Kole Price may have entered the Million Dollar Competition at this year’s The Run For A Million a little under the radar. But, he walked away flying high having won the biggest paycheck in the sport of reining aboard Gunna Stop, and earned himself the status as an EquiStat Elite $1 Million Rider.
The win, which was featured on the Friday, Dec. 17, episode of The Last Cowboy, showcased the thrilling event that had fans throwing their hats – and some other items – into the sands of the South Point Equestrian Center with delight.
Riding his partner of the past three years, Gunna Stop, Price prevailed over Shawn Flarida and Spooks Gotta Spark in a runoff in the finals, which were held in August, marking a 224 to Flarida’s 221.5 amid the screams of the crowd. The result, a $500,000 first-place prize for the 6-year-old stallion sired by EquiStat Elite $6 Million Sire Gunnatrashya.
The crowd went wild, and Price was swarmed with well-wishers as he and the horse’s owners, the Gokey family, made their way down the tunnel from the warm-up area to the floor of the South Point arena. Gunna Stop has been a sentimental horse for the family. The stallion was previously owned by Ali Gokey, who passed away last year .
Gunna Stop now competes in the name of Amber Gokey, Ali’s sister.
With Price board, Gunna Stop previously won the 2020 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby Level 3 Open Championship for the family, and in 2018 won the NRHA Futurity Levels 2 & 1 Championships with trainer Austin Roush at the reins.
Price qualified for the Million Dollar Competition aboard Gunna Stop at the Cactus Reining Classic, where they placed second in the qualifier to the horse and rider they eventually beat in the runoff in Vegas, Spooks Gotta Spark and Shawn Flarida.
At The Run For A Million, Price and Flarida were both in the final set of horses. Price, going second-to-last, was the first to mark a 228.5. Flarida and Spooks Gotta Spark (by Spooks Gotta Whiz) matched that score as the last of the 15 horses to compete.
After a long deliberation, The Run For A Million founder Taylor Sheridan announced Price and Flarida’s camps decided on a runoff. The horses were given time to recover from their initial runs, and then Gunna Stop and Price took to the arena to the screams of the fans for their runoff.
They marked a 224. The tractor dragged the arena, and Flarida rode Spooks Gotta Spark into the ring.
Spooks Gotta Spark and Flarida put in a great run, but fell a few points short at 221.5 and earned the Reserve Championship.
The victory in the Million Dollar Competition was the biggest so far in the career of Price, whose EquiStat record began in 2009. In addition to his NRHA Derby win with Gunna Stop, Price’s previous career highlight was the 2018 NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Reserve Championship with Isnt She Perfect. They finished a mere half-point behind eventual NRHA Triple Crown winner and Million Dollar Competition entrant, A Vintage Smoke.
The mare’s other earners include Stopping In Jersey ($69,606, by Yellow Jersey) and multiple aged event finalist Mobstop ($26,842 by HF Mobster).
A CLOSER LOOK: The Run For A Million Champion Gunna Stop
Pedigree: 15S (Gunnatrashya x Stop Little Sister x Magnum Chic Dream)
Breeder: Toyon Ranch LLC, Aubrey, Texas
Career Highlights: NRHA Derby Level 3 Open Champion (2020), Cactus Reining Classic Level 4 Open Champion (2021) and High Roller Reining Classic Level 4 Open Champion (2019)
Price: “I know him really well, he’s always been there for me. I know him like the back of my hand, so I think that’s key. I know he’s a horse that can step up and I can call on him.”