cade mccutcheon and Craig Schmersal
Craig Schmersal, aboard No Smoking Required, and Cade McCutcheon, riding Custom Made Gun, settled on a tie in Las Vegas. • Photo by Kelsey Pecsek Hruska

$1 Million Dollar Invitational: It’s A Draw

The Million Dollar Invitational was billed as the biggest event in the history of reining. The Las Vegas event, held Aug. 17 during The Run For A Million horse show (TRFAM), didn’t disappoint. 

Twelve of the most successful trainers in the sport were invited to compete for a $1 million payout, and they rode a roster of some of the best reining horses to step into a pen in recent years. In the end, the judges could not separate the 229.5-point performances by Cade McCutcheon and Custom Made Gun, and Craig Schmersal and No Smoking Required.

The riders, each mounted on a son of the late Colonels Smoking Gun (Gunner), opted not to run off. They settled for a co-championship, pocketing $307,000 each.

The co-champions were among the riders featured in the reality series “The Last Cowboy,” which followed trainers as they prepared their horses for the Million Dollar Invitational. Footage from the lucrative reining event was featured in The Last Cowboy’s season finale, which aired Wednesday, Aug. 28, on the Paramount Network.

Million Dollar Invitational Champion Reactions

Winning the event was special for McCutcheon, a 19-year-old in his first year as a professional. It meant even more that he won it on Custom Made Gun, a horse bred and raised by his grandparents’ McQuay Stables Inc.

McCutcheon had great success in recent years with the palomino stallion, who sold last year for $300,000 to Italian interests and was shipped back from Europe for TRFAM.

“That horse and I have grown together over the last four years. Every year he gets better, and every year I get better. We’ve made each other better,” McCutcheon said after the win. “He’s made me who I am today, and there’s not another horse I would rather win this thing on.”

The show, produced by Brumley Management Group, was a National Reining Horse Association (NRHA)-approved event. Riders could bring any three horses to Las Vegas, ultimately narrowing it down to one to ride in the one go-round invitational.

The field of horses included NRHA Futurity Open champions, an American Quarter Horse Association World Champion and horses with multiple futurity or derby championships to their name.

Schmersal chose No Smoking Required, a 6-year-old sorrel stallion that had banked more than $169,000 in career earnings leading up to the invitational, with top finishes such as the Level 4 Open Reserve Championship at this year’s NRHA Derby.

The Equi-Stat Elite $4 Million Rider considered himself fortunate to ride in front of the energetic, packed crowd that traveled to the South Point Equestrian Center to see the dozen riders go for the big prize at the Million Dollar Invitational.

“Not very many people get to do that, and those 12 riders were very fortunate to be able to do that,” Schmersal said. “And, to have my horse fire like he did tonight, it’s a dream come true and a really big deal.”

The Stats

custom made gun and cade mccutcheon
Custom Made Gun & Cade McCutcheon • Photo by Kelsey Pecsek Hruska

Custom Made Gun & Cade McCutcheon
11S (Gunner x Custom Made Dunit x Hollywood Dun It)
Owner: Maria Cecilia Fiorucci, Rome, Italy
Breeder: McQuay Stables Inc, Tioga, TX
229.5 | $307,500

no smoking required and craig schmersal
No Smoking Required & Craig Schmersal • Photo by Kelsey Pecsek Hruska

No Smoking Required & Craig Schmersal
13S (Gunner x Icing Required x Smart Chic Olena)
Owner: Wranglen Partnership, Scottsdale, AZ
Breeder: Carlo Orsi, Gainesville, TX
229.5 | $307,500

million dollar invitational results
The money for first and second was combined and split between Craig Schmersal and Cade McCutcheon when they opted for the tie.

TRFAM Million Dollar Invitational Results:

1(T)Cade McCutcheonCustom Made Gun229.5
1(T)Craig SchmersalNo Smoking Required229.5
3Andrea FappaniPlatinum Vintage229
4Shawn FlaridaSpooks Gotta Spark228
5Jason VanlandinghamA Vintage Smoke226.5
6Abby LengelGotta Twist It Up225
7Tom McCutcheonGunna Cash Ya224
8Casey DearyGunnarickashay223.5
9Franco BertolaniDun It For Whizkey222
10Jordan LarsonARC Gunnabeabigstar217.5
11Duane LatimerRuf Lil Magnum214.5
12Matt MillsChic Dreamin214

Other TRFAM Coverage: