As Jose Vazquez rode Like Shiner into the ring at the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) in Katy, Texas, the stakes were high. Jack Medows and Chicsdreamofdiamonds had marked a 222 only nine runs before, and Vazquez knew he would have to lay it all on the line if he wanted to best Medows’ score. As he progressed through his maneuvers, the audience cheered, and at the end of the run, the judges awarded Vazquez and Like Shiner with the top Level 4 Non-Pro score – a 223.5.
It was Vazquez’s first NRBC championship since 2009, when he won the title with Wound By Juice, a full sister to Like Shiner.
“It was overdue,” Vazquez said. “To come here and win is really very difficult. There’s some of the top horses that come here, and the top riders. Today, the McCutcheons had seven horses in the finals – they made it very difficult, but I’ve got to sneak in somewhere, sometime!
“Not only that, but the rest of the competitors are just as good,” he continued. “Jack Medows won last year and he was winning this year with the same horse [before Vazquez’s run]. The competition is getting tougher and tougher. It’s like the older I get, I have to work to stay competitive with those young guys. That’s the only way. And keep raising competitive horses, or trying to raise better horses.”
Like Shiner, who boasted $34,033 in earnings going into the NRBC, and Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider Vazquez won $30,000 for the title plus $1,656 for the Prime Time Non-Pro Championship. Vazquez rode Like Shiner’s dam, Wind Her Up Shiner (by Shining Spark), to a tie for first in the preliminary round at the 2003 NRBC. The mare has produced 22 money-earners that have won more than $717,000, according to Equi-Stat, including $100,000-plus earners Moonshine Juice and Wound By Juice.
Vazquez also piloted Like Shiner’s sire, Smart Like Juice, in the show pen and owns him through Smart Like Juice Inc.
“I know the family really well,” Vazquez said. “They’ve been very good to me, and I’ve got 3-year-olds that I hope I win the [NRHA] Futurity with. That’s a great family.
“When you’ve got 21 full brothers [and sisters] old enough to win some money, and they do, I don’t know if there’s any other mare in the industry that has done that,” he said. “I’m pretty sure she will be a Hall of Fame mare. I don’t know when, but maybe one day they’ll decide to do it. I hope I can be patient – I hope I’m still alive when it happens!”
Medows and Chicsdreamofdiamonds (Magnum Chic Dream x Princess In Diamonds x Shining Spark), last year’s NRBC Level 4 Non-Pro Champions, took the Reserve Championship this year. It came with a paycheck worth $15,750.
Levels 3 & 1 Non-Pro
The draw spot following Vazquez and Like Shiner’s run was filled by Mark Blake and Hot Hollywood Whizky, who marked a 218 to win the Levels 3 and 1 championships. Their victory came on the heels of a successful showing at the Cactus Reining Classic, where they nabbed the championship in Levels 4, 3, 1, Prime Time and Masters.
“It’s awesome!” Blake said. “I stayed away all morning and got here just in time to hop on, and he was so dialed in. It felt great. We won Best in the West last year to end the year and then Cactus to start, and then here. I couldn’t even dream that.”
Blake and the gelding (Topsail Whiz x Hot Hollywood Jewels x Hollywood Dun It) collected $9,953 for their titles and an additional $7,383 for tying for seventh in Level 4 and placing second in the Prime Time. “Money” and Blake’s bankrolls each stand at more than $65,000.
“We had to run him harder [today] because the competition is harder here,” Blake said. “To do what we did – I’m beyond words, really. This is the best of the best. It’s remarkable.”
Blake said that while he was very anxious in the prelims, the nerves went away in the finals.
“I was in the zone today,” he said. “We started, and I was just a little off on my first stop. I’d been missing stops all week; just my timing was off. I kind of felt it, and he covered for me. We just put it up another gear, and it felt great.
“It’s a really hard pattern coming off that fast circle,” he continued. “If you really want to be daring and go to the middle and then slow down and change leads, it’s a daring pattern, but he was with me and we hit it. It was awesome.”
David McGee and Knaughtybyknature, a full brother to Chicsdreamofdiamonds, took the Level 3 Non-Pro Reserve Championship, worth $5,150.
Level 2 Non-Pro
In the theme of repeating wins from earlier in the season, Florida Reining Classic Derby Levels 2 and 1 Non-Pro Champions Emily Opell and Spook N Reyn added another title to their résumé when they marked a 216.5 for the Level 2 Non-Pro Championship. They also added the Level 1 Non-Pro Reserve title, and all together took home $4,945.
“It feels awesome. I’m so blessed to have a horse that can come out here and do this,” Opell said. “For our second run, he did well for me and did everything I asked of him.”
While their prelim round didn’t go according to plan – the duo fell out of lead on their big circles and missed a couple of their stops, which resulted in a score of 209.5 – they changed a couple things and came back in the finals.
“I thought to help with the falling out of lead, I would keep my outside leg on him more,” Opell explained. “It was all in all just try the hardest I possibly could to make it out here.”
She and the stallion (Smart Spook x Reyn Chex x Mr Solano Rey) will next be headed to Tryon, North Carolina, for the Carolina Classic.
Kathy Thompson rode Baileys Sidekick to the Level 2 Reserve Championship, banking $2,500. The sorrel gelding is by Gunners Special Nite and out of the Starbucks Sidekick mare A Shining Sidekick. The duo recently took second in the Level 2 Non-Pro at the Oklahoma Ride & Slide.
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