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Jose Vazquez and Pistols Smart traveled more than 2,000 miles to compete for the Futurity Level 4 Non-Pro title. - Photo by Katie Marchetti

Jose Vazquez & Pistols Smart Hold Their Ground

Saturday morning brought the return of Jose Vazquez to the winner’s circle – this time aboard Pistols Smart (Smart Like Juice x Velvet Pistol x Playgun) to win the Futurity Level 4 Non-Pro Championship. The duo held strong against an 15-horse field with a 217 marked from the second draw.

“I started riding him about three months ago, and I picked two to ride here, and he was one of them. I really like him,” said Vazquez, who brought home $8,439 to add to the more than $1.2 million in lifetime earnings he’s accumulated since his start in 1998. “He’s really sweet, really forgiving. He’s just as good to my wife, too. He’s a really nice horse. This is the first time that he’s been away from home, and he acted really mature, and I was very happy!”

While many view these first few futurity competitions as a training ground for new prospects, it’s easy to see where the horses shine after a few circles in the Bay Arena. For Pistols Smart, it was his turnarounds, Vazquez said.

“I think when he grows up, he will be good at everything,” he added of the stallion. “He circled nice, and he stopped great. Right now, he’s not as fast as we’d like it, but I think he can really be a complete horse.”

The more than 2,000 miles of travel to compete in the Reining By The Bay for the first time took its toll on the young horse, according to Vazquez, but Pistols Smart was able to rise above it in the show ring.

“I rode him only twice in 10 days,” Vazquez explained after securing the win. “He really feels a little tired this morning, but I’m thinking he took it really well. To travel that far and still perform good makes me believe in him.”

Futurity Levels 3 & 2 Non-Pro

The Futurity Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro titles, as well as the Level 4 Reserve Championship, went to Tara Matsler and Classic Whizkey (Whizkey N Diamonds x Classy Sugari x Tangys Classy Peppy) after they scored a 214.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. This horse is so special to me,” Matsler said. “Coming in second to Jose Vazquez is kind of remarkable!

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Tara Matsler & Classic Whizkey • Photo by Katie Marchetti

“My grandfather bought his grand-dam, Sugari Colonel, for my grandmother as a 50th birthday present back in 1993. My dad won an NRCHA [National Reined Cow Horse Association] World Championship on his mother, Classy Sugari,” Matsler explained. “Everyone’s like, ‘You’re crazy breeding a cow horse to a reining stud,’ but there was so much we liked about Whizkey N Diamonds. So ‘Gibson’ was born three years ago, and I’ve been waiting for this day since we took the mare to the breeding shed.”

Classic Whizkey may have seemed like an unlikely choice for a reining pedigree, but once Gibson ran circles around the competition, any doubt faded.

“He is so fun running circles on, and I can just put my hands down and let him go run the wheels off, and he comes back to me nice and slow,” Matsler described of riding the gelding. “He’s in tune with you in every stride.”

Matsler, whose background includes a combination of reining and reined cow horse, has been competing since she was 10 years old, and she had earned $25,439, according to Equi-Stat, before Reining By The Bay. Her Futurity Non-Pro checks added another $10,670 to her rising record.

“He’s really smart; he wants to be into everything and he tries to outthink you. He’s really not what most reiners want in a horse,“ Matsler continued of Classic Whizkey. “We did breed him with the intention of him being a reined cow horse, but he just seemed so naturally inclined to be a reiner. So, we decided to just focus on that one thing and let him shine.”