Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - In what may have been the most exciting National Reining Horse Association Futurity Finals in history, both the Open and Non Pro Championships were decided by tie-breaking runoffs!
Italian reiner Andrea Fappani earned $150,000 for the win that came only after "overtime".
In the Open Finals, Fappani scored 227.5 to tie for the win with Kansas trainer Brent Wright on Custom Pistol (Custom Crome X Hollywood Lady Jo), owned by Steven Simon of Paxton, Massachusetts.
Wright and Custom Pistol went first in the runoff and were putting together another outstanding pattern when a freeze-up in their first rollback spoiled their chance at the title. They would finish Reserve Champions, with earnings of $98,624.11.
The Oklahoma State Fairgrounds arena rocked with applause from the largest Futurity audience, ever, and the crowd came to its feet in tribute to Wright's accomplishment. When Fappani completed his run, he received a standing ovation, as well.
Fappani is an assistant trainer to two-time NRHA Futurity Champion Todd Bergen. The 24-year-old was thrilled with the win, and appreciative of his mentor. "I'm grateful to Todd for letting me have such a great horse to ride!" he said, shortly after the finals. His victory was made sweeter in that his mother Marlissa and sister Elaina both made the trip from Italy to be at the futurity.
RR Star, by Like A Diamond and out of Rl Miss Kitty, is an American Paint Horse Association stallion owned by Lundin Farms of Del Norte, Colorado.
In the Cinch Non Pro Finals, Joshua Hattig of Berthoud, Colorado and Mandy McCutcheon of Pilot Point, Texas each scored 220, setting the stage for a tie-breaker.
McCutheon went first on Dun Gotta Gun, a son of Hollywood Dun It owned by her parents, Tim and Colleen McQuay. She bettered her previous run by a half point on the stallion that is out of the same mare (Katie Gun) as 2001 USET Open Champion, Gunner.
Hattig and Fridays Gold Eclipse came in next and when their run was over, the score of 221.5 gave them the win and $27,666.78. Hattig has dominated NRHA Non Pro competition in 2001, winning the Non Pro title at the National Reining Breeders Classic and the NRHA Derby - and earning three horse trailers for the year.
Fridays Gold Eclipse is by Steady Tradition out of Bar Good Friday, and is a full brother to Steadys Dude, the horse Hattig rode to his other 2001 titles. Hattig also supplemented his Futurity earnings by winning the Pfizer NRHA Non Pro Gelding Incentive on his other finalist, Chics Dry Eclipse.
In the Intermediate Open Finals, Trent Pedersen scored 219 to win on Slide Zone (Lenas Wright On X Ms Skippa Tan) owned by Kathy Tomac, of Cortez, Colorado. It was the first major title for Pedersen, who is an assistant trainer for Bob Avila in Yamhill, Oregon.
The Limited Open Championship went to Ben Gerst on Smart China Rose (Smart Chinalena X Joes Tokyo Rose) owned by James Waldron of Sherman, Texas. That win made it two in a row for Gerst, who also won the Limited Open title at the NRHA Derby.
Shawn Flarida won his second Pfizer NRHA Open Gelding Incentive Championship on Hickorys First Stop (Zan Freckles Hickory X Jokers Sunny Jac), owned by Michael Harper of Morrow, Ohio.
The Intermediate Non Pro Futurity Champion was Kim Lansidel on Da Chics Tune (Smart Chic Olena X Tune Miss Red), owned by Karl and Marjorie Eilers of Renton, Washington. Justin Zimmerman of Springfield, Missouri, claimed the Futurity Limited Non Pro title on Little Super Smoker (Gallo Del Cielo X Super Smoker) and the Futurity Prime Time Championship went to Dr. Jim Morgan of Pilot Point, Texas, on Skip The Hick O Lea (Mr Freckles Olena X Hick N Badge).
The NRHA Sire & Dam program paid $81,340 to owners of winning stallions. For first in the Open, Sue Hearst of Paso Robles, California, owner of Like A Diamond, received $33,597.31. Steve Simon of Paxton, Massachusetts, owner of Custom Crome, earned $20,152.92 for the Open Reserve win by Custom Pistol. Lil Ruf Peppy, sire of the third place winner, earned $13,434.39 for owners Tom McCutcheon and Ed and Nancy Pickett. In the Non Pro division, the champion sire was not eligible. The Reserve Champion earned $4,249.65 for sire Hollywood Dun It , owned by McQuay-Easton, LLC. The third place Non Pro sire award and $2,833.10 went to Marthas Mega Jac, owned by Scott McCutcheon.
The NRHA Futurity marks the end of the Saddlesmith series each year as the final competition is held at the Futurity. Duane Latimer scored 221.5 to best the field of 19 entries in the $5,000 Added Saddlesmith Reining on Rum Olena, owned by Lucio Ferranini of Italy. 2001 USET Open Champion Bryant Pace rode Mifs Doll, owned by Kim and Debra Sloan of Newfoundland, New Jersey, to the Reserve finish and that placing secured the 2001 Saddlesmith Championship title.
Sally Broten, of River Falls, Wisconsin, won the 26-entry Saddlesmith Non Pro class on My Lucky Moonstone and that win secured the 2001 Saddlesmith Non Pro year-end title.
Besides paying well over a million dollars to exhibitors, the NRHA Futurity is nine days of assorted special events, including the National Reining Horse Youth Association Conference, the Futurity Trade Show, the Gathering of Legends honoring NRHA Hall of Fame members, and other activities.
A favorite activity each year is the Intercollegiate Judging Contest and this year, West Texas A & M, coached by John Pipkin and Trent Tyson, won the Annual Intercollegiate Judging Contest held during the futurity. Team members were J.J. Wright, who also won the Individual Judging competition, along with Zeb Corvin, Jolene Hambley, Hailey Honstein and Kim Honstein.
The NRHA Futurity Sales are considered a barometer of the reining horse industry for the coming year and the future looks positive, with high sales across the board. Evita Theroan, a daughter of Peptoboonsmal consigned by Doug Carpenter of Sulphur, Oklahoma was the high-seller at the NRHA Breeders Showcase Sale, held on November 29. She was purchased by Cable Creek Ranch of Wilsonville, Oregon, for $60,000. On Saturday, at the Futurity Prospect Sale, Randle Tune of Gainesville, Texas consigned the high-selling lot, Dominican Starlight. The 2-year-old colt by Grays Starlight was purchased by Rancho Alegre, Inc., of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The National Reining Horse Association is the governing body of the sport of reining, responsible for promoting the sport, working to insure the highest standards of competition and educating its members and the public about reining. For more information on the NRHA, visit the web site at www.nrha.com.