s coming back. We’ll take him back home and just enjoy him.”

Roper added, “We were so excited when they allowed us to show 7-year-olds in the derbies. Last year we had a little bad luck, so we gave him time off so he could be the healthiest he could be.”

Although Raymond has resided in Arizona with trainer Marco Ricotta, Roper keeps several reining horses at her home in Indiana. “I’m fortunate that we have some reiners at home, and that’s how I stayed in riding shape. Plus, Marco does a great job preparing my horses,” she said. “I thank Marco and Jenny Ricotta and their whole team. I thank my mom and dad, Tim and Linda Roper, and my fiancé, Trent Sidabras. I have a whole cheering crowd back in Indiana.”

Kim Muehlstaetter took the Level 4 Non Pro Reserve Championship and $12,758 on Spooks Grand Slam with a 220. Owned by Kim and her husband, NRHA Professional Martin Muehlstaetter, Spooks Grand Slam is a 6-year-old stallion by Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Shiney Diamond Lady. Spooks Show Time was nominated by Bobby Lewis.

Samantha Smith and Drinkin Moonshine Take Level 3 Non Pro Derby Championship

With a score of 215, Samantha Smith and Drinkin Moonshine clinched the Level 3 Non Pro Derby Championship. They also finished sixth in the Level 4, bringing their total earnings to $21,116. “I feel pretty good right now knowing I won the Level 3. This horse is only 4 years old, and this is the first real major event I’ve taken him to, so I’m really excited for the future,” Smith shared. “He has so much ability.”

While Smith was thrilled with the win, she admitted she could’ve ridden the stallion even better. “I chickened out on two of my stops halfway down there. They were still good, but they could’ve been better. My right turn was just OK, but my left turn was like, ‘Wow! We’re turning fast!’ In my right circles he hooked up good, and he slowed down well. I was really happy with my slow-to-slow lead change. I just wish I hadn’t weakened on those stops,” she said. “I’m really happy because we haven’t had a lot of horse shows. I really only showed him one time in Tulsa.”

Drinkin Moonshine was nominated by Peter Morgan. He’s by Shine Chic Shine out of Wimpy Little Girl, and was actually purchased for her father, NRHA Million Dollar Owner Lance Griffin. “He bought him for himself, and Martin Larcombe showed him for us at the Futurity. When my dad’s back got hurt, I got to show him. I’m not complaining,” she said with a laugh. “I thank my mom and dad. I thank Martin and his family. I especially thank my husband, Daryl, and my son, Hank, who’s my lucky charm. He’s here and we won.”

Next up for Smith and Drinkin Moonshine? “Probably the NRBC in Tulsa in August. I couldn’t have asked for this horse to be better. He’s been maturing quite well. The mistakes that were made in there were mine,” she said.

There was a two-way tie for second in the Level 3 Non Pro between Addisyn Schmersal and McKinnon Larcombe. Each marked a 214. Schmersal rode Black Gun Face, by Black Face Dunnit out of Blazing In Black, owned by Hickory Creek Ranch LLC. Schmersal had also qualified for the Level 2 and Youth finals, bringing her earnings for the night to $15,108. Her mom, Ginger Schmersal, nominated the horse.

Larcombe’s entry, Gunners Bar Fly, is owned by her aunt Shauna Larcombe and was nominated by McQuay Stables. Larcombe and Gunners Bar Fly, by NRHA 11 Million Dollar Side Gunner out of Blonde At The Bar, qualified for the Level 4 and Youth finals, for earnings of $13,820.

Madison Gustin Takes Levels 2 and 1 Non Pro Derby Championships on Win My Cash

Win My Cash is well-suited to his name. With owner Madison Gustin at the reins, the 5-year-old mare won the Level 2 and Level 1 Non Pro Derby Championships and checks totaling $12,638.

Not only was it a first derby win for 17-year-old Madison, it was her first derby, ever. “I’m on cloud nine. This is a dream come true,” she shared.

Gustin and Win My Cash, nominated by Carluccio Orsi, competed in the first section of the Non Pro Derby finals, where they marked a 214.5. “She’s been pretty nervous recently, so I just went in hoping for her to stay calm, have a clean run, and improve from the first go. She was perfect for me and let me take her. We ran a little harder, and it was a lot of fun,” Gustin recounted.

Win My Cash is by Lil Joe Cash and out of Win My Shine. The mare was trained by Kaci O’Rourke of Pond Hill Performance horses. “We bought her during her 3-year-old year at the Futurity where Kaci showed her,” Gustin shared. “It’s been quite the journey.”

Gustin has ridden with Casey Deary since she was 8 years old. “I thank everyone at Deary Performance Horses. They’re all so supportive and have helped me get where I am. Casey Deary has been the absolute best coach there is. Thank you to my parents for never giving up on me and allowing me to follow my dreams,” she said.

Earning the Level 1 Reserve Co-Championship were Giorgia Medows and Rachel Tillman with a 212.5. Medows piloted Isnt She Perfect, a 5-year-old mare owned by her mother, Amy. Nominated by Tamarack Ranch, the mare is by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Walla Walla Whiz and out of Miss Silver Gun. Tillman rode Benjamin Sprite, a 6-year old gelding by NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Custom Crome out of Whiz Jewels. The gelding is owned by Kelly Tillman and was nominated by Bahn Quarter Horses.

Michael Garnett Wins Masters Non Pro Title With Hollywood Nites

Michael Garnett has made the Non Pro Finals at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel several times, but for him, the achievement never gets old. Garnett and his 7-year-old stallion Hollywood Nites took the Master’s Non Pro win with a 211.5 (including handicap). They also placed in the Level 4 finals, for total earnings of $2,580. “Any time you can win anything down here, you need to feel pretty fortunate,” he shared. “My little horse was pretty good tonight. He beat me on one stop and kind of set up, but other than that he showed pretty well.”

Garnett has owned Hollywood Nites, by NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Gunners Special Nite out of NRHA Million Dollar Dam Dun It For Chex, since the colt was 3 years old. He was purchased from Cardinal Hill Training Center, who nominated the horse. “I started showing him as a 4-year-old, and I think he’s won pretty close to $100,000 now. He’s been a nice horse,” Garnett shared. “My goal here was to make the Level 4 finals, which we did, so I’m pretty happy.

“I thank Franco Bertolani for selling me this horse for Cardinal. I thank Martin Muehlstaetter and all his staff. They’re really good people and it’s a good fit,” Garnett continued.

Tying for second in the Masters Prime Time were Tamra Kyle on KR Smart Dreamer and Frederick Christen on Blonde Ambishen. Each marked a 210 (including handicap). KR Smart Dreamer, by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream out of Smart Shiney Lena, was nominated by her husband, Pete Kyle. Blonde Ambishen, by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Shiners Voodoo Dr out of Relaxin With A Bud, was nominated by Lisa Neiberger.

Sam Flarida Wins Youth Non Pro Championship With Hollywooddirtysecret

He was the last youth rider to compete in the second section of the Non Pro Derby finals, and Sam Flarida put on a show. He and Hollywooddirtysecret completed impressive maneuver after impressive maneuver, resulting in a score of 219.5. Not only did that win the Youth Non Pro, it was good enough to tie for third in the Level 4. The pair won $10,651.

For Flarida, the good run in the finals was the redemption he needed. “This feels really good. I felt like I let him down last year in the finals, and this year we really felt together. This is his first time showing in a full year. I’m so proud of him for coming back. He feels better than he ever has, and he seems happy and healthy,” Flarida shared.

Hollywooddirtysecret, a 5-year-old gelding, is by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Hollywoodtinseltown out of Maximum RPM. He was nominated by Patricia Duque. “We’ve had him since he was a yearling, and I’ve always had a connection with him. He was always the one that would come to me and stuff like that, so we’ve always had something there,” he said. “This horse gives you a special feeling about yourself. He makes you feel like you can do anything in the world, and he gives his all every time.”

Sam is the son of NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida. “My dad knew I was ready, so when it was time to show he just said to have fun and told me we were going to do well no matter what,” the 17-year-old shared. “I thank my whole family for everything and the whole Shawn Flarida Reiners group.”

Jennifer Neudorf and Shining In Town, who swept last year’s Non Pro Derby finals, finished second in the Youth Non Pro and fifth in the Level 4, for total earnings of $8,665. Shining In Town, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Hollywoodstinseltown out of Shine Ann, was nominated by the Sather Family Partnership.

Tami Nelson Wins Prime Time Non Pro Derby Championship on Mr Masota Star

Prior to entering the Jim Norick Coliseum for the Prime Time Non Pro Derby Finals, Tami Nelson’s trainer, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Brian Bell, told her, “You’ve done the homework, now go take the test.”

With the exam over, it’s safe to say Nelson passed with flying colors, piloting her horse Mr Masota Star to a 215.5 (with handicap) to win the Prime Time Championship. “He was amazing. He was perfect everywhere. My game plan was just go run hard and not make any mistakes. He did what I asked and was perfect,” Nelson said of her horse, by NRHA 11 Million Dollar Sire Wimpys Little Step out of Cee Another Masota. The pair also finished well in Levels 2 and 3, with total earnings for the night of $9,673.

Nelson and Mr Masota Star were working on a strong run in the preliminary round when they had a bit of bad luck. “We fell out of lead coming down to the small slow, so we had a pretty big penalty,” she shared. “He was good everywhere else and he was so solid and good for me.”

Mr Masota Star is a 6-year-old stallion Nelson purchased from George and Carol Bell, who nominated the horse, in October. “This horse does everything well. He drags his butt, he can spin, and he can circle. I haven’t had many horses that do all the parts really strong, and he does. I love him,” she said.

Nelson credits her recent move—closer to her trainer—for her success. “I actually just moved closer to Brian so I can get a lot of riding in. Before this, I was driving about 360 miles one way to ride, so the 16 miles I drive now is a big difference, and it’s been great,” she said. “I thank Brian and all his team for their help, as well as my family.”

Francesca Sternberg took reserve honors in the Prime Time Non Pro with a 214.5 (with handicap) on her horse Spooks Gotta Lena. The pair also placed in the Level 4 and Level 3 to win $10,842. Spooks Gotta Lena, by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz out of Dolittle Lena, was nominated by Bobby Lewis.

Adam Donahue Wins Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Non Pro Derby on Not Ruf

The Bob’s Custom Saddle Novice Horse Non Pro Derby division debuted in the 2019 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. It was a hit with exhibitors and brought back for this year’s event.

The 2020 non pro division champion was decided during the preliminary round that ended on Tuesday, June 16. Adam Donahue and Not Ruf took the win and accompanying check for $4,351 with a 216.5. That score also qualified the pair for the finals of the Non Pro Derby in Levels 4–3 and Prime Time.

Donahue purchased 4-year-old Not Ruf in April of the gelding’s 3-year-old year. “He was originally trained by Bobby Avila Jr. and then went to Shawn Flarida for a while before I got him. I showed him here last year in the Futurity and had a little bad luck,” he shared.

Not Ruf is by Not Ruf At All and out of Kays Freckles. “He’s been a really nice horse. He’s big and physical and nice to have around,” Donahue said. “He’s starting to become a show horse now. He was a little immature as a 3-year-old, but he’s getting better every week, and I can’t wait until next year.”

Donahue, of Missouri, had planned to show Not Ruf in the Non Pro Challenge at the Run for a Million, but with the event being canceled, he’s unsure where he’ll take his horse next. “I thank Vaughn and Justin Zimmerman for breeding such nice horses. I get a lot of help from Kenny Eppers and ride with Bobby Avila Jr. every day because we’re at the same barn together. It’s a great group of people I’m surrounded by,” he said.

Tabitha Sternberg Allen and Holly Trashya took second in the Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Non Pro Derby with a 215, winning $2,648. Holly Trashya, owned by Francesca Sternberg, is by NRHA Two Million Sire Gunnatrashya out of Hickorys Holly Cee.