Jose Vazquez & SLJ Corazon Valiente • Photo by Shane Rux Photography

Reiners Slide to Congress Stakes Titles

Jose Vazquez, of Markham, Illinois, had more reasons than one to celebrate after winning the All American Quarter Horse Congress Stakes Level 4 Non-Pro Championship and $8,433 on SLJ Corazon Valiente (Smart Like Juice x Wind Her Up Shiner x Shining Spark), a stallion bred and owned by Vazquez’s Smart Like Juice Inc.

The Congress was the very first time Vazquez, an Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider who drew his first Congress Futurity check in 1999, had shown the horse. He was very pleased with the stallion’s 217-scored run.

Before they showed, Vazquez had felt a little skeptical when his trainer, Alejandro Ortiz Bosques, advised him to not run very fast in his circles. The trainer said to go “kind of slow,” as the maneuver is one Vazquez said the horse needs to improve. He told Vazquez he had “enough” horse in the turns and stops to mark a good score. As Vazquez rode out of the pen and heard his score, admittedly, he said he wasn’t so sure he’d done the right thing.

“I try to please my trainer, but it was probably one of the slowest [set of circles] that I’ve ever run,” Vazquez explained. “I like to run a little more [fast]. But, it [the 217] was good enough to pull it out!”

“He’s a nice horse,” added Vazquez, who had only ridden the horse four times before he showed him. “It’s easy to show a broke horse, and he showed like a broke horse. It all turned out good.”

Vazquez said the stallion, who he calls “Millionaire” –  the barn name he uses for all of Wind Her Up Shiner’s money-earning offspring – is from a great family of horses. Wind Her Up Shiner, who has a bankroll worth $34,457, has produced 23 money-earners with total earnings of nearly $800,000. Her leading money-earner is 2012 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby Level 4 Non-Pro Champion Moonshine Juice with $131,366, followed by full sisters Wound By Juice ($117,896) and 2018 NRBC Level 4 Non-Pro Champion Like Shiner ($102,296). 

“She [Wind Her Up Shiner] is a wonderful mare, and we are hoping she will be a Hall of Fame mare and become a million-dollar producer,” Vazquez said.

Another reason to celebrate, and one Vazquez said meant even more to him than winning the Congress Stakes, was that Millionaire’s full brother Shiney Juice, who Vazquez had ridden to win a number of championships in the past, was shown by his new owner, Holly Jacobson, to win the USA Para Reining Grade 3 class at the Congress – on the same day Vazquez won the Stakes title!

Excited about the day’s double win, Vazquez said he was very pleased that after he’d successfully shown Shiney Juice so hard during his aged-event career, the horse returned to the show pen and did that well for his disabled rider. It made him feel even more proud of his horses’ lineage.  

Vazquez was also happy to win the Stakes Prime Time Non-Pro Championship, which came with another check worth $959. He laughed as he explained that the Prime Time is the only class that pays you to get old!

“In the Prime Time, you’ll never ‘move out;’ you’ll only be ‘more in!’” he added.

Taking the Stakes Level 4 Non-Pro Reserve Championship was Kristen Avila, who also rode Xtra Voodoo Sinbar to the Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro championships with a 216.5.

Stakes Levels 3 & 2 Non-Pro


horse and rider
Kristen Avila & Xtra Voodoo Sinbar • Photo by Shane Rux Photography

Xtra Voodoo Sinbar had been shown three times previous to her Congress Reining Stakes Non-Pro run. Owner/rider Kristen Avila, of Rogersville, Missouri, whose lifetime reining earnings when she arrived at the Congress totaled more than $95,000, guided the Xtra Quarter Horses LLC-bred mare (Shiners Voodoo Dr x Wimpy Little Sinbar x Wimpys Little Step) to a score of 216.5 – garnering the Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro championships, the Level 4 Reserve Championship and $13,086.

Prior to the Congress, in August, the pair won the Buckeye Reining Classic Futurity Levels 4, 3 and 2 Non-Pro and placed second in the Level 2 Non-Pro at the North Central Reining Horse Association Futurity.

Although the large and sometimes noisy crowds at the Congress can be a little unnerving to a 3-year-old, Avila said the mare was awesome. She had worried a little that the crowd would be a factor during their run, but the mare did not notice a thing.

“It did not faze her at all; she’s a really good show horse,” Avila said. “She’s been really quiet. When we warm her up, I spend a lot of time just walking and jogging her, just to make sure she is going to be relaxed – if she’s relaxed outside of the show pen, when she goes in the show pen, she’s going to be really relaxed. So in our warm-up, I just focused on not getting her excited.”

Drawing up one horse before the drag, the ground was a little tough, but Avila said the mare still circled and turned well.

“Actually, I think I had penalties on both of my turns – one for an under-spin and one for an over-spin. She’s a very big turner, so I probably need to work on my shut-off heading into the [NRHA] Futurity.

“She stopped really well – even with the ground a little tough, she was able to get in there and hold it.  I’m very, very pleased with her run, and afterward she felt like she could go back in and do it again, if she had to!”

Avila and her husband purchased “Sinbar” as a yearling, and her rider said she likes everything about the mare.

“She’s very easy to ride, she fits me well and she’s pleasant to be around. I do most of my riding on weekends because I work Monday through Friday, and she’s the kind of horse that I can ride two days a week and show on a weekend,” Avila explained. “I don’t have to spend a lot of time working on any kind of drills or anything. Normally, I just come to the barn, lope some circles, spin her once each way, and maybe work on a couple of stops. She’s very consistent – it’s easy for her.”

Avila, an attorney, and her husband, Bobby, who has trained out of Zimmerman Performance Horses for nearly 20 years, have been married 10 years and have one son, 4-year-old Michael.

Finishing second in the Stakes Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro was Sam Flarida, of Springfield, Ohio, who rode Hollywooddirtysecret, owned by Flarida’s father, Equi-Stat Elite $6 Million Dollar Rider Shawn, to a score of 215.5. He and the gelding (Hollywoodstinseltown x Maximum RPM x Einsteins Revolution) banked $5,300 for the two Reserve titles.