The second edition of the Wild Card Reining Challenge, held May 24 – 27 at the South Point Hotel and Casino, drew reiners of all kinds to Las Vegas. In addition to a full slate of ancillary classes, the event featured a 4-year-old futurity.
The 4-year-old futurity showcases 4-year-olds that have not been shown in any 3-year-old National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Category 2 aged event reining or reined cow horse competition. This allows them to develop more slowly and provides a venue where they can contend with other horses with similar experience. The stakes classes give 4-year-olds with show records a place to compete without the pressure of showing against older derby horses.
In the Non-Pro, Tish Fappani, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Fun Sized (Tinker With Guns x Brennas Dream x Magnum Chic Dream) took home the Futurity Levels 4 and 3 and Stakes Levels 4 and 3 championships after they marked a 214. The duo garnered a total of $20,756. Fappani, who was fresh off a win at the National Reining Breeders Classic aboard Spooks N Jewels, was happy to see Fun Sized succeed.
“It’s cool because we had him as an embryo so we were involved from day one on him,” Fappani said. “Unfortunately he got hurt as a 3-year-old so we just rested him, gave him seven months off, knowing we could bring him here and not worry about having to push him to get to the [NRHA] Futurity.”
Fappani said that eventually her son, Luca, will take over Fun Sized’s reins. For now, she is seasoning the horse to prepare him for that role.
“Showing a 4-year-old is totally different from those good old geldings,” she said. “We just want to get him in there and just get him a little more solid, and hopefully he [Luca] can come and have fun on a derby horse.”
Fappani hopes to show Fun Sized later this year at the High Roller Reining Classic in the 4-year-old Stakes class.
4-Year-Old Futurity Levels 2 & 1
Janelle Flaherty may have waited until 10:00 a.m. the morning of the Non-Pro Futurity to enter Walla Walla Lil Pep, but she made her decision count. She and the mare scored a 209.5, winning the 4-Year-Old Futurity Levels 2 and 1 and taking Reserve in Levels 4 and 3. Altogether, she and the Steve Flaherty homebred collected $14,347.
Flaherty and her husband, Patrick, brought Walla Walla Lil Pep to the Wild Card intending for Patrick to show her in the Open. Since Flaherty has shown her a couple times, they considered entering the mare in the Non-Pro if she seemed up to it when they got to the show.
“She was feeling pretty good said and he [Patrick] was like, ‘What do you think?’ and I was like, ‘I’m in, we’re in Vegas!'” Flaherty said with a laugh.
The Flahertys appreciated having a venue they could reserve Walla Walla Lil Pep for, who was on the smaller side as a 3-year-old.
“We knew this was going to be here again this year from the one last year and thought that might be perfect for her,” Flaherty said of the show. “It’s great, the facility is great and the prize money is crazy. Just really well-run, a little less stress. I think there’s so many of us that have horses that need to do something like this or wait just another little bit of time, so it gives them an opportunity instead of having to figure out what to do with them.”
Since Flaherty came to Las Vegas not expecting to show, she did not bring any of her show clothes. Everything she wore, with the exception of her boots, was borrowed.
“I borrowed this [show shirt] from Kristin Darnall Titov, one of our clients, and Ashley Wilson’s jeans, and we found this hat at a horse show that no one claimed,” she said with a laugh. “It takes a tribe!”
Walla Walla Lil Pep is by Walla Walla Whiz and out of the Smart Chic Olena mare Juanita Chic Olena. After her success at the Wild Card, Flaherty hoped to return to the High Roller Reining Classic later this year to compete in the 4-Year-Old Stakes.
Taking Reserve in Levels 2 and 1 was Kjersten Davis and Shesa Smokin Spark, who marked a 206.5. The pair banked $3,547. Shesa Smokin Spark (Smoking Whiz x Spook Off Sparks x Smart Spook) was bred by Silver Spurs Equine.
4-Year-Old Stakes Level 2
Jennifer Gilliam showed two horses in the Non-Pro, Shine Kitty Shine and The Prima Ballerina. She had some tough luck with Shine Kitty Shine (Shine Chic Shine x Cowsmart Cat x Smooth As A Cat) when the mare slipped and fell out of lead, but The Prima Ballerina carried her to a 211.5, which won the Stakes Level 2 and took Reserve in the Stakes Levels 4 and 3. They went home to Ione, California, with a total of $8,911.
“It was tough because there were some low scores, and there was a high score, so I just wanted to try and go out there and be clean,” Gilliam said. “The ground was slick and I felt her slip, but I tried to just float her around and be clean.”
Last year, Gilliam and The Prima Ballerina (Topsail Whiz x Dancer Nic x Tinsel Nic) won the Futurity Levels 4 and 3 Non-Pro at the Reining By The Bay. Since then, the mare has been in and out of the show pen due to illness.
“She’s kind of had a little bit of a rough bout,” Gilliam said. “We got home from Reining By The Bay and she had colic surgery so that was tough. Brought her back and had some trouble at the [NRHA] Futurity. Mike Boyle, the trainer, showed at the Cactus [Reining Classic] and she was good, won a little money there, and then she got strangles at a horse show, so it’s been one thing after another.”
Though it has been tough watching her mare go through so much adversity, Gilliam said The Prima Ballerina’s great mind has helped her pull through each time.
“She wants to show, and she’s just super kind,” Gilliam said. “She doesn’t try to get ahead of you and she just tries to do exactly what you want all the time. She generally comes on pretty good when we are able to bring her back.”
Boyle was scheduled to compete on the mare in the 4-Year-Old Futurity Open the next evening.
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