2017 NRHA Derby: Day Seven

Mandy McCutcheon Wins Her Seventh NRHA Derby Championship riding Hollywood Starburst

Stephanie Gripp and Gun N For Glory sweep the Levels 3, 2, 1 and Youth Championships

Draw 18, in a field of 32 riders in the second section of the NRHA Non Pro Derby finals, Hollywood Starburst ‘burst’ into the Jim Norick Arena with NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Mandy McCutcheon in the saddle. The score to beat was the 221.5 posted by past NRHA Non Pro Derby Champions Dr. Bill Rhoads and Mega Maggie Mae. The NRHA Hall of Famer riding the 4-year-old mare by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Hollywood Dun It and out of Chic Olena Starbuck nailed each and every maneuver requested by NRHA pattern 10 and, once the duo had closed their run, a 224 appeared on the score board and remained unbeaten.

“Our run tonight went well from the start, and I could not have asked her to be any better,” said Mandy McCutcheon. “My husband [NRHA Million Dollar Rider Tom McCutcheon] rode her as a 3-year-old, and my dad [NRHA Hall of Famer and Three Million Dollar Rider Tim McQuay] rode her a little this spring. [NRHA Professional] Debbie Brown – who trains for us – really put in a lot of time into her in the past two months and really helped me figure her out. I had a pretty good run on her in Tulsa, but not so good a run at the NRBC. We put our heads together to figure out what links were missing, and it worked!”

Bred, nominated, and raised by Sarah Willeman of Turnabout Farm Inc., Hollywood Starburst was born at Mandy and Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses in Aubrey, Texas. “Tom actually sold her to one of our customers last year and showed her at the NRHA Futurity, where he had a little trouble with her,” added McCutcheon. “This past Spring, we bought her back and sold a couple of horses at the futurity last fall so that we could have a spot for her. It’s hard to go wrong with a good Dun It mare!”

Past NRHA Non Pro Derby champions and current go-round leaders, Dr. Bill Rhoads and his 5-year-old mare nominated by Martin Bonneson, Mega Maggie Mae (Magnum Chic Dream x Cinco De Mega), settled for co-reserve honors. “I was unfortunate to draw first tonight, but she was awesome for me, and I couldn’t have asked for more,” Rhoads said.

Tying for reserve honors with Rhoads was Sandra Bentien of Auburn, California, riding Gotta Twist It Up (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Make It With A Twist). The 4-year-old mare is owned and was nominated by Bentien.

Stephanie Gripp of Sheffield, Illinois, qualified her 5-year-old AQHA and APHA double-registered mare Gun N For Glory (Gunner x Dun It For Chex), nominated by Oldenburg Farm LLC, in all four levels of the Non Pro Derby. With a 219 score, the 16-year-old left the pen with the Level 3, 2, 1 and Youth Non Pro Derby Championships! “This is amazing…if I can put words to it. This was the first time I made it to the level 4 finals, and it’s simply unbelievable,” said Gripp. “My score was held for a little bit, so I was panicked a little bit and couldn’t breathe. When they finally announced my score, I was just thrilled. I was very happy with how my horse did, and I’m very thankful to have her.”

Laura Anne Bell Parker riding George and Carol Bell’s Shirley Your A Tag (Whiz N Tag Chex x Pines BH), nominated by Lance Griffin, and Kara Gray Frye riding her Juice N Silk (Smart Like Juice x Silk N Sable Pine), nominated by Jim Irwin, tied for reserve honors in the L3 division. Both scored a 216.5.

Earning the reserve championship in the L2, L1, and Youth divisions were Coded N Karma (Electric Code x Whiz N Snap) and Raeanna Thayn. The 6-year-old gelding is owned by Robert and Robbin Thayn and was nominated by Couture Reiners. The duo scored a 218 for the titles.

Michael Garnett and his Snoop Around (Walla Walla Whiz x Sneaking Out Tonight), nominated by Joanne Garnett, claimed both the Prime Time Non Pro and Masters Derby Championships. Micheal and his wife Joanne raised the 6-year-old gelding. “I let him trot out of a rollback today, that was my fault, but he showed really well,” said Garnett following the finals. “He’s very honest in the pen, in fact the last time he was shown was last year at Vegas. He’s not been schooled since then or been shown anywhere. He came out to show like this today and in the prelims, so I’m real happy with him!”

NRHA would like to thank all the supportive Corporate Partner and event sponsors for making our Derby awards outstanding this year!

All Non Pro level champions received:

  • Custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle
  • A custom Saddle
  • Anderson Bean boots
  • Classic Equine Product
  •  Bluebonnet Feed
  • Platinum Performance CJ
  • SmartPak Gift card
  • Kiser Hydrext Dust Suppressant and Moisture Extender
  • Level 1 & 2 Non Pro Champions recieved Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate
  • Level 1, 2, & 3 Non Pro Champions received a custom saddle from Continental Saddlery
  • Level 4 Non Pro Champion received a Silver Spurs custom saddle
  • The Level 4 Non Pro Champion also received a Sundowner trailer for the use of one year courteously of Twin Cities South Trailers the official trailer of the N-R-H-A Derby. Big thank you to Sundowner for making these beautiful champion trailers possible and all the Corporate Partners and Event Sponsors for all these wonderful awards.

The Prime Time Non Pro Champion received:

  • Custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle
  • Bob’s Custom Saddle
  • Anderson Bean Boots
  • Classic Equine Product
  • Bluebonnet Feed
  • Platinum Performance CJ
  • SmartPak Gift card
  • Kiser Hydrext Dust Suppressant and Moisture Extender

The Youth Non Pro Champion received:

  • Custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle
  • A Custom Silver Spurs Saddle
  • Anderson Bean Boots
  • Classic Equine Product
  • Bluebonnet Feed
  • Platinum Performance CJ
  • SmartPak Gift card

Friday Ancillary Action:

Madison Gustin, Stephanie Johnson Tie for Rookie Levels 1 and 2

Johnson Wins Prime Time Rookie

As the Non Pro Derby finalists were riding for the 2017 titles, the Adequan Championship Arena welcomed NRHA ancillary action.

The Jackpot Rookie Level 1 and $200-added Rookie Level 2 saw a tie between two competitors in the Adequan Arena on June 30. Madison Gustin and Stephanie Johnson both marked a 143.5. Johnson also won the Prime Time Rookie class.

Madison Gustin wasn’t expecting to win a class Friday, but Guns R Spooky had a different idea. The duo from Weatherford, Texas, exited the arena with a 143.5 to tie for victory.

“We went in there just trying to have fun and take it easy to get ready for our Youth classes [Saturday] and Sunday,” Madison said. “He felt good and everything was great, so we ended up with the high score.”

Gustin arrived at the 2017 NRHA Derby on Wednesday and has been using the time to practice and warm up her 2010 gelding by Smart Spook and out of Berry Yer Guns.

“I’ve just been schooling; I got here Wednesday, so we’ve just been taking it easy getting ready to show,” Gustin said.

She says “Avatar” is full of personality—her favorite quality about him.

“I’ve owned him for about two years now, and he’s literally my best friend—it’s been so much fun,” Gustin said. “He’s got talent, but he’s so much fun to be around. I’ve been riding since I was 5 and started reining when I was 8. I ride with [NRHA Million Dollar Rider] Casey Deary, and I love it. It’s where I’ve grown up; I’ve been there since I was 8. He’s my role model and always has been. It’s so much fun to be around him and all the people at the Deary barn.”

Stephanie Johnson and Light M Up put together a winning 143.5, but Johnson still says it came as a shock because of the caliber of competitors she rode against. She credits the performance to her “soul mate,” the 2012 gelding by Wimpys Little Step and out of Aleena Starlight.

“It felt great whenever I was out there, but this is a big show, and it’s my first time ever coming to this show, so you just don’t expect to knock it out of the park,” Johnson said. “My horse is amazing; he’s my soul mate in a horse. We’re still getting to know each other, and we’re doing pretty good so far. This is a dream come true.”

Johnson and “Cato” are a fairly recent team. Johnson searched high and low for the perfect horse and finally found him in the fall of 2016. They showed at their first horse show early this year and are continuing to improve.

“Last year at the Derby, I was searching for a horse, never found one, and it took six months to find him. It’s been amazing ever since,” Johnson said. “He’s done great for me; we just started showing in February and he’s been incredible at every single show. The Florida Classic was our first show and one of the bigger shows we’ve been to, and we won high point there. We’re just a good team.”

Johnson says Cato’s ability to adjust to each rider makes him incredibly special, especially since Johnson is a new reiner.

“He’s super sweet and an open-caliber horse, but he’s gentle enough and kind enough that he’s good to me, because I’m still learning and still green eligible and rookie, so he’s just a great horse,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who has a background in Western all-around and hunter/jumper, trains with Josiane Gauthier Performance Horses at Sunny Pines Farm in Lucama, North Carolina. She says Gauthier’s training has been a match since she started reining.

“I’ve been reining for a little less than two years, and I kind of fell in love with reining the minute I started it,” Johnson said. “The horses are so beautiful and so athletic. I found Josiane, and she’s the most amazing coach; we just clicked. I absolutely love it.”

Madison Rafacz Wins Jackpot Green Reiner Levels 1 and 2 Aboard Better Not Rest

Madison Rafacz is no stranger to the show pen, and it was evident in in the Jackpot Green Reiner Levels 1 and 2. The 9-year-old daughter of NRHA Professional Mark Rafacz and his wife, multiple non pro NRHA World Champion Shannon Rafacz, marked a 142 aboard Better Not Rest (Custom Crome x Rest Stop) to top the competition.

“Jay” isn’t Madison’s main mount, but she seemed perfectly comfortable aboard the big 17-year-old bay gelding. Madison says Jay is easy to ride but can be difficult to show because of his size, but he has a sweet demeanor and is constantly looking for his next snack.

“I feel good; that’s the first time I’ve actually gotten to show him and won!” Madison said. “He’s kind of hard to show, but he’s really easy to show at the same time. He’s a really good boy, and we love him.”

Madison, who’s been riding her entire life and reining since she was 4 years old, says the class was the first time she had a victorious showing with Jay.

In the Level 1, Kr Ima Selfish and Allison Arnold scored a 141.5 to take reserve honors. Stephanie Johnson and Light M Up placed second in the Level 2 with a 140.5.

The NRHA Derby welcomes USA Para Reiners

Jennifer Flanagan, executive director of Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center in Aiken, South Carolina was the only competitor in the USA Para Reining Grade 2 riding Smart Zone to a 131.

“I think my run was good, considering this is the first time for me to show on this horse; we got a score, so that’s always a very positive thing,” said Flanagan who started competing two years ago. “At the moment, she is in training with Steve Kutie, but I’ll be taking her home to South Carolina after this weekend. I’m super excited to get her home and start building that bond together.”

Cole Jacobs and Pinstripe Benz won the USA Para Reining Grade 3 with a score of 136. Jacobs and “Pinstripe” share a special bond. Jacobs, who has been competing in reining since 2012, was pleased with his horse’s performance after lots of time in the practice pen.

Holly Leigh Jacobson of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and Ruf N Loaded also competed in the USA Para Reining Grade 3, and although they received a no-score in the NRHA Para Reining class for not wearing protective headwear, Jacobson is grateful for every opportunity she has with the gelding.

“He’s such a professional horse, and I learn something new every single time I step in there. That’s the best part—you’re never done learning,” said Jacobson about her mount who was generously loaned to her by Cole Jacobs.

In the USA Para Reining Grade 4/NRHA Para Reining, Cullen Santino Le Roy took victory aboard Smokin N Tinseltown with a 130. Elizabeth Kelley and Czgunnacashbigchex marked a 125.5 to earn the reserve slot.

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