Modern Gun & Duane Latimer rode to a 228 to win the NRBC Level 4 and Prime Time Open titles. • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

Modern Gun and Duane Latimer Crowned NRBC Level 4 Open Champions

The highlight of the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) each year is the Classic Open finals, and this year’s edition was one for the history books. Duane Latimer rode Modern Gun (Gunners Special Nite x Taris Modern Design x Mr Boomerjac) to a score of 228 to top the Level 4 and be crowned the NRBC Classic Open Champion. He and the stallion also topped the Prime Time.

The win was Latimer’s first NRBC Classic Open title since 2000, when he won the title on Conquistador Whiz.

“It’s been a little while,” Latimer said with a laugh, adding that the 5-year-old stallion performed outstandingly. “He was dialed in really, really good today. I was really happy.”

As is custom in the sport, camaraderie and the love of the horse shines through above all else. The crowd’s response to Latimer’s run was a prime example of the excitement and appreciation of reining found at the NRBC.

“[The crowd was really behind me]; it was awesome!” Latimer said.

Epic Titan & Andrea Fappani • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

He has trained Modern Gun since he was a 2-year-old and knows his style well. Latimer said “Mickey” had been showing and schooling well all week, which set him up to push his horse to his full potential.

“My strategy is pretty much always the same – you go in thinking you can do it,” he said. “I didn’t warm him up much or do too much outside, just loped him around and worked on some steering, and then went down there, stopped and did our deal. I thought I had him up to it, but you never know.”

For the Level 4 title, Latimer collected $75,000 for owner MS Stables, along with one year’s use of a deluxe four-horse Trailer from Twin Cities South Trailer Sales, a custom saddle sponsored by Bob’s Saddles, a Gist Silversmiths championship buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Santa Cruz products and an array of other awards and NRBC trophies. He landed an additional $1,950 for the Prime Time Championship.

Andrea Fappani and Pedro Baiao each marked a 225.5 to share the Reserve Co-Championship in Level 4. Fappani rode Epic Titan (Colonels Smoking Gun x Princess In Diamonds x Shining Spark), a homebred stallion owned by Clinton Anderson who recently won the Cactus Reining Classic Level 4 Open, and Baiao rode Michael Garnett’s Spooksgottachicolena. They each received $41,000.

Classic Level 3 Open

Spooksgottachicolena & Pedro Baiao • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

In addition to the Level 4 Co-Reserve Championship, Baiao and Spooksgottachicolena (Spooks Gotta Gun x Braz Us x Smart Chic Olena) picked up the Level 3 Championship to win an additional $20,582. Baiao thanked his boss, Martin Muehlstaetter, for the words of instruction he gave before his run.

“Martin said to me, ‘Pedro, just see how fast he can go,'” Baiao said with a laugh.

Their score of 225.5 didn’t disappoint.

“He was really good riding out here the whole week,” Baiao said. “I didn’t know he was going to mark that, but my goal was to test his speed.”

The score was Baiao’s highest score of his career, making the NRBC championship an extra special moment.

“I knew after my second circle I was doing good,” he said with a laugh. “I could hear the crowd yelling and stuff. He hit the first stop so good and I knew some good score would come – not 225.5, but a good score. When I heard the 25, I was so excited. It was the best run of my life.”

Guaranteed A Magnum (Magnum With A Dream x Guaranteed By Amos x Primary Pine), owned by Casey and Kathy Hinton, and Jimmy Van Der Hoeven marked a 224 to take the Level 3 Reserve Championship. They banked $12,650.

Classic Level 2 Open

Spooks Show Time & Ricky Nicolazzi • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

Ricky Nicolazzi guided Spooks Show Time (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Dolittle Lena x Shining Spark) to a score of 219 to win the Level 2 and earn $8,128. Nicolazzi has had the 5-year-old gelding, owned by Rancho Oso Rio, since September 2017, and the duo has been progressing well together.

“I’m very happy about this horse and the winnings, especially for Rancho Oso Rio,” Nicolazzi said. “They always give me good horses to ride, so I’m really happy about it.”

Nicolazzi admitted the Texas humidity took a toll on his mount, which resulted in him riding a little more conservatively than he would have liked.

“[My run] felt really good. He was a little tired at the end. I couldn’t push him the way I wanted, but he’s not used to the humidity,” he said. “I didn’t warm him up a lot – I could feel I didn’t have as much horse as normal – but he did really good and showed hard.”

Prior to the NRBC, Spooks Show Time picked up titles at the Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity and the Wild Card Reining Challenge.

Classic Level 1 Open

Thebettertohearuwith & Benny Maddox • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

There was a three-way tie in the Classic Level 1 Open between Benny Maddox, Chris Dawson and Gabriel Borges, who each scored a 218 to earn $2,103. Borges additionally placed 24th in Level 4, tied for 15th in Level 3 and was a Level 2 Co-Reserve Champion, which brought an additional total of $9,847.

Maddox first rode Thebettertohearuwith (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Chex Out The Cowgirl x Lean With Me), owned by Bill Coburn, to the score.

“It’s been a privilege to ride behind Andrea [Fappani] and get to show [Thebettertohearuwith] his 6-year-old year,” Maddox said.

While Fappani rode Thebettertohearuwith to the 2015 Reining By The Bay Level 4 Open Championship, the win at the NRBC was Maddox’ first major championship, which makes the show a special memory for him.

“My goal was just to have a cleaner run,” Maddox said. “We still had an over-turn, but other than that, it was really good. I’m super excited. It’s my first major win and my first major finals, so it’s super exciting.”

Shiney Outlaw & Chris Dawson • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

Dawson rode Shiney Outlaw (Shiners Nickle x Mereyda x Dual Rey), owned by Michelle Cannon. He and the 6-year-old stallion, a National Reined Cow Horse Association money-earner and the 2017 American Quarter Horse Association Junior Working Cow Horse World Champion, had a big week in Katy, Texas, taking home checks from their first entry. The duo improved on their Classic Open prelims performances to share the Co-Championship title.

“We had a few bobbles in the go-rounds, but he felt outstanding tonight and showed his little heart out,” Dawson said.

Dawson splits his time between the reining pen and the reined cow horse arena and said he was pleasantly surprised with the week spent at the NRBC.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been back [in reining competition], and I don’t know that this is the show I would have picked. I mean, this is the toughest dadgum reining there is, so to come out here and hang with these guys, it’s an honor and a privilege,” he said.

Checksworthy & Gabriel Bittar Borges • Photo by Kristin Pitzer

Borges rode Checksworthy (Big Chex To Cash x Banjoes Shining Star x Shining Spark), the 2017 Tulsa Reining Classic Futurity Level 2 Open Co-Champion. Borges hasn’t had the 4-year-old mare, who is owned by Terry Leffew, long, having taken over the reins only in January, but the short time hasn’t hindered their performances together.

“Our second show together was here at the NRBC,” Borges said. “She’s pretty solid in her runs, and she’s really nice.”

The NRBC was Borges’ first time to compete in the Level 4 finals, which was both a milestone and a learning experience.

“I feel I can get a little more out of her. It’s my first Level 4 finals so I got a little nervous in the turns. I didn’t nail the marks, but she can mark better than that,” he said with a laugh.