Cannon Gun, pictured in 2015, is back from a hiatus and showing he is ready to perform for trainer Gabe Hutchins. • Photo by Waltenberry

Gunnin For a Win at Best Little Derby

With a score of 226.5, one would never know Cannon Gun, nicknamed “Maverick,” has been out of the show pen for two years. The 6-year-old stallion by Colonels Smoking Gun (Gunner) and out of Tuckerette Command (by Fritz Command) had only been in the show pen a handful of times before winning the Best Little Derby in the West Level 4 Open Level 4 on April 28.

The winning run added $3,562 to Maverick’s existing Equi-Stat record of $15,600.

“He needed some time off after his 4-year-old year for some soundness issues,” said Gabe Hutchins, who trains and rides the bald-faced sorrel stallion for Tamarack Ranch LLC. “It was such a relief to put a good run back together. He’s feeling good, and he’s been really, really sound this season.”

During Saturday’s Derby Open, which drew 70 entries, Maverick’s turnarounds earned plus-1.5 from one judge and his stops were marked another plus-1.5 from a second judge.

“That’s not easy to do,” Hutchins said. “It takes a special kind of horse, and he is that horse.”

Hutchins described Maverick as a naturally talented athlete that can intuitively perform maneuvers even before being taught.

“He does things I can’t teach a horse to do. He is so naturally talented that there are few like him,” he said. “I hope more horses like him come down the road.”

Maverick’s demeanor is as extraordinary as his athleticism. He is sweet to be around and adores children, Hutchins said.

Tamarack Ranch LLC purchased the stallion in 2014 as a 2-year-old to be a breeding prospect. With a solid run and a big win under their girth at the Best Little Derby in the West, Hutchins and Maverick have a busy show season ahead of them. Next on the calendar is the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby in Oklahoma City, followed by July’s Reining By The Bay in Woodside, California.

Derby Level 3 Open

Calgary, Alberta, Canada, trainer Amanda Antifaev topped the Derby Level 3 Open aboard Special Made Whiskey. The pair marked a 222.5 and earned $2,856, pushing the 2013 stallion’s Equi-Stat record to more than $25,000.

“’Whiskey’ is very athletic,” Antifaev said. “He has a dynamic turnaround and has a big personality in the show pen.”

As draw 23, the pair had an early draw in a field of 68 entries. After a solid warm-up, Antifaev knew Whiskey was ready. Once in the show pen, his perfect spins and impeccable shutdowns started their run off on the right foot.

“It’s always a good way to start off a pattern when the spins are good,” she said. “He ran good circles and stopped hard. He really did his job well.”

Antifaev, who has an Equi-Stat record of almost $300,000, first showed the horse in 2016 at the NRHA Futurity for owner Gord Robinson. Robinson purchased the Gunners Special Nite son (out of Starlight Acres x Paddys Irish Whiskey) as a 2-year-old with the intention of having him shown as a 3-year-old. When Antifaev was hurt in February 2016 and unable to ride, she and Robinson sent Whiskey to Duane Latimer to continue his training and get the horse ready for the show pen.

“I flew down and catch rode him at the NRHA Futurity that fall,” she said. “After that, we brought him home to Alberta, and I’ve been riding and showing him since.”

Last year the dynamic duo won nearly $25,000 at multiple events with top finishes in 4-Year-Old and Derby classes at the Alberta Performance Program, the Big Sky Reining Classic in Montana, the High Roller Reining Classic in Las Vegas and the Canadian Supreme.

“He is very easy to get along with and has a nice personality for a stud,” Antifaev said.

Derby Levels 2 & 1 Open

Thebettertohearuwith continued his winning streak at the Idaho show. “Turbo” (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Chex Out The Cowgirl x Lean With Me), shown by Benny Wayne Maddox, marked a 220 to win the Derby Levels 2 and 1 Open, cashing in checks for $2,182 and $1,285, respectively.

The pair traveled 2,600 miles to compete in Nampa. Their journey started at the National Reining Breeders Classic in Katy, Texas, where they were named Level 1 Open Co-Champions. They stopped at home for less than 24 hours before continuing on to the Ford Idaho Horse Park.

Maddox’s goal was to nail the shutoff in the turnarounds and get circled to the left well. Mission accomplished.

“It was cool to see the scorecards. On the left circles, we were plus-1 and plus-1.5 from one judge,” he said. “Turbo’s really a great athlete.”

Maddox started the 2012 stallion as a 2-year-old and recognized the his potential. He and the horse’s owner, Bill Coburn, of West Coast Quarter Horses in Sherman Oaks, California, sent him to Andrea Fappani to be finished and shown in the futurities. Together, the pair qualified for the finals everywhere they showed, and their wins posted $75,670 to the horse’s Equi-Stat record.

“We knew he was special. I’m thankful every time I get to throw my leg over him,” Maddox said. “He is an incredible, one-in-a-million horse.”

The duo’s 220 also placed them third in Level 3 and fourth in Level 4, which paid $1,366 and $1,394, respectively. Turbo will get a much-deserved break before heading to the NRHA Derby in June, Maddox said. The stallion’s recent earnings also pushed the rider’s lifetime earnings to nearly $40,000.

“I couldn’t do it without my team, which includes Jessica Pipkin’s amazing help this week, and Breanna Ellis and Codee Magill for holding down the ranch,” Maddox said with gratitude. “There’s no way we would have traveled this far without keeping him feeling great without Lindsey Walker’s help, and I appreciate Bill for everything he does to keep everything going.”

4-Year-Old Derby Level 4 Open

Thelmas Whiz, aka “Louise,” recorded her first official win at the Best Little Derby when she tied for the 4-Year-Old Derby Open Championship. Arlington, Washington-based trainer Sean McBurney piloted the mare to a 219.5, which was matched by Catchin The Red Eye (Walla Walla Whiz x Dainty Dunit x Hollywood Dun It) and Jesse Beckley. The co-champions collected $1,641 each.

“Louise is a big turner and she always fires well in the pen,” McBurney said. “She stopped really well and rolled back great.”

The score also landed the team in a tie for the Derby Level 2 Reserve Championship, fourth in Level 3 and fifth in Level 4, adding an additional $3,518 to the mare’s prior Equi-Stat record of $1,457.

Michelle Preston, of Kent, Washington, purchased Louise (Topsail Whiz x Kachina Oak Olena x Smart Chic Olena) in December 2017 from McBurney and his wife, Jordan, so her daughter Mackenzie could show in the Non-Pro and McBurney could show the mare in the Open.

“She is such a great-bred mare and fantastic-minded,” Preston said. “I am from a pleasure horse background and was immediately in love with her beautiful movement.”

McBurney and Louise were draw 13, and Michelle watched all the entries online so that she could listen to the placings at the end. She didn’t have any idea where the mare fell in the standings.

“She had such a gorgeous go; I was so excited for her,” she said. “Thank you to the live feed for staying live for the placings.”

Louise was headed to the Washington Reining Horse Association Monroe Derby in late May, then to the NRHA Derby in June and the High Roller Reining Classic later in the season.

Co-champion Catchin The Red Eye made a big impression during his debut Open performance. The horse’s owner, David Goodchild, has been showing the Non-Pro events.

After Goodchild’s Non-Pro run, he and trainer Jesse Beckley decided to enter the horse in the Derby Open. The duo had a nice run, but the horse was a little soft, Beckley said. Although Beckley has trained the horse for the past two and one-half years, this was the first time he showed the horse, and it was the horse’s first show for the 2018 season.

“He turned around real good both ways to start the pattern,” Beckley said. “Then I pushed him out of his comfort level on the circles, and I was really happy with how he performed.”

The 219.5 score also tied the pair for the Derby Level 2 Reserve title.

Goodchild, with Beckley’s guidance, purchased Catchin The Red Eye as a 2-year-old at the NRHA Futurity Sales in 2016. They competed at the NRHA Futurity the following year and qualified for the finals.

“He’s an extremely laid-back horse and easy to get along with,” Goodchild said. “He’s a big stopper, a big turner and really enjoys his job.”

Turning in a strong win was only part of the reward for a 17-hour trip from their home in British Columbia, Canada. The camaraderie and the atmosphere was unlike any other event, Goodchild explained.

“George King and his family do a fabulous job with that show!” he said.