The 2017 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity & Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship Show saw the highest scores of the week as the biggest stars shined in the Lucas Oil Level 4 Open finals on Saturday night in front of a full house. The Futurity Open also witnessed a new champion crowned: Craig Schmersal. Though the NRHA Three Million Dollar Rider has won every other major NRHA event, the NRHA Futurity Open Championship title was missing in his impressive show record.
Helping Schmersal conquer the Futurity crown was Face The Attitude (Pale Face Dunnit x Miss Lil Addy Tude x Whizard Jac), a mare owned by Hickory Creek Ranch LLC, bred by KC Performance Horses LLC, and nominated by Ginger Schmersal. The duo was the last draw in the Open finals with a 224.5 to beat, posted by NRHA Four Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani – who unofficially surpassed the Five Million Dollar Mark – riding All American Vintage. Following a powerful ride that thrilled the crowd, Schmersal and his mare conquered the Championship with a 226.5 score. They banked $150,000.
“It’s taken a while to win the NRHA Futurity – 27 years – but we finally made it,” said Schmersal, who did not try to hide his tears. “This mare reminds me of her mom and dad, and I had the pleasure of showing them both. The babies by and out of them try so hard and are so steady. They have their brains and the ability.
“This mare, ‘Ariel,’ has the ability, but most importantly she has the brain to back it up,” he continued. “You can have a horse with a great ability, and you can have a horse with a great brain, but if you don’t have it all, it’s just a hard deal.”
“I’m so grateful that nobody bought her,” said Craig’s wife, Ginger. “I put a high price on her, and I’m sure they thought I was nuts. In the last few months, she’s just bloomed and grew up. That brain has always been beautiful, but now she’s growing into what she is, and I am thrilled with this title that Craig so deserves.”
All American Vintage (A Sparkling Vintage x All Ruffed Up x Lil Ruf Peppy) – a stallion now owned by Cuoghi Reining Horses USA Inc., bred by Petra Zeitler, nominated by Harper Conner and ridden by Fappani – settled for Reserve honors and a $119,933 check.
“This horse is amazing,” Fappani said. “I purchased him [previously] because my son Luca convinced me to buy him. He wasn’t the easiest horse to ride as a 2-year-old, and after the first time I rode him, I had decided not to buy him. Luca told me I should go back and try him again. We did, and I guess he was right! We won the All American Quarter Horse Congress Open Futurity and now earned the Reserve Open Championship here. The mistakes we made tonight were determined by me, so at the end of the day, even though my goal is to win, I am happy with the way he went for me.”
The 2017 NRHA Level 4 Futurity Open Champion received a Silver Spurs custom saddle, a custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine Contour Pedic Reiner, Bluebonnet Feed, a SmartPak Gift Card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate and tote bags courtesy of KO Trading.
The Level 4 Champion also took home a four-horse slant gooseneck trailer for the use of one year courtesy of Twin Cities South Trailers, the official trailer of NRHA, and a custom Italian leather headstall courtesy of Conqueror Art. The Level 4 Champion Rider and Owner will each receive a diamond Champion ring from MS Diamonds TX, and the top ten in the Level 4 Open all received a diamond pin from MS Diamonds TX.
Futurity Level 3 Open
Three horses tied to win the Futurity Level 3 Open Championship with a 220.5, and each received $21,946: You Gotta Be Dreamin (Magnum Chic Dream x Forever Going Steady x Steadys Dude), ridden by Adam Hendrickson, owned by Jake Dahl and Heather Dahl DVM, bred by Heather Dahl and nominated by Jake Dahl; NRHA/Markel Insurance Sale Graduate Shine Plum Shine (Shine Chic Shine x Plum Reyning x Mr Solano Rey), ridden by Marco Ricotta, owned by Story Book Stables, bred by Andre De Bellefeuille and nominated by Rosanne Sternberg; and Mega Mag (Magnum Chic Dream x Big Gold Chex x Big Chex To Cash), a stallion ridden by Casey Hinton, owned by Kathy Hinton and Casey, and bred and nominated by Garth Hystad.
“I am on cloud nine, and this is awesome. This horse is awesome,” said NRHA Professional Hendrickson. “I don’t even know what to say right now. I’ve made the finals here, but this is by far the best run in the finals that I’ve had!”
Ricotta, an NRHA Professional, was emotional as he spoke of his run.
“Then I thought, ‘OK, now we’re going to stop.’ I looked down to stop, and he anticipated the maneuver,” he said, quick to thank the owners for trusting him with their horse. “That’s where I messed up. The rest was really good and I’m thrilled. I’m very happy because I’ve won other major events, but I’ve never won the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City! He is a super amazing horse with a whole lot of talent. He still has a lot to learn, because he is only 3, but I cannot wait to show him in the aged events next year. I really wish my parents could have been here – I truly miss them a lot.”
After a crowd-pleasing performance, Hinton and Mega Mag also claimed the Futurity Prime Time Open Championship. The banked a total of $56,186, including money from placing eighth in Level 4.
“There are certain horses that really fit you, and this one, ‘Elvis,’ fits me. I have a lot of confidence in this horse” said NRHA Professional Hinton. “I did a clinic where I rode his mother, who at the time was owned by Garth Hystad, who raised Elvis. His trainer, Devin Warren, thought he would be a good fit for me, so I tried him and he was correct.”
The 2017 NRHA Level 3 Futurity Open Champion received a Bob’s Custom saddle, a custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine Contour Pedic Reiner, Bluebonnet Feed, a SmartPak Gift Card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate and tote bags courtesy of KO Trading.
The 2017 Level 3 Open Reserve Champion received a Montana Silversmiths trophy buckle sponsored by Brandt Blanket Company, Classic Equine product, Bluebonnet Feed and a Grooming Kit from KO Trading.
The Prime Time Futurity Open Champion received an Equine Oasis custom saddle, a custom Montana Silversmiths Trophy Buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine Contour Pedic Reiner, Bluebonnet Feed, a SmartPak Gift Card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate and tote bags courtesy of KO Trading.
The Prime Time Open Reserve Champion received a Montana Silversmiths trophy buckle sponsored by Whoazone, Classic Equine product, Bluebonnet Feed and a Grooming Kit from KO Trading. Third place champions all received Classic Equine product and Bluebonnet Feed product, and fourth and fifth place received Classic Equine product.
Continued on page 2