When the National Reining Horse Association events office posted the draw order for the 2021 Futurity on NRHAFuturity.com, reining fans quickly clicked and studied the list. While numerous new names were smattered throughout the draw, the list was full of legendary names, not only for the riders but also for the horses, in the breeding as well as in the owners and nominators.
This breakdown focuses on the Open Futurity; the next will take a hard look at the Non Pro Futurity.
In the Open Futurity, 20 of the 34 riders who have passed $1 million in lifetime earnings are competing this year. NRHA’s two leading riders, Shawn Flarida and Andrea Fappani, both have three horses entered. The two competitors each boast earnings well over six million.
Craig Schmersal, the only other rider to have surpassed four million in lifetime earnings is entered in the event with three horses.
Other NRHA Million and Multi-Million Dollar Riders entered in the Open Futurity are:
- $2 Million Rider Duane Latimer (2)
- $2 Million Rider Tom McCutcheon (2)
- $2 Million Rider Jordan Larson (3)
- $2 Million Rider Brian Bell (3)
- $2 Million Rider Jason Vanlandingham (2)
- $2 Million Rider Casey Deary (3)
- Cody Sapergia (1)
- Franco Bertolani (3)
- Dean Brown (1)
- Cade McCutcheon (3)
- Matt Mills (3)
- Martin Muehlstaetter (2)
- Dany Tremblay (3)
Thanks to the dedication of Futurity Challenge Sponsors, the Level 4 Open Champion will win a historic $350,000, while second and third places will take home $150,000 and $100,000, respectively. That means it’s likely there will be even more millionaires made in the Jim Norick Coliseum.
Open riders within $350,000 of their next – or first – million who are competing in Oklahoma City include:
- Jordan Larson
- Tom McCutcheon
- Nathan Piper
- Justin Mathison
- Martin Larcombe
- Casey Hinton
- Arno Honstetter
- Marco Ricotta
- Trevor Dare
- Gabe Hutchins
- Tracer Gilson
- Matt Palmer
- Jimmy van der Hoeven
- Mike Flarida
- Brian Welman
- Robin Schoeller
Former NRHA Open Futurity Champion riders competing this year are: Mike Flarida, Andrea Fappani, Shawn Flarida, Duane Latimer, Jordan Larson, Casey Deary, Jason Vanlandingham, Craig Schmersal, and Cade McCutcheon.
NRHA’s second leading owner with $2.1 million, Rosanne Sternberg, has one horse entered, while third-leading owner Rancho Oso Rio has two. NRHA’s newest $2 Million Owner, Smart Like Juice, also has an entry for this year’s event.
The only Million Dollar Owner to compete as an owner in this year’s Open Futurity is NRHA Million Dollar Rider Tom McCutcheon, who will exhibit a horse he owns with his wife, fellow Million Dollar Owner and $2 Million Rider Mandy McCutcheon.
Three of the four owners who surpassed one million in earnings in 2021 are represented this year. Casey Hinton has four entries, while Robert Santagata has six. Vaughn Zimmerman, who is less than $5,000 from joining the $2 Million Owner club, has two.
McCutcheon and Vazquez, a 2021 NRHA Hall of Fame inductee, pull double-duty as Million Dollar Owners. Other Million Dollar Owners competing in the Non Pro Futurity are David Silva, Sr., Tish Fappani, and Andre De Bellefeuille, and $2 Million Dollar Owner Lance Griffin.
In the Blood
Twenty-two of NRHA’s Million and Multi-Million Dollar Stallions have offspring competing in the Open Futurity, including all three $12 Million Sires (Gunner, Topsail Whiz, and Wimpys Little Step).
Gunnatrashya, a $5 Million Sire, has the most foals competing, with 46 (34 in L3, 22 in L2, and 8 in L1). Million Dollar Sire Shiners Voodoo Dr is close behind with 29 (24 in L3, 19 in L2, and 9 in L1). Tied with 27 entries are Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz (20 in L3, 13 in L2, and 7 in L1) and Inferno Sixty Six (22 in L3, 15 in L2, and 6 in L1).
Million Dollar Dams Dun It For Chex (2) and Wimpys Little Chic (1) are also represented.
Aforementioned Not Ruf At All, Spooks Gotta Whiz, and Wimpys Little Chic are part of an elite group of four horses to have won the three NRHA “majors” in the United States. They all have foals vying for victory in the first leg of the trifecta.
Hall of Fame members with competing foals include Gunner, Topsail Whiz, Smart Chic Olena, Wimpys Little Chic, Wimpys Little Step, Smart Spook, Magnum Chic Dream, Smart Like Juice, and Dun It For Chex.
Former Open Futurity Champions with offspring entered are Wimpys Little Step, Smart Spook, Taris Designer Genes, Wimpys Little Chic, Gunnatrashya, Spooks Gotta Whiz, Lil Joe Cash, Americasnextgunmodel, Not Ruf At All, and Shine N Spook.
Other entries with notable full siblings include:
- My Special Sidekick (Gunners Special Nite x A Shining Sidekick), ridden by Josh Tishman
- Full sibling to 2020 L4 Non Pro Champion Shining At Nite, ridden by Mandy McCutcheon
- Plain Genes (SG Frozen Enterprize x Taris Designer Genes), ridden by Joao Felipe Lacerda
- Full sibling to 2018 L4 Non Pro Champion Icecube, ridden by Tish Fappani
- KR Dream Maker (Magnum Chic Dream x Gunner Git Ya Dun), ridden by Kole Price
- Full sibling to 2020 L4 Open third place earner, Thee American Dream, ridden by Andrea Fappani
- Starstruck Gunner (Gunners Special Nite x Chic Olena Starbuck), ridden by Kaci O’Rourke
- Full sibling to 2019 L4 Open Reserve Champion Guns And Dynamite, ridden by Cade McCutcheon
- Dont Stop Believen (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Myo Starlight), ridden by Spence Bell
- Full sibling to 2016 L4 Open Champion Spooky Whiz, ridden by Andrea Fappani
There are also five sets of full siblings in the Open draw.
- Guns R For Shootin x TC West Coast Wendi
- West Coast Shootin ridden by Cass Fox
- Wendis Dun Shootin ridden by Michael Davis
- Gunners Special Nite x Belle Starr Dun It
- Gunners Lucky Starr ridden by Troy Heikes
- Delta Nite Blues ridden by Jason Torpey
- Gunners Nite Train ridden by Tom McCutcheon
- Not Ruf At All x Surprise Easter Kid
- One Ruf Kid ridden by Jason Vanlandingham
- One Ruf Surprise ridden by Gabriel Borges
- Magnum Chic Dream x Big Gold Chex
- Chics Get The Chex ridden by Casey Hinton
- Dreaminof Big Chex ridden by Benjamin Beckett
- Magnum Chic Dream x Lil Donna
- Lovely Little Chic ridden by Carol Metcalf
- Magnum Charmer ridden by Colin Fitzpatrick
Notable 2021 Futurity Horses in the Draw:
There are several noteworthy winners from this year who will surely be on everyone’s must-watch list.
Excessive Rufness, by NRHA’s newest Million Dollar Sire Not Ruf At All out of Smokin Lady Gunner, tops the leading horses list for 2021 with earnings of $110,909. Excessive Rufness, trained and shown by Jason Vandlandingham, is owned by NRHA Million Dollar Owner Vaughn Zimmerman.
Winding Inferno is the second highest-money earning 3-year-old this year. The colt, by Inferno Sixty Six out of Wind Her Up Chic, won the Level 4 Open Futurity at the High Roller Reining Classic this fall with Andrea Fappani at the reins. Earlier in the year, Winding Inferno, owned by Teton Ridge, took reserve honors at the Invitational, which was held at the North American Reining Stakes.
Other noteworthy major event champions include:
- No Photos (Shine Chic Shine x Stop Like A Dream), Best of the West Level 4 Open Futurity Co-Champion
- Mr Farenheit (Magnum Chic Dream x Wimpy Little Girl), Best of the West Level 4 Open Futurity Co-Champion
- Starlight Flinn (In Like Flinn x Baby Red Gaylena), All American Quarter Horse Congress Level 4 Open Futurity Champion
- Malibu Riptide (Gunnatrashya x Malibu Whiz), Tulsa Reining Classic Level 4 Open Champion
- Live N On A Prayer (In Like Flinn x Americasnextgunmodel), SWRHA Level 4 Open Futurity Co-Champion
- TR Voodoo Doll (Shiners Voodooo Dr x Wallawhizagun), Low Roller Reining Classic Level 4 Open Champion
Other Notable Stats
The 2021 Open Futurity will be the largest in history, and three of the levels show a substantial increase in entries from the previous year. Current entry numbers are listed below.
- Open Level 4 – 395 (Up from 351 in 2020)
- Open Level 3 – 311 (Up from 280 in 2020)
- Open Level 2 – 236 (Up from 212 in 2020)
- Open Level 1 – 124 (Down from 131 in 2020)
- Open Prime Time – 40 (Same as 2020)
There are 32 NRHA Markel Futurity Sale graduates competing in the Open this year, with 27 in the Level 3, 23 in the Level 2, 13 in Level 1, and three in the Prime Time. The 2019 Marketplace Sale High Seller, Xtra Half N Half, is one of the 32 and will be shown by NRHA Million Dollar Rider Matt Mills.
In the battle of boys vs. girls, the stallions win. In the Open Futurity, 203 of the entries are stallions, 150 are mares, and the remaining 42 are geldings.
The majority of horses entered in this year’s Open Futurity, 370, are registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, while 21 are in the American Paint Horse Association. Four horses did not have the breed listed.
Winning the historic $350,000 Level 4 Open Championship is a three-step process. All Open entries compete in a first round, with the top 75 (plus ties) advancing to the Not Ruf At All Level 4 Open Semi-Finals round on Dec. 1. There, the top 30 (plus ties) move on to the clean-slate MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Open Futurity Finals on Dec. 4.
Open riders in Levels 1, 2, and 3 who are in the top 75 of their levels (but not in the top 75 of the Level 4) will compete in the Semi-Finals Round on Nov. 30. The top 30 in each of those levels (plus ties) will earn a spot in the first section of the Open Finals on Dec. 4.