by Christy Egan
If there was an annual award for Perfect NRHA Show of the Year, the 2016 Cactus Reining Classic would seriously have to be in the running. You know what they say about “Location …”. The WestWorld facility in Scottsdale, Arizona has proximity to it all, great stabling, great rings, great hotels and restaurants. Most years that list of reasons to show includes perfect weather. Check that one. This year temperatures were in the 70’s and 80’s for the entire show from Wednesday, March 2nd through Sunday the 6th. It’s a heavenly experience to ride or even sit in all that sunshine.
The competition Wednesday and Thursday at the show was exceptional, with Shane Brown winning the NRHA Open the first day with Double Loaded Gun (73) and the second with Wind Er Up Wimp (73.5). Paige Barton’s Diamond Oak, with Martin Padilla riding, held on tight to second with a 72.5 the first day and a 73 the next. He’s Smart With A Gun won the Intermediate for owner, ECRE Ranch LLC and rider, Michael Berg both days. On Wednesday, the Non Pro, the Prime Time Non Pro and the Non Pro Masters went to rider/owner Mark Blake and Plum Gotta Gun with a 72.5, which earned them some bragging rights and over $400 in prize money. Jennifer Greenleaf and her Dun Git A Nicadual won the Limited Non-Pro and the Intermediate Non Pro Thursday morning.
One of the best rides on Thursday, and perhaps of the show, was Sandy Vickrey and What A Lucky Hit, winning the Prime Time Non Pro. It wasn’t the score, though a 71.5 is certainly good, it was the fact that Sandy was riding her first competition since a freak horse accident more than a year ago left her struggling for life in a hospital with multiple crushed and broken ribs. Many of us have summoned the courage to step back up on a horse after a bad fall, but Sandy had to go through months of rehab and pain before she tried to ride again. It took all of her courage. Her trainer, Bub Poplin, was a big supporter, as was her husband Gary. She started riding just a few months ago and Cactus was her first show back. Everyone can appreciate a victory like this. Good for you Sandy. That’s one buckle you earned the hard way!
On Friday everyone was there for the $40,000 Added Protect The Harvest Non Pro Derby. Harper Conner turned in the best runs of the day. First he posted a 221.50 on Jacs Princess and then, a 220 on Vintage GQ. Harper was also in the money (11th) with Revolutionary Jewels to take home a total of over $9,700. Julie Ridgeway showed her beautiful Palomino mare, Designed With Shine, to third, winning the PT Non Pro Aged Event. On Friday evening the show management, Brumley Management Group, LLC, hosted a taco party in the Equidome with all of the trimmings. It was a real treat to catch up with folks while enjoying the delicious hot food and iced tea.
Of course, nothing could beat the competition that lined up for the BIG money on Saturday. The day started with the $10,000 Added SmartPak Non Pro Maturity. Jessica Sternberg and Shiners Chic took home the Level 4 money, but the big winners were Kate Buchanan and Vintage Neptune, taking the Level 1, 2 and 3 divisions and going home with over $2,300 in cash plus great buckles and prizes. Youth competition ran outside both Saturday and Sunday. Luca Fappani scored the highest mark among the young set, marking a 72.5 aboard his mom’s talented reiner, Premier Diamond in the Youth 13 & Under.
Jordan Larson & ARC Gunnabeabigstar
The big meet of the day was the $70,000 Lucas Oil Open Derby. It started at 1 pm and within the first fifteen minutes Casey Deary had posted a 220 on Lenas Sparkplug, and the bar was set. Mid-afternoon, Jordan Larson posted a 222.5 on Ruff Lil Magnum and that stood until Tracer Gilson and Shiners Gotta Whiz hit a 223.5 mark just after dinner. At that point Jordan Larson came back with a resounding 226 on a shiny copper penny of a horse named ARC Gunnabeabigstar. Meanwhile, Matt Mills (Wimps Cool Breeze) and Dan Huss (Ms Dreamy) were caught in a Level 3 tie throughout the day. As the hours passed, the discussion regarding a possible ride-off grew more serious. Finally, Matt brought in Gotta Trigger Man, scored a solid 223.5, and broke his own tie. He and Dan took their tie to second place and settled it with a coin. The Level 2 Limit and Level I Open Aged Event were won by Nicolas Barthelemy and All That Boon. Late evening, another burnished copper stallion, Platinum Vintage, this one with Andrea Fappani up, appeared at the in gate about five runs from the Derby’s end. Earlier in the day Andrea had posted a 218 on Pinesail Jac and a 219.5 on Electric Genes. This was his last chance at the big money and he and the big Palomino both brought their A game. Winning was going to take a perfect run. Horse and rider were utterly focused and hit the in gate ready. Together they scored a spectacular 230, exactly what was needed to win.
On Sunday the Rookie Non-Pro Level One was won by Jenny Ricotta and SS Spyderman. Jenny was also the hands behind the fabulous braids Platinum Vintage wore to victory in the Derby on Saturday. Donita Mullins and Heza One Step Ahead won the Rookie Level 1 and the Prime Time Rookie, making Donna the first recipient of the Bruzzy Cooke Memorial trophy awarded in a special presentation by Bruzzy’s widow Polly at the end of the show. It was an especially satisfying moment for the show’s producer, Amanda Brumley. “Bruzzy was such a great example of a true sportsman and competitor,” notes Amanda. “He always brought his best effort, his sense of humor and his ability to inspire everyone around him. I am so pleased to have a trophy at the Cactus Reining Classic that bears his name. The competition overall was wonderful at the show this year. I’d like to thank our sponsors and our exhibitors for their support. I look forward to seeing you all over Memorial Day weekend at the Wild Card Challenge in Las Vegas.”
Brumley Management Group, LLC will produce three other not-to-be-missed shows in 2016. In addition to the Reining By The Bay show in Woodside, California in July and their world famous September show, the High Roller Reining Classic in Las Vegas, they are adding the Wild Card Challenge Show in Las Vegas over Memorial Day, May 25th -29th. The Wild Card Challenge features an exciting new Four-Year-Old Futurity, two slates of ancillary reining classes, a $47,000 Added ARBC pre-futurity reining for Arabian and Half-Arabian reining horses, and a $10,000 Added SmartPak Non Pro 7 & Up Maturity. Pre-entries are due April 22nd. For information contact Amanda Brumley at 602-677-3774 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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