Topping the Charts

NRHA 2019 leading owners Andrea and Tish Fappani, leading professional Cade McCutcheon, and leading non pro Luca Fappani share the stories behind their successes.

By Jennifer Paulson, Reiner Editorial Consultant, and Kaycie Timm, Reiner Associate Editor

The 2019 season brought stiff competition, exciting firsts, and big wins for reiners everywhere, but after the conclusion of the year’s final show, a pair of owners, an up-and-coming professional, and a young non pro came out on top. We caught up with leading owners Andrea and Tish Fappani, leading professional Cade McCutcheon, and leading non pro Luca Fappani to hear more about their successes last year.

NRHA 2019 Leading Owners: Andrea and Tish Fappani
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
2019 Earnings: $237,300

From left to right: Tish, Jeremy, Andrea, and Luca Fappani (Photo by International Horse Press).

Looking back at their history together, Tish Fappani finds a little humor in achieving the 2019 Leading Owners milestone with her husband, Andrea.

“It’s funny,” she said. “In the beginning, we didn’t breed any horses. We bought them, showed them, and sold them. In the last 10 years, that’s really changed for us. We’ve been able to move more toward the breeding side, and now we have a couple foals a year. We never thought of ourselves as top owners. But with Luca doing as well as he did last year, it pushed us over the top. Andrea showed a few and did well last year, but Luca really carried us (showing our horses).”

The Fappanis have a few retired horses in their pasture that were shown by multiple family members, including Premier Diamond, previously shown by Andrea, Tish, and Luca, and Lean With Peppy Chex, the first horse Andrea and Tish owned together. That “all in the family” strategy helped launch the Fappanis to Leading Owner status this year, as Andrea and Luca shared a Fappani-owned mount across a few events in 2019, racking up earnings with each run. 

But, as Tish said, Luca grabbed most of the cash that led to them raking in $237,300 in NRHA earnings on horses they owned during the 2019 season. The young rider tied himself aboard Sharp Dressed Spook and Spooks N Jewels for the 2019 NRHA Derby Presented by Markel Non Pro L4–2 and youth reserve championships. At the 2019 NRHA Futurity, he and Gotta Get Diamonds earned the L4–L3 reserve championship and won the L2 and youth divisions outright.

In the future, Tish looks forward to raising three or four foals annually, with bloodlines that work particularly well in their program, including a 2-year-old full brother to Icecube (SG Frozen Enterprize [Iceman] x Aledo Boom 2001). Tish showed Icecube to the 2018 NRHA Non Pro Futurity L4 championship. She’s also been riding a mare she calls “real special” that’s by Lil Joe Cash and out of Electric Genes—both horses Andrea had great success with in aged events.

Tish is gratified by showing their own horses as a family affair. Even if she’s not the one running into the arena on finals night, it feels just as special watching her husband and son show Fappani-owned horses.

“I really enjoy watching Luca and Andrea show,” she says. “It’s just as rewarding as showing myself.”

NRHA 2019 Leading Professional: Cade McCutcheon 
Location: Aubrey, Texas
2019 Earnings: $605,468

Cade McCutcheon and Super Marioo (Photo by Waltenberry)

Early in the 2019 season, few would have predicted that Cade McCutcheon would finish his first year as a professional at the top of the charts. But after winning the NRHA L3–L2 Open Derby titles, taking home several NRHA Futurity championships, and becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Rider, that’s exactly where the 2019 Up-and-Coming Professional of the Year landed.

“You can have one good horse show and win some money, but [the 2019 Leading Professional title] shows I was consistent all year,” Cade shared. “I stayed in the top few with my derby horses and my futurity horses, and that consistency means a lot more than just having one good run at a big horse show.”

What’s the secret to his success? Riding, Cade said—a lot. 

“It’s all about the work you put into it,” he revealed. “I get up in the morning, I ride my 3-year-olds first, then I ride my derby horses, then I ride my 2-year-olds, then I go home, go to bed, and do it again the next day. I enjoy it. All the hours that go into it make winning even more fun.” 

In addition to the hours of work he puts in at the barn, Cade also credits the help of his family, including his parents, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Tom and NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Mandy, and his grandparents, NRHA Hall of Famers Tim and Colleen McQuay. 

“My dad, my mom, and my grandparents help me all the time with all kinds of different things,” Cade shared. “For the most part, my dad probably talks the least out of all of them when it comes to training, but he gives a lot of good advice. I know when he does talk, it’s about something important.”

Cade shares a special bond with his father, who’s won many of the same awards his son is now bringing home—including the title of Leading Professional. 

“It means a lot to me that my dad was No. 1 a few years back,” he remarked. “It’s something that we share, and it’s kind of cool.”

The drive to uphold his family’s heritage of success adds a measure of expectation to the already high-pressure environment of the show pen. But thus far, Cade has found that intensity serves to fuel his fire. 

“I deal with the pressure well,” Cade admitted. “I wasn’t nervous for the Run for a Million or the Futurity, and those were the two highest-pressure situations I’d been in. It was just excitement. It was a big stage, but that’s why I do this. So far, I’ve thrived on that.”

NRHA 2019 Leading Non Pro: Luca Fappani
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
2019 Earnings: $207,193

Luca Fappani and Sharp Dressed Spook (Photo by Waltenberry)

Most riders take time early in the year to set goals they’d like to fulfil in the coming show season. When 15-year-old Luca Fappani evaluated his plan for 2019, he set a lofty aspiration: to work his way to the top of the non pro chart. 

“I had Spooks N Jewels, who my mom [Tish Fappani] showed and gave to me. We’d also bought Sharp Dressed Spook, who my dad [Andrea Fappani] was planning to have me show,” Luca recalled. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew if I showed both of them right, it was achievable.”

After a season of hard work in and out of the arena that resulted in quite a few impressive scores, Luca reached his goal—and he gained more than the title of Leading Non Pro for his efforts.

“I really grew as a showman,” Luca reflected. “I also learned a lot about the way a horse works and how to prepare for a show. Winning the non pro title was kind of a reflection of all that growth.”

Throughout the year, Luca had several opportunities to practice his approach to dealing with stress in the show pen, including during his now-infamous run in the NRHA Futurity finals. But with each win—and loss—his confidence remained unshaken. 

“I usually perform better under pressure than when I’m just messing around,” he admitted. “The pressure is good for me, because, it teaches me a lot about life—and that’s what reining is to me—and how to deal with certain stresses. I understand that we’re always trying to learn, and in the show pen, I know that I’m going to go in and do my best and not worry about what everyone else has to say.”

In Luca’s case, “everyone” includes the NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider he calls dad, and his mother, Tish, who has over $515,000 LTE to her name. The young rider certainly inherited his family’s competitive bent, and he’s thankful to have their support, 24/7. 

“I don’t take it for granted at all,” Luca admitted. “I always have answers whenever I need them, with my dad and my mom as well. I’m amazingly lucky to have that. But then again, it’s hard because my dad is very competitive. When we’re at the shows, it can get a little tense, but it always works out. I’m super blessed.” 

Although Luca expressed his appreciation for the support of his family and the entire Fappani team, his biggest thanks went to the four-legged partners who carried him through the season.

“The horses give me their all pretty much every day,” Luca shared. “They’re special animals, and I couldn’t ask for better ones to be able to show every year.”