A bizarre scenario left Luca Fappani and Gotta Get Diamonds with a re-ride and a memorable win.
By Nichole Chirico; Photos by Waltenberry
Luca Fappani had always dreamed about competing at the NRHA Futurity, wanting to follow in the footsteps of both his dad, Andrea, and mom, Tish, who’ve both won multiple Futurity championships in their respective divisions. However, the 15-year-old had no idea what he was in for when he entered the show pen to compete in his first Level 4 Futurity finals, but he walked away with an experience he’ll never forget.
The Doggone Finals
As Luca headed through the Gateway of Champions aboard Gotta Get Diamonds, he wasn’t sure what would happen in his first finals, but it never crossed his mind he’d end up with an unexpected guest in the arena with him.
The excitement first started as Luca completed his first set of circles and was headed to the opposite end of the pen when a young border collie named Brady—who’d escaped from his stalls—sprung into the arena from the stands and joined Luca in his pattern.
As the bizarre scenario unfolded, Luca continued to show his horse—dog in tandem—but as he came back to the center of the pen, he noticed the dog getting closer to him. To avoid a mishap that could leave him, his horse, and the loose dog severely injured, Luca made the decision to pull up.
“I just remember seeing a dog in the middle of the arena and thinking ‘This can’t be happening,’” Luca shared. “I was determined to keep going and put together a great pattern, but once I noticed the dog getting closer to my horse, I decided to stop.”
Re-Rides and Runoffs
Once safely out of the arena, it was decided there would be a re-ride at the end of the second section, giving Luca only nine horses to prepare for yet another run.
“I didn’t want to let what happened in my first ride affect my next one,” he explained. “When I got out of the arena, I watched the half of the first run that I had and figured out what I could improve on in my next ride.”
Tish—who beamed with pride talking about her son—was so impressed with how well Luca handled everything that was thrown at him.
“Luca was amazing throughout the night and handled the pressure so well,” she shared. “He regrouped himself, and immediately got focused for his next ride.”
Once Luca completed his second run of the night, this time dog-free, he ended up with a score of 220, meaning he would claim the L2 and Youth Futurity titles and tie Jesse Asmussen for the lead in the L4 and L3 divisions. Luca and his horse would once again have to go back into the arena—this time in the runoff for first place.
With only a few minutes to prepare for the runoff, Luca gave his horse some water, briefly touched a few buttons, and then let his horse do the rest.
“I knew a 220 was probably the max I could get on my horse after already riding one-and-half patterns, so my goal going into the runoff was to let my horse do what he did previously and put my hand down and let the judges mark me,” he explained.
While Andrea has been part of Gotta Get Diamonds’ show career from the start, it wasn’t until October when the family purchased the 3-year-old by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of Tinker With Diamonds from Rancho Oso Rio.
But the two connected quickly and with Luca’s L2 and Youth wins at the Futurity, Gotta Get Diamonds would also help Luca reach his ultimate goal of crossing the $200,000-earning mark for the year and claiming the title of highest-earning non pro for 2019.
“Last year, I started showing in the money-earning events, and barely made the top 20,” he shared. “I got a taste for it, and in 2019 my goal was originally to be the highest money-earner. About halfway through the year I was around the $100,000 mark and decided I wanted to try and reach $200,000. I knew that Gotta Get Diamonds was capable of helping me.”
Between claiming a win at his first Futurity and becoming the highest-earning non pro, it’s safe to say that 2019 was a year that Luca Fappani will never forget.