In a year where many shows were canceled or overcame major obstacles just to be held, the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Reining Classic defied the odds to have its biggest show yet.
The show hosted July 15-19 by the Virginia Reining Horse Association had its biggest total payout ever – an estimated $369,000 – and drew competitors from a wide geographical area, said show manager Chris Wiley.
“[The] show went excellent. It really did. We had a great show, great turnout, the weather couldn’t have been nicer,” he said of the show held at Virginia Horse Park in Lexington, Virginia. “Overall, we’re extremely pleased with the show.”
He gave much of the credit for the increase to the inclusion of the Yankee Prospect Stakes, an incentive program that relocated this year to the Mid-Atlantic Classic from Upstate New York. The program, which paid incentives to enrolled futurity and derby contenders of nominated stallions, injected about $100,000 in added money to the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Reining Classic.
“What it did with what they brought to the table, they it pushed our total added money purse up to $250,000,” Wiley said. “They brought another $100,000 to the table, and that really pushed the show over the top, having that kind of added money, it really did.”
The resulting big purse attracted riders from a wider reach, helping the Mid-Atlantic Reining Classic achieve the size and success its founders had always strived for.
Although total entries were not available this week, the show used just shy of 650 stalls – the most in its history – and attracted 103 entries in the futurity, 122 entries in the Derby Non-Pro and 81 in the Derby Open, which Wiley said was up quite a bit from 2019.
Wiley believed the show’s success and extra publicity efforts in 2020 — officials hired Chelsea Schneider to do social media — caught the attention of people in the industry.
“Even though we’ve been a major event for the East Coast, we haven’t been on a lot of people’s radar as far as considering to travel from Texas and everything,” he said. “Now, I think with the amount of money, the size show we had, Chelsea’s publicity … I think we got their attention.”
The show found success in spite of the COVID-19-related restrictions, which included temperature screenings to enter the show grounds, wearing masks on show grounds when not on or with a horse and changing the way the show staff handled annual dinners and social events.
This year, instead of buffet-line dinners with indoor seating, officials had an outdoor pizza party and also a boxed dinner at an outdoor park where people could spread out or take the food and go.
“Even with the hoops we had to jump through dealing with the COVID restrictions, they were always fun, to be able to have the show, everybody still seemed to enjoy themselves and enjoy being at a horse show, basically.
This was the first show the Virginia Reining Horse Association was able to have in 2020. Normally, it has two other smaller shows, but those were among the many equine events that got canceled due to the pandemic.
“The irony is even thought all the restrictions and the canceled shows and everything, because of the COVID, it pushed Yankee Prospects our way. And, that addition this year, with that extra $100,000, took what we’ve been building and it just shoved it right over the top,” Wiley said. “And, it probably moved what we’ve been building ahead three years, because of all the excitement that it generated of having the Yankee Prospects involved.”
Yankee Prospect Stakes
Wiley would like to make this year’s temporary relocation of the Yankee Prospects Stakes a permanent one, but that is yet to be determined. The program has been part of the Yankee Reining Horse Association since its inception.
As of Thursday, Yankee Prospect Stakes Founder Travis Pufpaff said he had not yet discussed with the Yankee Reining Horse Association about where the Yankee Prospect Stakes futurity and derby could be held in 2021.
He said the reason Yankee Prospect Stakes had to move in 2020 was because of New York State’s COVID-19-related restrictions.
Among other things, the state requires people coming from states with COVID-19 positive tests in excess of 10 percent, or number of positive cases exceeding 10 per 100,000 residents, to quarantine for two weeks upon entering New York.
Currently, the New York State travel advisory with mandatory quarantine includes 31 states, including states with a large number of reining trainers and competitors such as Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio.
Finding a place to have the show was extremely important to organizers, Pufpaff said.
“Our one garuantee is that we will have an event, because people pay in these hoses as weanlings,” he explained. “So when it was looking like our governor was going to cancel everything, I reached out to Shannon [Rafacz] and Chris [Wiley] and they welcomed us with open arms. And it, honestly, was seemless transition.”
This year’s Yankee Prospect Stakes paid out $65,000 to futurity participants, and $55,000 in for derby contenders. The program was run concurrent with the Mid-Atlantic Reining Classic classes, which meant participants could cross enter classes.
“It was a pretty substantial program already, but going down there we had a reach of a greater region,” Pufpaff said. “So we still pulled from our New York people, Ohio, Michigan, and we already had a bunch of people in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but we were able to reach down and pull in those Texas guys and some Oklahoma guys that came up.
“It was great.”