Dana Avila & Whizkeymakesmefrisky • Photo by Waltenberry

Riders Win Big at High Roller Reining Classic

The High Roller Reining Classic, held Sept. 7-15 in Las Vegas, boasted something for everyone – from 3-year-old horses, to novice 4-year-olds, to experienced derby horses. There were even classes for Arabians and Half-Arabians, ancillary riders, and a judges’ seminar and pizza party was held.

Futurity Levels 4, 3, 2 & 1 Non-Pro

At the 10th annual High Roller Reining Classic, held at the South Point Event and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Whizkeymakesmefrisky, or “Jackie,” and Dana Avila won all four levels of the Silver Spurs Equine Futurity Non-Pro. Their 215 was one full point ahead of the Level 4 second place finishers, Tish Fappani and Icecube (SG Frozen Enterprize x Taris Designer Genes x Mr Boomerjac).

Avila and Jackie won a combined $13,015 in the $20,000 added money class. The pair was draw 19 of 25 to show on pattern eight.

“She was right there with me, right between the reins the whole run,” Avila said. “She doesn’t really have a weak spot. She was a little boggy in her right turnaround, but other than that, she was right there.”

She said since day one, Jackie has had a natural turnaround and is a pretty mover, so she looks nice in the circles. And Avila added that like her dam, One Smart Pepto, Jackie is a big stopper, too. One Smart Pepto (by One Time Pepto) is the horse that carried Avila to sweep all four levels of the 2013 Reining By The Bay Derby Non-Pro.

“Jackie’s mom was that special horse that you only get once in a lifetime. She was my first big derby horse,” Avila said. “To win all four levels on her daughter makes this win even more special.”

Avila and her husband, Bob, an Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider, bred One Smart Pepto to Rhodes River Ranch’s Whizkey N Diamonds. Although the mare is retired from the show pen and in her new career as a broodmare, she still receives a “spa day” once a week where she is primped and maintained in show condition, even though she no longer competes.

“It has been a lot of fun for us to see this come to fruition,” Dana said. “Jackie is quirky and beautiful like her mother and has great movement.”

After the High Roller Reining Classic ends, Avila plans to take Jackie home and point the mare to the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity in Oklahoma City in November.

“We’re pretty excited about her talent. I’m not going to get greedy,” she said. “She is a mare, and I don’t want to wear out my welcome. We hope to keep the ball rolling.”

Futurity Level 4 Open

Owner Diane Mesmer is two for two with a pair of reining horses she purchased as weanlings. In July, CSR Flash Mob and Jason Larson won the Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association Summer Slide Futurity Level 4 Open, and on Sept. 12, A Vintage Smoke carried NRHA Million Dollar Rider Jason Vanlandingham to a 223.5 to win the High Roller Reining Classic Silver Spurs Equine Futurity Level 4 Open, a win worth $13,193.

Three years ago, Mesmer decided that when she retired, she wanted to own reining horses. She’d grown up working cattle with her family, competed in cow horse events and was a rodeo queen as a teen. She always had an interest in genetics and almost went to college to become an equine veterinarian. When HF Mobster came on the scene, she had to purchase one of his foals. She ended up with CSR Flash Mob. Then she began searching for an A Sparkling Vintage colt, but they were hard to find.

“I happened to be online at 5 in the morning when Karl Hapcic posted A Vintage Smoke for sale,” she said. “I called him right away, and he gave me first right of refusal.”

The original plan was to start both colts as 2-year-olds, keep the one with the strongest potential and sell the other.

“Little did I know they’d both be so talented,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind.”

At this week’s show, Vanlandingham described the horse’s opening maneuver, the turnarounds, as snappy. Even though he hadn’t seen the score sheets yet, Vanlandingham was confident they had earned plus-half in each direction.

“I threw him slack on the circles and he stayed locked in,” he said. “We turned the corner and I set up him for his stop, and he just ate the ground up.”

The A Sparkling Vintage stallion, who is out of Lady Smoke Peppy (by Mister Dual Pep), was a little bit of a challenge when he arrived at Vanlandingham’s Whitesboro, Texas, barn last September.

“He was always physically talented, but we had to get on the same page,” he said. “He’s a huge stopper, good in his turnarounds and has a unique presence.”

To top it off, the black gelding is a good mover, Vanlandingham said. He plans on schooling him at the Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity in the Novice class as they gear up for the NRHA Futurity in December.

“I am not smart enough or lucky enough to have picked these two horses,” Mesmer added. “It is divine intervention, and we’ve been incredibly blessed.”

Futurity Level 3 Open

At 14.1 hands, Guns N Dreams may seem like a little horse, but when Tracer Gilson mounts up, he says the stallion’s squatty stature doesn’t feel small at all. The colt may be small, but he proved he is mighty by tying to win the High Roller Reining Classic Silver Spurs Equine Futurity Level 3 Open. Gilson and Brent Naylor, who rode KR Retro, both scored a 219, which paid $3,304 to each.

Guns N Dreams (Tinker With Guns x Brennas Dream x Magnum Chic Dream) was bred and raised by Loren Booth, who owns the facility where Gilson operates his training business.

“It’s pretty cool to have him do this well because he’s part of the breeding program that we’ve been working on,” Gilson said. “He’s really good-minded, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to train and show him.”

Since this was Guns N Dreams’ first show, Gilson showed him two-handed in a snaffle, an approach he prefers with his young horses. Doing so gives the horses an opportunity to get comfortable in the arena, he said.

In the opening maneuver of pattern six, the stallion had a little trouble turning around in the deep ground, but still had good turns in both directions. Gilson praised the horse for giving every maneuver his best effort. In his circles, Guns N Dreams didn’t lean against Gilson, was responsive in the middle making his lead changes and soft in his rundowns.

“He sure went out and horse showed,” Gilson said.

He plans on showing the young horse at the Best Of The West Futurity in Scottsdale, Arizona, and at the California Reining Horse Association Futurity in Burbank, in preparation for the NRHA Futurity in December.

“Having success is an important part of what we are doing,” he said. “We’re raising good colts that we can go show, and our goal is to have other people buy a few and be successful on them, too.”

Co-champions Naylor and KR Retro also won the Futurity Level 2 Open.

“I’ve been really good friends with Tracer, so it’s nice to share the co-championship with him,” Naylor said.

At Naylor’s first horse show of the season, he wasn’t expecting the stallion to perform as well as he did. The pair won more than $13,000 for placing in the Level 4, tying to win Level 3 and winning Level 2.

“It was a big deal for us to do well,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t expect anything from us.”

Earlier in the week, KR Retro wasn’t feeling well. Naylor couldn’t determine if the horse was colicking or tying up and visited the show veterinarian, who gave him IV fluids. That left Naylor wondering how the horse would perform.

“All week long he’d been doing really good, but he didn’t feel good in the warm-up so I just let him be,” he said. “When he went in to show, he really fired for me.”

As the first draw after the drag, Naylor trotted into the center of the pen and set him up for his turnarounds. KR Retro had two good sets of spins and easily stepped off into the lope for the circles. Naylor was pleased with the precise pattern that showed off his ability to slow down in the circles.

“I don’t think I made our circle to the right small enough because I was shocked he was so hooked up with me, but I haven’t seen the score sheets yet to see what the judges thought,” he said.

Although he didn’t rollback quite like Naylor hoped, the horse got around and stopped big, especially in his last stop, which Naylor described as tremendous.

“My goal was to stay out of the penalty box and plus-half each maneuver,” he said. “I know there’s a lot more there, but it was important to set a good foundation for the big futurity later this year.”

Naylor described the Magnum Chic Dream stallion, who is out of KR Legacy (by Tejons Peppy Doc), as a quick learner with a big heart and a lot of try.

“He’s good-minded and doesn’t hold grudges,” he said.

Naylor recently relocated to Scottsdale, where he works for Craig Schmersal and continues to train for a handful of clients.

“Craig has helped me a lot in the show pen with placement by sharing his knowledge,” he said. “He’s been there for me outside the show pen and is a good friend.”

Futurity Level 1 Open

Midnite Whizkey Run, who was piloted by Linde Von Koeding, as well as Trigger Happy and Erik Caddeo, were named co-champions in the Silver Spurs Equine Futurity Level 1 Open after tying for the same score – a 216.5. They each pulled a paycheck for $2,291.

Midnite Whizkey Run (Whizkey N Diamonds x KR Miss Oxbow x Tejons Peppy Doc) opened his pattern with solid turns in both directions, Von Koeding said. He was “steppy” and shut off right in the center. He circled like he was on rails, staying right where he was supposed to be.

“I had to push him a little bit, which I like,” she said. “The ground was pretty fast for him, so it took a few [tries] to get his stop perfect, but he stopped nice three times.”

Von Koeding described the gelding, who is owned by Sarah Dawe, as a gentle horse that tries hard every day. Dawe has raised the horse from day one and brought him to Von Koeding as a 2-year-old.

“He’s mature for his age and is a really nice horse,” Von Koeding said.

Although this was the gelding’s first show, he handled it like a veteran show horse. Showing in the South Point Event and Equestrian Center is good preparation for the NRHA Futurity in December, she said.

“I like showing my 3-year-olds here because there is a tunnel into the arena just like in Oklahoma City, so they get a feel for it before the futurity,” she said.

Co-champion Caddeo works for Equi-Stat Elite $5 Million Rider Andrea Fappani. He rode Trigger Happy, or “Trigger,” for owner Marilyn Overgaard Wright.

“He was feeling really nice while I was showing him and he was honest the entire run,” Caddeo said. “We had great turns and a nice, clean run.”

Caddeo has been riding the Gunnatrashya stallion (out of HA Lenas Tune x Lena Spark) almost since the time he first arrived at Fappani’s. Caddeo described the palomino as a willing, quick learner.  He is talented in all the maneuvers, but his favorite is the turnaround, Caddeo added.

“Andrea and Ricky have been sharing a lot of tips about showing and training, so it was special for me to have such nice results in the arena with a young horse to reward them for all their time and to build my confidence in the show pen,” he said. “I’d also like to thank Marilyn for this amazing opportunity.”

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