• Photo by Tom Hautmann.

Colonels Dancing Gun Tops NRHA European Derby Open Qualifier

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) $112,000-added* Colonels Shining Gun Open Derby, held in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, counted 90 horse-rider combinations across the four levels. In the first section of the $44,800-added* Derby Level 4 Open qualifier, Italian Nico Sicuro and Colonels Dancing Gun performed to a 223: Their score held to lead the Level 4 Open qualifier securing them a place in the finals. 

Until February, the talented 7-year-old stallion sired by NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Colonels Smoking Gun (Gunner) and out of Dance Little Spook (by Smart Spook), owned and nominated by Quarter Dream SRL, was in the breeding shed at Frozen Partners in Germany. He then made his way to Puglia, Italy, where Sicuro is head trainer for Quarter Dream. 

“It’s my first ‘serious’ show with him,” the 25-year-old said about his mount who was shown by Franco Bertolani and Andrea Fappani in the U.S., by Gennaro Lendi both in the U.S. and in Europe, and by Markus Gebert in Europe. “I rode him at a regional show to get the feel of how he would be in the arena and I will not hide the fact that I was a little concerned. He proved me wrong! He’s a super cool horse and I must admit that I’ve never ridden a horse like him. He’s so aggressive in the show pen, wants to do well, and I just have a lot of fun riding him.”

On top of the $33,600-added*Level 3 and $22,400-added* Level 2 was Gal Grahelj riding Walla Whiz A Dun It (Walla Walla Whiz x The Bun Is Dun x Hollywood Dun It), a 6-year-old stallion owned by Katja Zrimsek, bred by Susan Jones and nominated by Grahelj. The pair closed their run with a 219 score. 

“Today’s a wonderful day: Our stallion did it again!” Grahelj said about his mount purchased as a 2-year-old in the Prospect Sale at the Markel NRHA Derby Sales. “He was with me all the way, was really relaxed, and once again proved how great he is. Not only did we top levels 3 and 2, we also made the level 4 finals.” 

The Slovenian professional trained the horse and went on to win the 2018 Italian Reining Horse Association Futurity Levels 2 & 1 Open. 

“Since his Italian Futurity win, he’s become more and more solid and now I can say that I am the one learning from him and not vice-versa,” he said.

Tying to lead the $11,200-added* European Derby Level 1 Open qualifier with a 215.5 score was Gisela Denk of Austria and Alessandro Roasio of Italy, now based in Hungary, near Budapest, at BL Farm. Denk rode Shinedeninger (Gunnatrashya x Shining Whiz x Shining Spark), a 7-year-old mare owned by Gernot Kuttner, bred and nominated by Katarzyna Roleska. 

“My boyfriend [Gerot Kuttner] and I actually purchased this amazing mare for him. They didn’t get on very well together—he only rode her three times— so the reins passed on to me,” shared Denk who has been showing Shinedeninger successfully in European arenas. “She’s been in training with me since and always tries to do her best. Today we had an underscore penalty, but that was totally my fault. I’m really looking forward to the finals now.”

Roasio piloted Il Be Automatic (Magnum Chic Dream x Hickadora x Conquistador Whiz), a 6-year-old gelding owned Norbert Juhász, bred by David Pratt and nominated by Quarter Dream SRL. 

“I’m really happy also because I never thought he would do so well,” said Roasio. “It’s our first show together and he was really honest. The cool thing about this horse is that one of our clients, who was looking for a trail horse, purchased him on the net. They didn’t get on very well together and that’s when we decided to give reining a chance…and chance was on our side!”


Open finalists will make their way to the show arena on Saturday, July 3, vying for the Championship titles as well as a guaranteed $24.300 paycheck for the Level  Open Champion.

The Smart Spook NRHA European Derby Non-Pro finals will take place on Friday, July 2, at 3 p.m. Non Pro finalists will battle their way to earn the prestigious titles in the Western Training Center H&D Schulz arena where the Level 4 Non Pro Champion will also take home the $12,150 guaranteed paycheck.

Derby Open bubble scores:

  • Level 4 – 216
  • Level 3 – 215
  • Level 2 – 213
  • Level 1  – 208