A 23-year-old Polish trainer rose to the occasion during the 2019 Italian Reining Horse Association (IRHA) Derby in Italy, riding to the Level 4 Open Championship over a star-studded field.
Lukasz Czechowicz pulled out all the stops with CSG Magnifique Gun to produce a breathtaking run and achieve a championship-winning 225. The score was the best of 47 riders in a group that included Ann Fonck, Gennaro Lendi, Mirko Midili and many more of Europe’s best Open reiners.
Level 4 Open
As he exited the arena with CSG Magnifique Gun, Czechowicz removed his hat and waved in response to the massive applause from the stands. Minutes after completing Pattern 12 and capturing the Level 4 Championship, Czechowicz laughingly said he would have to watch the video to see his performance on the 6-year-old CSG Magnifique Gun, as it was all a blur.
“For me, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “This is what I wished for as a boy and even when I arrived here [in Cremona] I was not really expecting this outcome.” This was a run that left many here thinking ‘Wow! That’s how I’d like to spin’!
Bred by owner Katarzyna Roleska, CSG Magnifique Gun, is a son of Colonels Shining Gun and out of Im Magnifique (by Magnum Chic Dream).
The Roleski Ranch is also where Czechowicz developed and matured his reining ability: he has been trainer there for the last 5 years, since leaving school at 18.
He acquired his early skills from his father who rode Western disciplines.
“This stallion was started at 2 years [of age] by Cira Baeck and then trained by Bernard and Ann Fonck; in fact, Ann took him to the final of the 2017 NRHA European Futurity Open,” he said. “I got him when he was already trained but I have been riding him now for two years and we have developed a great feeling, especially in this last year.”
Some of Czechowicz’s previous big successes came aboard other progeny by the Roleska ranch stallion, Colonels Shining Gun. He won last year’s NRHA European Futurity Level 3 Open Championship aboard the stallion’s son, CSG Piggiemove (out of Roosters Hot Piq, by Gallo Del Cielo[Rooster]). In addition, he won the 2018 Italian Futurity Level 3 Open Championship last December aboard CSG Copshot (out of Finest Copyshot, by I Am Shotgunner).
The IRHA/NRHA Derby Level 4 Open Reserve Champion was Gennaro Lendi riding Anna Parodi’s Arc A Step Above, a son of Equi-Stat Elite$2 Million Sire Walla Walla Whiz and National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Open Champion Wimpys Little Chic (by Wimpys Little Step). The pair, Open Level 4 Champion at the 2018 Derby International de Lyon and 2019 Open Shoot-In Reserve Champion, marked a 223.5 to secure their place on the podium.
Levels 3 & 2 Open
Blazing a trail with the flashy palomino Sugar Little Step owned by Quarter Dream and sired by Equi-Stat Elite$11 Million Sire Wimpys Little Step x Ah Sugar Sugar (by Lil Ruf Peppy) was another young trainer, 23-year-old Nico Sicuro.
Sicuro entered on a low key and piloted the horse to a crescendo with each maneuver. As the sand settled after the final stop the score was an impressive 223, securing the title of Levels 3 and 2 Open.
“In the final I tried to add a bit of speed on the maneuvers and risk a bit more – to do everything we could together – and it really went well,” Sicuro said. “We entered before the drag so the ground was not optimum, and the first stop could have been stronger, but things just kept getting better.”
The horse, now 7, was started by Markus Gebert who took him to the finals of the NRHA Germany Breeders Futurity Limited Open as a 3-year-old in 2015. With the same trainer, Sugar Little Step marked a whopping 228.5 to be the 2016 NRHA European Derby Level 3 Open Champion and Level 4 Open Co-Reserve Champion.
Last year, Gennaro Lendi guided him to become 2018 NRHA Italian Derby Level 4 Open Co-Reserve Champion in Cremona and then went to America to make the finals of the 2018 NRHA Derby Level 4 Open in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Sicuro has been riding Sugar Little Step since February, having started as head trainer at Quarter Dream in January. The newly formed pair’s first outing was in a competition at the European Futurity, but their winning performance at the IRHA Derby was their first special event together.
“This horse was great today and I really enjoyed this run,” Sicuro said. “I’d like to thank Pietro Marseglia and the whole team at Quarter Dream.”
Crowd favourite Giuseppe Prevosti was awarded a 218 to take the Level 2 Open Reserve Championship with Gunna Sparkle. The 2014 stallion owned by Luigi Parise is a son of Colonels Smoking Gun (Gunner) and out of Custom Sparkler (by Custom Crome).
Level 1 Open
Elio Simonini, a fairly new face at the special events, is an example of an unusual professional figure: he works as a personal trainer for riding and has a single non-pro rider, Susan Sodi, whose horses are stabled at Luga QH.
But this time Simonini came front stage to conquer his slice of the action by climbing to the summit of the IRHA/NRHA Derby as the Level 1 Open Champion and the Level 2 Open Co-Reserve Champion. He did it by marking a 216 on Sevenchextocash, a gelding by Big Chex To Cash and out of Lil Chic Peppy (Lil Ruf Peppy).
“We brought four horses to this derby and Susanna rode three in the Non-Pro, but as this was Seven’s last year in the Derby, we decided I would show him to try for the podium of the Open Levels 1 and 2,” Simonini said. “We made it, and I could not be happier.”
Afterward, his eyes were still shining from the emotion of the victory.
“Tonight, I was the last in the arena in the first section of the finals, for Levels 1 and 2, and when as I left the show pen, I heard the speaker saying I was the current leader the feeling was indescribable,” the Tuscan trainer said. “Two colleagues were still to come, Nadalini and Dossetto, both with good horses and we all know that in reining you also need a bit of luck and this time I was the lucky one… A huge thanks go to Susanna, of course, because she makes all this possible, and my companion Alessandra Ischia who works with me as a groom.”
Simonini, 38, had a long apprenticeship in reining, including time as a groom and then as an assistant trainer. He worked for Mario Sbrana, Stefano Angelucci and Ambrosini Quarter Horse. Then he started on his own, following his inclination for coaching rookie and youth riders. Then came a happy encounter with Susanna.
“We have been working together for four years, and everything is going great; she has had good results and I have had mine for the first time, with her horses. Two years ago, for example, I was third in the European Derby, and now this!” Sevenchextocash was trained by Bernard Fonck, and Sodi fell in love with the horse after seeing him during the 4-yr-old Futurity.
“It belonged to 7 Heaven, where they raised him with such love and passion that it was really hard to convince them to sell,” Simonini said. “Even now they call us to hear how he’s getting on and tonight they were the first to compliment me. Since then, he has always been shown by Susanna.
“He is easy and balanced, always a willing horse; every time we finish a work session he curls his lip as though to ask ‘Have we finished already?,’ and when we arrive at the stables he is the first to neigh to ask for his food or for his window to be opened… I would call him “delightful”, both because of his natural qualities and because of the way he was raised and trained. When Susanna told me that I would be taking him to the Derby a month ago, I tried him out at a regional competition: and although I am new to the competitive environment and have done very few competitions, I marked 71.5… even with one penalty point!”
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