The Team Challenge is a unique competition in the sport of reining, but its biggest guns turn out to contest it at the Kentucky Reining Cup. This year victory went to the Good Sports team, consisting of Shannon Rafacz on Jan Pence’s Wimpys Dun Twistin, Mandy McCutcheon on father Tim McQuay’s Yellow Jersey, and Mandy’s husband Tom McCutcheon on Turn About Farm Inc.’s Dun Got My Rest.
“It’s a different feeling to come to an event like this and have a chance to spend time with these different riders and barns and interact with them and build that camaraderie. It’s a nice feeling,” said Rafacz.
Their team name stemmed from them putting together a conglomeration of sponsors at the last minute to allow their team to compete. Six teams in total competed, and each team had to have at least one amateur competitor.
While the team competition was the focus of festivities, most of the competitors have a different team on their mind. The Kentucky Cup CRI is the first half of the selection trial for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, to be held in August in Normandy, France. The selection trial will conclude on Sunday.
Shawn Flarida is no stranger to international glory, as a former World Championships gold medalist, and he led the charge for one of four team berths by scoring a 225 aboard Michell Kimball’s 7-year-old stallion Spooks Gotta Whiz. Mandy is lurking right behind him with a 224, and Andrea Fappani is third with a 223.5 aboard Silver Spurs Equine’s Smoking Whiz. Jordan Larson is fourth with a 223 aboard Heritage Farms’ HF Mobster.
“It’s a qualifying year, so that makes [the Kentucky Cup] special,” said Flarida.
Flarida’s enthusiasm for his mount is infectious. “Every horse trainer who’s touched this horse has won on him. So any time I ride him it’s fun, but the pressure to win is multiplied by 10.”
As a result, Flarida’s not taking his place at the top of the leader board for granted. “[The horses at this competition] are all so evenly matched. Little mistakes are [all that] separates these horses-they’re all great horses that I’d put in my barn.”
Mandy has multiple reasons to be savoring her night. In addition to her victory in the Team Challenge, and her second-placed standing for the WEG selection, tonight’s winnings-total prize money in the Team Challenge was $50,000 and individual competitors were competing for a total of $10,000-also put her over the $2 million mark in lifetime earnings.
She’s only been riding her father’s horse for a short while, but they’ve formed a quick partnership. “I’ve only ridden him a few times, but I guess it’s going pretty good,” she said.
She took over the ride from her father specifically to try for a U.S. team berth.
“I just thought I’d let her have a chance,” said McQuay.
Held at the Kentucky Horse Park, in conjunction with Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Kentucky Reining Cup is a dynamic and exciting event that presents Reining at the highest possible level, drawing top competitors and elite-level horses from around the globe.
This year’s Kentucky Reining Cup features the Adequan/USEF Open Reining National Championship and the World Equestrian Games Selection Trial, determining which horse-and-rider combinations will represent the U.S. in the 2014 World Reining Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France this summer.